One month and 20 games later, here we are at the NWSL Challenge Cup final. For frequent winners Portland, perhaps this is a chance to really get settled down and kick the tires before regular season. For Gotham, a shot at a trophy, any trophy, may have more resonance. But for sure both teams are capable of selling some pretty powerful, direct swings while taking one or two on the chin. It may be a case of who can manage their organized defense collapse in front of the other’s quick play better than the other.
Portland probably had the slightly harder time of it in the west, but were also the more consistent team than Gotham. The Thorns reliably got on the board in every game, while Gotham swung between a goalfest and some numbing 0-0 draws. Portland is also probably a little more settled at every line of play - defenders, mids, forwards - than Gotham, but Gotham has shown they’ve got energy, a very deep scoring bench, and honestly, some luck.
Portland won the west with a 3-0-1 record, scoring six cumulative goals and allowing two goals against.
Only Emily Menges is listed as questionable with a right foot injury.
Gotham won the east with a 2-0-2 record, scoring five cumulative goals and allowing three against (all by the Courage).
Kenie Wright and McCall Zerboni are out for Gotham. Elizabeth Eddy and Sodam Lee are both listed as questionable.
Note: Theoretically, this means Kailen Sheridan is available as a goalkeeper, but with Haracic having gotten warm over the course of the past four games and keeping clean sheets in three of them, there’s a strong argument to stay the course.
What Mark Parsons says:
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Gotham. I love that they are a team that want the ball. I think it’s gonna provide a big challenge. They’re a team that’s brave and has the ball against us can cause us problems. The way that we love to defend, the team that wants to be able to break that and switch the point and look to break us down with multiple passes sometimes is challenging. “It’s something we’re ready and excited but I think the key is, is the connection in the midfield for us in the discipline, the positioning, the tactical discipline.”
What Freya Coombe says:
“I am really looking forward to playing the Thorns as the last time we faced them was in 2019 and I have fond memories as it was my first game with the club. Portland is a talented & experienced team that is hungry for silverware. They have a very talented midfield and are tight defensively so it will be tricky to break down.”