Off the Bench with Backline Soccer: 2017, Finals

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Backline Soccer Recap:


Quick Fire Final Game Preview:

We have arrived at the final weekend of the 2017 NWSL season. It has been filled with many highs and lows, but for Portland and North Carolina, it is the last chance to shine and end up champions at the end of the night. This game will be tough, North Carolina is one of the most physical teams in the league (Portland also shares this title,) and so I expect to see a hard-fought physically defensive match from both sides.  Let’s take a quick look at what Saturday might bring. 

North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns

Portland got here by way of Orlando last weekend at home. For a season that started a bit rocky and without Tobin Heath, I was not quite sure they would make it here. But for the last few months, their play has been consistent and steadfast, which ultimately pushed them into the final. Portland posses the best and strongest defense in the league. The pairing between Emily Sonnett and Emily Menges has elevated this season and has been the saving grace for Portland on many occasions in the back. I expect this to be the case again on Saturday. Portland will need their defense to continue to produce as North Carolina will start attacking early and pressure often. I also anticipate a big game from Lindsey Horan, who has had a great season for Portland. Tobin Heath, for all intents and purposes, did not look like a woman who was starting her first game of the year for Portland. While you could point out a few little things, she looked to be ready for a full load this Saturday, which spells bad news for North Carolina as her creativity on the ball is key. 

North Carolina comes in by way of a last-minute heroic goal against Chicago. They have been dominant all season, only straying from first place for a week, a feat that saw them claim the shield this season. They will be looking to repeat as champions on Saturday. To do this, North Carolina will have to figure out a way to break down Portland’s defense and ultimately, this may come down to a last-minute heroic goal off a mistake like it did on Sunday against Chicago. North Carolina would be wise to spring Lynn Williams early and catch Portland either in the run of play or off of a set-piece. North Carolina did not play their best soccer on Sunday and if they come out like that, sloppy, spread too thin, not capitalizing on their chances, Portland will make them pay. But I expect better on Sunday and I expect the women’s soccer community to be graced with a stellar 2017 NWSL championship game 


Wrapping up the Season:

And here we have arrived at the last Off the Bench of the 2017 NWSL season. It has been a ride and the NWSL has given me many great things to write about in this piece over the season as I prepared to watch a weekend full of games. Thank you to everyone who took the time to check out of my work. If you ever want to chat women’s soccer, WNBA, softball, or anything else your heart desires, hit me up on Twitter, @AdrianaHoop. 

 

Until next season! 

Image courtesy of Leanne Keator

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