Portland Thorns at Gotham FC: How to watch; what to watch for
The math is straight forward:
Beat NJ/NY Gotham FC on Saturday and the Portland Thorns will finish atop the NWSL standings for a second year in a row.
Tie with the last-place team in the standings on the last weekend of the regular season, and an NWSL semifinal match will be played Oct. 22 at Providence Park.
Lose at Gotham FC? It'll mean wait-and-see for the Thorns, who would need both OL Reign and Kansas City to not win in order to finish atop the standings. Kansas City is at Louisville for a match slated to start at 4:30 PT Saturday, while the Reign are home against Orlando at 7 p.m. Saturday.
HOW TO WATCH
When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1
Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
TV/streaming: FOX 12 Plus, Paramount+, Evoca TV
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Figure Gotham FC treats this like a playoff game. The New Jersey-based club has won only once at home this season and has been outscored 43-13, but denying the Thorns from the Shield would be a nice way to wrap up a miserable season. Former Thorn Midge Purce is tied for the NJ/NY lead in goals with three. Former Portland goalkeeper Michelle Betos has one shutout in 13 starts and a 1.77 goals-against average.
The Thorns have scored a club-record 46 goals, tied with North Carolina for the most in the NWSL. The Courage played a scoreless draw with San Diego on Friday, so Portland one goal Saturday will make the Thorns the top scoring team in the league. That won't be a main focus, of course. The priority will be getting at least a draw to clinch a top-two finish and a home semifinal on Oct. 22. That bye is extra significant given that some Thorns players will be on international duty in early October. Among them are Sophia Smith, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn and Sam Coffey, who have been called up for friendlies in London against England on Oct. 7 and in Spain on Oct. 11. Also called into their national teams are Christine Sinclair and Janine Beckie of Canada, Rocky Rodriguez of Costa Rica and Hina Sugita of Japan.
Coach Rhian Wilkinson said Friday that Smith cleared concussion protocol this week after hitting her head on the turf in the final moments of Portland's 3-0 win over Chicago last Sunday, and will be available. Smith is tied for second in the league with 12 goals.
San Diego's Alex Morgan enters the weekend with 15, but Smith and Morgan are tied for goals from the run of play with 10 (Morgan has scored five penalty kicks, Smith two). … Wilkinson also said that midfielder Sam Coffey trained after leaving last week's game with an apparent ankle knock.
Thorns defender Kelli Hubly is the only Portland player who has played every minute during the regular season.
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