Thorns versus Courage History:
The NWSL Championship will mark the third meeting of 2017 between the Courage and the Thorns, each winning 1-0 in their first two matches, respectively at home.
It is the 2016 NWSL semifinal in Portland a year ago, however, that carries the most meaning for both clubs. Back then, the Courage were the Western New York Flash before relocating to North Carolina in early 2017, but the majority of its core players like Katelyn Rowland, Sam Mewis, Abby Erceg, McCall Zerboni, Lynn Williams, Taylor Smith, Abby Dahlkemper, Jessica McDonald, Jaelene Hinkle along with head coach Paul Riley, names that have become household names in the NWSL and national team picture, were a part of that championship-winning Flash team. This same Courage team, that many wore the black and yellow in Providence Park in October 2016, is the very same group of core players that will face the Portland Thorns for the NWSL Championship. And that semi-final game will very much be on the minds of the Thorns players, who experienced the agony of a 4-3 defeat in extra time on their home field one year ago that ended their 2016 season.
How North Carolina Reached the Championship:
The North Carolina Courage finished the regular season with a 16-7-1 record, first in the NWSL, and clinched a playoff berth on August 30th with a 3-2 win against the Washington Spirit. The Courage became the first team this season to secure a spot in the playoffs and to gain home-field advantage. On September 27th, the Courage earned the NWSL Shield after a 4-0 victory against the Houston Dash. They’re also the first team since the 2014 Seattle Reign to win 16 regular season games. North Carolina saw their biggest crowd of 10,017 fans in the semifinal game against the Chicago Red Stars, whom they defeated on an 89th-minute goal to face the Thorns. The Courage won the NWSL Championship last year as the Western New York Flash.
How Portland Reached the Championship:
The Portland Thorns finished the regular season with a 14-5-5 record, second in the NWSL and clinched a playoff berth on Week 19 with their 4-0 shutout against the Washington Spirit and an FC Kansas City win over Sky Blue FC. The Thorns became the second team this season to secure a spot in the playoffs. The following week, Portland secured a home playoff game after battling the Boston Breakers to a 1-0 victory to bring a playoff game to Providence Park where they were 10-1-1 for the season.
In the semifinals, the Thorns defeated the Orlando Pride 4-1 in an exciting match for Portland in front of over 18,000 fans. The Thorns have an opportunity to win their second NWSL Championship after winning the title in the inaugural season in 2013.
Welcome to VAVEL USA’s LIVE coverage of the 2017 NWSL Championship between the Portland Thorns and the North Carolina Courage. My name is Cindy Lara, and I’ll be your host for this game. We will provide you with pre-game analysis, roster updates, and news as it happens here on VAVEL. This game will be live on Lifetime with coverage beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET from Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
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