Portland Thorns FC Host Western New York Flash today in the Semifinals of the 2016 NWSL Playoffs
Nadia Nadim, Tobin Heath and Christine Sinclair prepare to go against Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald and Samantha Mewis as Portland Thorns FC host the Western New York Flash in the semifinals of the 2016 NWSL Playoffs on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.
The game is a rematch of the 2013 NWSL Championship Game – won by the Thorns – and will feature one of the NWSL’s best-ever offenses going against one of its best-ever defenses.
Portland became just the third team in league history to finish a season with a goals against average under one – as they allowed just 19 goals in 20 contests for a 0.95 GAA. The only two other teams to accomplish that feat are the 2013 Flash (0.91 GAA) and 2014 Seattle Reign FC (0.83 GAA).
Thorns goalkeeper Michelle Betos recorded four of her team’s seven shutouts this year while posting a 1.14 GAA and .757 save percentage in 14 appearances this year behind a backline of Kat Williamson, Emily Menges, Meghan Klingenberg and Emily Sonnett.
Portland kept opponents to one or less in a league-high 16 of 20 matches this season while earning an undefeated 11-0-5 record in those games.
Meanwhile, Western New York comes into the playoff matchup as just the third team to average at least two goals per game for an entire season after scoring 40 times in 20 regular-season matches for a 2.00 GPG – trailing only the 2014 Reign (2.08 GPG) and 2015 Reign (2.05 GPG).
Williams won the 2016 NWSL Golden Boot with 11 goals, while McDonald had 10 goals as the pair combined to account for more than half of the goals scored by the Flash in 2016. The duo also managed 12 total assists between them (McDonald 7, Williams 5) as they formed one of the best offensive partnerships the league has seen to date.
Flash coach Paul Riley, who spent two seasons at the helm for Portland before joining Western New York during the offseason, will hope to see McDonald and Williams as well as Mewis (5 goals, 2 assists) and the rest of his high-powered attack at their best at Providence Park on Sunday. Western New York had the best road offense in the league in 2016 but did average 0.80 goals per game less on their travels.
Riley and his players will have their work cut out for them regardless, as the Thorns boasted the best home record in the league with an 8-1-1 record (25 points) and a plus-15 goal difference spurred on by overall contributions from Nadim (9 goals, 3 assists), Heath (goal, 10 assists) and Sinclair (6 goals, 2 assists) as well as midfielders Allie Long (6 goals, 2 assists), Dagny Brynjarsdottir (5 goals, assist) and Lindsey Horan (5 goals).
Portland was particularly effective against the other teams that made the 2016 playoffs – with an undefeated 4-0-2 record against their fellow postseason competitors. By contrast, Western New York had the worst record against the three other teams that earned a place in the playoffs with a 1-4-1 mark in those contests – including losses in both games against the Thorns this year.
Portland comes into the match Sunday after finishing the regular season on a four-game winning streak after a 3-1 road victory over Sky Blue FC in Week 19 that earned the Thorns the 2016 NWSL Shield and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The Flash wrapped up the regular season with a 4-0 win against the Boston Breakers behind the second shutout of the season by goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo that helped clinch Western New York’s return to the postseason for the first time since 2013. The victory also snapped a club-worst seven game winless run.
While the two teams experienced decidedly different stretch runs, both were among the best in the league at overcoming deficits this year – with the Thorns recovering an NWSL-best 13 points from losings positions and the Flash earning the second-most points (11) from losing positions.
Both sides also excelled at holding onto leads with the Flash holding on to 90 percent of their advantages and Portland maintaining 86 percent of their leads this season – the top two numbers in the lead.
The match Sunday will also pit the teams with the best goal differences in for each half of matches this season with Western New York boasting a plus-10 mark in the first half of games and the Thorns racking up a plus-9 goal difference in the second half of matches.
The winner will advance to the their second NWSL Championship Game in four years after both sides squared off in the 2013 title match, which the Thorns won 2-0.
Tickets are available for purchase online via ThornsFC.com, by phone at (888) 736-6849 or at the Providence Park box office.
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