The Portland Thorns and NJ/NY Gotham FC will battle for a spot in the NWSL Championship on Sunday. After a brief pause for the international break, the NWSL playoffs are back and Portland will welcome Gotham to Providence Park for the 2023 NWSL semifinals. The winners will go on to face either OL Reign or San Diego Wave FC, and Fans can watch all the knockout round action on CBS Sports Network.
Here’s everything you need to know about the game:
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- Date: Sunday, Nov. 5 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
- Place: Providence Park — Portland, Oregon
- TV: CBS Sports Network
The NWSL postseason is a knockout-round format. Six teams advanced to the playoffs with three rounds of competition including two first round matches, two semifinal games (Nov. 5), and the NWSL Championship (Nov. 11). Each playoff game will be 90 minutes of regulation, and if the score is tied, two 15-minute periods of extra time will be played. If the two periods of extra-time has not determined a winner, then a penalty kick shootout will take place.
Players to watch
Olivia Moultrie (Portland Thorns): The 18-year-old Thorns player has been with the organization since she was 13 years old as she became the youngest player to turn pro and joined the Thorns youth academy. After signing an official contract with the Thorns in 2021, but made her most starts for the team during this 2023 regular season. With 11 starts over 21 appearances, Moultrie’s ability so navigate lines and create attacking sequences has been on full display. She could be an x-factor for the team off the bench if they’re having trouble unlocking Gotham’s defensive press.
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Ali Krieger (Gotham FC): The veteran defender has had a renaissance season as one-half of Gotham’s center back pairing. She’d played most of her career as a fullback, and her positional awareness has been a highlight this year. She’ll have a lot on her plate dealing with the likes of Sophia Smith, Morgan Weaver, or Christine Sinclair, but she’s no stranger to high-stakes games, and with her imminent retirement, she and the team are motivated to keep their playoff run going.
What they’re saying
Moultrie on Thorns playoff preparations: “[We’re] just completely setting all our energy on this one game and that we’re doing it together,” Moultrie told Attacking Third. “So it’s like ‘we’re all in or we’re not going to be able to win,’ That’s kind of drawing everyone really close even though we obviously pride ourselves on trying to do that throughout the whole year. You definitely get this extra ounce of energy heading into the playoffs, so we’re really excited for that.”
Juan Carlos Amoros on Krieger: “From the last regular season game, where we were celebrating what was supposed to be on Ali’s career, a lot of people thought it was Ali’s last game. For the players, for the staff, for the club [it] has been the target that that wasn’t. That they have to continue. Hopefully, it continues until November 11. I think Ali leads on and off the pitch with her football, with her personality, and we wanted to make sure that we give her the best experience in the last few games. And trust me She doesn’t care. She just wants to win. So for us, it’s an extra motivation to go on that pitch and try to beat any opposition that comes in front of us.”
Portland Thorns: The reigning 2022 NWSL Champions were pegged from the beginning of the season to make another deep playoff run and they have lived up to the billing. Even with the promotion of Mike Norris from goalkeeping coach to head coach after the resignation of Rhiann Wilkinson, the club had nearly identical personnel to their 2022 Championship roster heading into the 2023 season. Midfielder Sam Coffey and Sophia Smith are finalists for the league’s MVP award and if the duo can perform well on Sunday, it’ll lead to another finals appearance.
Gotham FC: The only non-West Coast side remaining in the playoffs, the New Jersey side will head into a historically hostile environment for visitors. How they’ll navigate their defensive press will dictate which parts of the pitch they’ll target, but they’ll have to compete with Portland’s deep bench as well. If Lynn Williams and Yazmeen Ryan can remain clinical, they will have a good chance to keep things interesting against the home side.
The two sides have played to narrow scorelines before so no surprises if this game will be similar. Pick: Portland 2, Gotham 1