By Michael Lewis
So much for home-field advantage.
With Hurricane Florence ready to hit North Carolina, the National Women Soccer League is getting out of town.
Translated: the semifinal playoff match has been moved from Cary, N.C. to Portland, Ore. on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The NWSL final also is slated for Portland Sunday, Sept. 23.
Because of the uncertainty of the impact of the storm in North Carolina, the NWSL worked with both teams to make a decision that would be in the best interests of the safety of the fans, players and staff.
The Courage will be giving up home-field advantage that it earned as the Supporters Shield champions it earned during the regular season with a stellar 17-1-6 mark and 57 points. North Carolina finished 15 points ahead of runner-up Portland Thorns (12-6-6, 42).
During a Wednesday media conference call, head coach Paul Riley said that his team could play anywhere.
“I don’t think it matters, to be honest with you,” he said. “We spoke about it very little, to be honest with you. We are just getting on with it. If we get more time to prepare, we get more time to prepare. We’d play could play in the local parking lot if we could, in a supermarket parking lot. We could play anywhere. Obviously, at this point, for us it’s just preparing. If we get an extra day or two, fine. If we don’t fine. We’re going ahead with plans. The heart of the storm will be off Friday and we’ll take it from there.”
And not having a week’s rest was not the end of the world.
“We’ve all had Sunday, Wednesday games and mid-week games and other stuff this year,” Riley said. “I don’t think it’ll affect anybody.”
Red Stars head coach Rory Dames said during the call that he would have loved to have the game moved to Portland.
“If it was up to me, I would play the game in Portland,” Dames said. “Whoever wins stays, you lose, you come home. Everything’s already set up out there.
“But I’m also not North Carolina. I didn’t have the season they had. I didn’t deserve the right to get a home game like they did, the 13th game. So whatever gate would have come in to that, although I don’t know what the gate would be with what’s coming, I think from a standpoint from everybody, moving the game up to Portland makes the most sense. It adds little bit of cost to whoever wins. But then you’re already out there, you’re settled in, you could train, you get into the flow, as opposed to still not knowing what’s going to happen, having the game pushed another day later.”
The rescheduled semifinal will be played at 9 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPNEWS, and streamed live on the ESPN App, from Providence Park in Portland, Ore.
Tickets for the NWSL Semifinal match will be $10 general admission and are now on sale by calling (888) 736-6849 or online at https://nwsl.us/2Ogbz3Z.