ORLANDO, Fla. — Abby Dahlkemper and the top-seed North Carolina Courage will take on Christine Sinclair and second-seed Portland Thorns FC in the NWSL Championship on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET live on Lifetime at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
North Carolina is coached by Long Island resident Paul Riley, who once directed Portland.
Dahlkemper and the Courage are seeking to become the first NWSL Shield winners to go on to also win the NWSL Championship in the same season, while Sinclair and the Thorns look to capture their second league title – and first since the league’s inaugural season in 2013.
The match is the second NWSL Championship contested between the top two seeds in the NWSL Playoffs and the first time since FC Kansas City and Seattle Reign FC squared off for the 2014 title.
The Thorns and Courage split their two meetings during the 2017 regular season – with each team registering a 1-0 home victory. North Carolina notched their 1-0 win April 22 as Debinha scored the lone goal of the game in the 81st minute on an assist from Jessica McDonald. Portland responded with a 1-0 victory of their own on July 15 when Hayley Raso headed in a ball from Meghan Klingenberg.
The matchup is a showdown between two of the best defenses in the history of the NWSL as the Thorns tied the single-season record with a 0.83 goals against average during the regular season and the Courage produced the fourth-best single-season mark with a 0.92 GAA.
North Carolina and Portland are also two of only three clubs with 10 or more shutouts in a single season as the Courage set an NWSL record with 12 clean sheets during the regular season – one more than the 11 by the Thorns.
Thanks to those dominant defenses, both teams were clinical at turning leads into wins this year – with the Thorns going 14-1-0 when leading in a match and the Courage posting a 16-1-1 record when they take a lead.
The match Saturday will feature four players who have scored in previous NWSL Championships – as Tobin Heath and Sinclair both found the back of the net for Portland against the Western New York Flash in the 2013 title game and Samantha Mewis and Lynn Williams lit up the scoreboard against the Washington Spirit in the 2016 championship.
It will also be a matchup between the two best teams on set pieces during the regular season – with the Courage outscoring opponents 12-1 on corners and dead-ball situations, while the Thorns outscored opponents 8-1 in those situations.
North Carolina Courage roster
Goalkeepers: Sabrina D’Angelo, Katelyn Rowland
Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg, Jaelene Hinkle, Nora Holstad, Yuri Kawamura, Stephanie Ochs, Taylor Smith, Meredith Speck, Samantha Witteman
Midfielders: Makenzy Doniak, Elizabeth Eddy, Samantha Mewis, McCall Zerboni, Denise O’Sullivan, Debinha
Forwards: Kristen Hamilton, Ashley Hatch, Darian Jenkins, Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams
Portland Thorns FC roster
Goalkeepers: Britt Eckerstrom, Adrianna Franch
Defenders: Kendall Johnson, Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges, Katherine Reynolds, Emily Sonnett
Midfielders: Celeste Boureille, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Tobin Heath, Amandine Henry, Lindsey Horan, Allie Long, Mallory Weber
Forwards: Savannah Jordan, Tyler Lussi, Nadia Nadim, Hayley Raso, Christine Sinclair, Ashleigh Sykes