Updated: Oct 19
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This is one of the most anticipated games of the regular season for some many reasons. The number 2 and 3 team in the standing fighting for their playoff and shield ambitions. There are so many storylines heading into this matchup. Let's discuss them.
Top storylines for the Gotham FC vs Portland Thorns NWSL match on October 8, 2023
Battle for the Shield: Gotham FC and the Portland Thorns are both in the thick of the race for first place in the NWSL standings. Gotham currently sits in third place with 30 points, while the Thorns are 2nd with 32 points. A win for either team in this match would put them in a strong position to grab home playoff games.
Defending champions vs. rising stars: The Thorns are the defending NWSL champions, and they have one of the most experienced and talented rosters in the league. Gotham FC, on the other hand, has completed one of the best bottom of the table to top of the table turnarounds in sports.
Return to Portland. Gotham boasts many players that are former Thorns. None bigger than Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim. They spoke about their return to Portland here. https://www.oregonlive.com/portland-thorns/2023/10/gotham-fcs-mana-shim-sinead-farrelly-revel-in-their-joy-ahead-of-return-trip-to-face-portland-thorns.html#:~:text=Shim%20and%20Farrelly%20will%20be,game%20and%20becoming%20teammates%20again. Also, Yazmeen Ryan, who won a championship with the Thorns returns. Ryan has been one of Gotham's best players all season. Abby Smith played for Portland as well. Smith had been an MVP candidate in goal before suffering a lower leg injury in San Diego.
Rematch of last year's last final regular season game. Which saw Gotham go down 3-1 and claw their way back to a 3-3 draw. That draw denied Portland the Shield as they were overtaken by OL Reign. Can Gotham FC deny Portland the shield two seasons in a row?
Other storylines to watch:
How will Gotham FC handle the Thorns' potent attack? The Thorns have one of the most dangerous attacks in the NWSL, proven by their +13 goal differential. If you give Portland an opening, they will certainly punish you for it. All eyes on the injury report as Portland is missing their top scorer in Sophia Smith. Gotham FC will need to be disciplined in their defending in order to keep the Thorns off the scoresheet.
Can Gotham FC regain their scoring form? Gotham FC has been up and down in the scoring department. Shut out twice in their last 5 games. The insertion of Esther Gonzalez and permanent Katie Stengel should help. Gotham couldn’t buy a goal in their home game against Houston despite creating many quality chances in the second half. Hopefully the chance creation continues but the funk stays in Harrison for the weekend.
Will the Thorns be able to bounce back from their recent loss? The Thorns have have back to back challenges against top 3 teams. They have won just two of their last five matches, and they lost 2-0 to the current leaders San Diego Wave. They need at least a point if they are to stay in the shield hunt.
Portland leads the NWSL in goals per match (2).
Portland leads the NWSL in shots on target (7.1).
Portland leads the NWSL in big chances created (41).
Gotham leads the NWSL in possessions won in the final third (9).
Gotham leads the NWSL in yellow cards (37)
Gotham is 2nd in the league in possession (54.8).
Morgan Weaver (Portland) vs. Bruninha (Gotham). Morgan is 1st in the league in big chances created.
Esther Gonzales (Gotham) vs. Portland's center backs (Portland). Esther showed against Washington how difficult she is to contain.
Crystal Dunn (Portland) vs. Nealy Martin (Gotham) One of the most experienced players versus a 1st year convert to defensive midfield.
Bella Bixby (Portland) vs. Mandy Haught (Gotham) Battle of two top keepers. Portland has given up 1.4 goals per match and Gotham only 1.1. Which keeper is going to step up in big moments tomorrow? Tune into Paramount plus at 5pm to find out.