NWSL Semi-Finals: Portland Thorns vs San Diego Wave

Portland Thorns Hold First Press Conference
Since Sally Yates Report

If you’ve seen the Portland Thorns in the headlines the past few weeks, that should not come as a surprise.
It has been 19 days since the former U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates released her scathing report that shocked the soccer world.
Here is the full PDF link to the report.

Due to the findings, Merritt Paulson has stepped away from his role as CEO of both the Portland Thorns and Timbers.
The clubs’ President of Soccer (Gavin Wilkinson) and President of Business (Mike Golub) have also been relieved of their duties.

Numerous sponsors have ended their relationship with the clubs. At this point only few remain.
There is mounting pressure from fans, and media for Paulson and Peregrine Sports to sell the teams.

In the team’s first media availability since the report, Head Coach Rhian Wilkinson and Captain Christine Sinclair shared their thoughts on the investigation and the front office.

Wilkinson reiterated that she would like to wait for the NWSL and NWSLPA joint investigation report before commenting fully.
In response to whether the players are ready to respond to the report, “They’re not there yet. I’m not there yet. Some are, some aren’t.”

Some players have formed opinions on how they’d like the club and league to move forward; however, many need more time to do so. “They’re not sure. They don’t know. Some of them are sure and very clear where they stand on many topics, but some of them aren’t and can’t say that,” Wilkinson said.

Sinclair was asked whether or not Paulson should sell the teams. She is still processing the situation and asked for more time.

“Look, I’ve been a part of this team, proudly, for 10 years. I’ve seen significant changes being made this past year, changes for the better. Those players were forced to answer questions minute one of the Yates report coming out, which is kind of unfair for an athlete to be faced with. So for me, I’m focusing on the playoffs and focusing on getting ready for San Diego. For a lot of players, it’s going to take a lot of time to get to that decision. Whatever that is. It’s an individual decision, but it’s going to take time.”

Important Info

First-Year NWSL Head Coaches Meet for a Place in the Final

Casey Stoney and Rhian Wilkinson are considered two of the best head coaches in the NWSL.
Stoney has led an expansion San Diego Wave side to the 3rd best record, and is the favorite for the Coach of the Year award.
Wilkinson went into the year without superstars Lindsey Horan (on loan to OL) and Crystal Dunn, but led the club to their highest goal scoring year, best goal differential, and the 2nd best record.

Unfortunately, Rhian Wilkinson was snubbed as a nominee for Coach of The Year.
Portland Thorns superstar Janine Beckie lists off her coach’s accolades:

These teams met 4 times this season including 2 matchups each in the NWSL Challenge Cup and regular season.

Head to Head: Portland is (2-1-1) and San Diego (1-2-1)

  • Challenge Cup: Portland at San Diego (March 26) 1-0
  • Challenge Cup: Portland vs San Diego (April 17) 3-2
  • Regular Season: Portland at San Diego (June 8) 2-2
  • Regular Season: Portland vs San Diego (August 27) 0-2

Portland Thorns will donate the proceeds from the match into local charities chosen by the players.
Ryan Clarke of the Oregonian has confirmed that the “portion of the proceeds” will go to all game expenses and charities.

Probable Starting XIs:

Note: San Diego Wave could also insert Sofia Jakobsson in the starting XI. The Swedish superstar is coming off a terrific performance in the playoff match vs Chicago.

Note: Could we see Yazmeen Ryan or Janine Beckie start at winger? This would allow Hina Sugita to move to a midfield role.
Who would move to the bench? Rocky or Sinclair? In the season finale against Gotham FC, this lineup had trouble with Gotham FC’s speed and attack.

Players to Watch

  • Sophia Smith – The NWSL MVP candidate has a club record 14 goals and also has 3 assists this season.
    • In the 4 matchups against San Diego Wave, Smith scored 3 goals
    • For the USWNT, she has scored 10 goals this year
  • Kelli Hubly – The Iron Woman has played every single regular season minute for Portland Thorns
    • At 5′ 9″, Hubly will be tasked with marking Kornieck in the box
    • After going undrafted in 2017 and joining the Thorns as a national team replacement player, Hubly has become one of the best defenders in the NWSL
  • Taylor Kornieck – Her presence has caused fits for Portland all season.
    • At 6′ 1″, she will have an advantage of at least 3 inches of height over every Thorns defender
    • In the 4 matchups against Portland Thorns, Kornieck scored 3 goals
  • Alex Morgan – The recipient of the 2022 NWSL Golden Boot
    • Finished with 15 goals in 17 games
    • Scored the game winning goal versus the Chicago Red Stars in Quarterfinals
  • Naomi Girma – Nominated for MVP, Defender of the Year, and Rookie of the Year
    • Can she shutdown Sophia Smith once again?
    • In the last regular season meeting the Wave shut out the Thorns
      • That was San Diego’s lone win against Portland in 2022

How can the Thorns slow down the Wave attack?

Becky Sauerbrunn: “That’s the question of the day. Honestly, it will take a lot of defensive cover. I think with Taylor, she is gifted in the air. You have to assume she will win the majority of the aerial battles. Are you picking up second balls? Are you making sure you’re tracking the runners in behind? You’ll have to body up on both of them (Kornieck and Morgan). They’re both world class, so you have to stay focused 90+ minutes. You can’t take your eyes off of them.”

Sophia Smith: “Nothing different. They’re obviously good players, but we have great players too that can take care of that. I’m confident in everyone we have on the field, to do what they have to do and to do their role. It’s all we can do.”


  • Defense: San Diego Wave
    • Kailen Sheridan is one of the top 5 goalkeepers in the world
    • Naomi Girma is nominated for MVP, Defender of the Year, and Rookie of the Year
    • Conceded the 2nd least amount of goals in NWSL, behind only OL Reign
  • Midfield: Portland Thorns
    • In a year where the midfield was an unknown, they have shattered all expectations
    • Rocky Rodriguez, Hina Sugita, and Sam Coffey together combine to be the best midfield in NWSL
  • Attack: Portland Thorns
    • This side scored the most goals in club history
    • Best goal differential in NWSL and in club history
      • Their goal differential is better than every other team by at least 12!
  • Bench: Portland Thorns
    • Both teams have amazing benches
    • Portland will have more options: Crystal Dunn, Olivia Moultrie, Yazmeen Ryan, Tegan McGrady, and Emily Menges
  • Coaching: Tie
  • X-Factor: Home Field Advantage – Possible Sellout?
    • “From what I’ve heard, we have over 20,000 tickets sold. Apparently Nike came out and sold out the upper deck. From my understanding, I expect it to be quite supported, energetic, and lively” said defender of the year nominee Becky Sauerbrunn.
    • “I’m hearing there is going to be a great crowd which we are fired up about. Obviously, I know it’s been challenging on the fans for them on this ride with us. Not knowing what they want to do, but I think a lot of people are going to show up and really support us. Share the burden of everything we’ve endured this year and I think that’s amazing” said superstar midfielder and defender Crystal Dunn.

How To Watch:
Sunday, October 23 at 2pm
CBS Sports Network & Twitch for international viewers


Portland Thorns 2-1

  • Goalscorers:
    • Portland: Sophia Smith, Morgan Weaver
    • San Diego: Taylor Kornieck
  • Assists:
    • Hina Sugita, Sam Coffey
    • San Diego: Sofia Jakobsson

NWSL Final: Portland Thorns vs OL Reign

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Phuoc “Francis” Nguyen

Portland Thorns & Portland Timbers #BAONPDX #RCTID