The race for the NWSL Shield heats up as Thorns battle Current
The race for the NWSL Shield is heating up and the next test for Portland Thorns FC lies in America’s Heartland.
Portland can (at least temporarily) leap back into first place with a win against the Kansas City Current at Children’s Mercy Park this Sunday (2pm PT, FOX 12 PLUS, Paramount+). The Current currently occupies the league’s top spot, but had their 13-game unbeaten run come to an end on Wednesday with a 4-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars.
Thanks to that midweek result, the race for the NWSL Shield is tighter than ever. The Thorns are coming off a professional 2-0 win against the Orlando Pride and are hungry to build on the positive result.
With four points separating the six teams currently in playoff positions, there’s much more at stake than the shield as the season winds down. Here’s what else to watch in what promises to be a thrilling Sunday afternoon:
Portland travels to KC on the precipice of another scoring record
The Thorns’ offense has been nothing short of dynamic this season and on Sunday it can reach heights never before seen in the club’s decade-long history.
No Portland team has surpassed the 40 goal mark, set in both 2018 and 2019, and the Thorns enter the weekend on 39 goals. Led by Sophia Smith (11 goals) and Christine Sinclair (5 goals), the Thorns’ plus-19 goal differential jumps out when taking a quick glimpse at the league table.
With three regular-season games left to play, including this weekend, it’s only a matter of time before Portland’s offense makes club history.
What to expect from the Current?
Kansas City’s recent 13-game unbeaten run was certainly no fluke; after all, going 113 days without a loss isn’t easy. What challenges will the Current present this weekend?
Portland fans know all too well what Adrianna Franch is capable of in goal while the Current have a balanced attack between CeCe Kizer, Kristen Hamilton and Lo’eau LaBonta (all on six goals, each).
Finally, there’s the venue: Children’s Mercy Park. This Sunday marks the Thorns’ first trip to the 11-year-old venue where Kansas City has lost just once this season.
A great home team against a great road team (more on that below), clashing records add intrigue into this weekend’s marquee matchup.
The Thorns look to build on road form
Portland has left the comforts of Providence Park nine times so far this season and has eight positive results to show from it. That’s right, the Thorns only have one loss away from home all season and they are hoping to continue that positive run of form this weekend.
The Thorns’ lone road defeat came against the North Carolina Courage in Cary, North Carolina, on August 24. Tally the points, and coach Rhian Wilkinson’s team has taken 16 of a potential 27 from its road games.
It won’t be easy on the road against the talented Current, hungry to avenge the 3-0 loss it suffered in Portland on April 30. It’s a different team entirely that will be ready to respond after a disappointing road result of their own.
But, after winning in Orlando, the Thorns travel east high on confidence and wanting nothing more than to take all three points back home.