Providence Park was buzzing on Friday night after Portland Thorns FC defeated Seattle Reign FC 3-1 to clinch second place in the National Women’s Soccer League and earn a home semifinal playoff game. The Reign dropped to third place in the league standings with the loss, which means the two teams square off once again on Saturday (3 p.m. ET on Lifetime) — this time with a ticket to the 2018 NWSL Championship on the line.
“Portland—Seattle, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Thorns captain Christine Sinclair told the media on Tuesday.
The Cascadia rivals have met three times this season – with the Reign holding edge at 2-1-0 against the Thorns. And while the Thorns finished the series with a win last Friday night behind a brace from Lindsey Horan and goal from Tobin Heath, the 2017 NWSL champions recognize that come playoffs it’s a completely different game. And then add to the equation that these teams have never met in the playoffs.
#PORvSEA under the Friday night lights in front of a sell-out crowd did not disappoint.
Highlights, right here. pic.twitter.com/hkBloYwG5C
— NWSL (@NWSL) September 8, 2018
“They will look different and we will look a little different as well,” Thorns head coach Mark Parsons said to the media. “Friday night was a great performance from the group, a really, really good performance, but this will be a different game and we have to find a new level.”
For one, the Reign were missing two of their key players, Allie Long (knee sprain) and Megan Rapinoe (rib soreness) due to injury on Friday. On the media conference call this week, Reign head coach Vlatko Andonovski said they are hoping both players will be ready to play this weekend.
“At this point, Megan is a little bit ahead of Allie, but we’re hoping that they will be able to play and be 100 percent,” Andonovski said. He also stated that they are expected to be tested in a full game-like experience on Thursday.
For the Reign, Rapinoe is second in scoring with seven goals and Long is third with three. Rapinoe hasn’t suited up for the Reign since they clinched a playoff berth on August 21 and Long hasn’t played since August 15.
“I don’t think they are going to change the dimension of the game, but the quality will be higher,” Parsons said. “They (Rapinoe and Long) are two world class soccer players that can make a huge difference, and we prepared that way for last weekend’s game too, so we’re not going to change too much.”
The Reign’s leading goal scorer Jodie Taylor (nine goals) said Friday was one of her team’s worst performances all season, but that the two training sessions this week have already felt like a complete reset.
“This week at training has been really positive. It has been a great start to the week and in terms of looking at last week to this week, it’s night and day.” Andonovski agreed: “The two practices we’ve had have been tremendous.”
Next Saturday they meet again.
— NWSL (@NWSL) September 9, 2018
Portland has the home-field advantage and also the added pressure and possibility of getting to stay at home for the NWSL Championship game. Sinclair and Parsons both made a point of recognizing how incredible it would be to get that opportunity, but were quick to remain grounded and focused on the first task at hand.
“Ever since the location of the final was announced, it has been a motivation for us to give our fans a championship game that we’re participating in,” Sinclair said. “Right now, to be honest, we’re just looking forward to the semifinal game and doing our best there and try to take care of a very talented Seattle team.”
“I’m trying to do my best job on focusing on what we can control, but the prospect of playing a championship here is unbelievable,” Parsons said.
Part four of the 2018 Cascadia Rivalry is set for Saturday, and one thing is for certain: Providence Park will be buzzing even more this time.