NWSL Championship preview: Westfield Matildas pair primed for all-or-nothing rematch

Two Australians will take centre stage during the biggest match in women's football in the United States when North Carolina Courage meet Portland Thorns in the NWSL Championship.

Westfield Matildas team-mates Ellie Carpenter and Caitlin Foord will attempt to help Portland retain their crown in what is a rematch of the 2017 decider.

Despite last season's success, the Thorns are underdogs against a North Carolina team that has become nearly untouchable.

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Portland will have the benefit of a home crowd at Providence Park along with a strong contingent of fans from Down Under.

Get the lowdown with our preview and then tune in by streaming the all-important clash live on NWSLsoccer.com from 6:30am (AEST) this Sunday.

Aussie stars on show

Australian loyalties lie firmly with the Thorns.

The club is home to three Westfield Matildas in Hayley Raso, Foord and Carpenter.

Raso, an extremely influential player during her time in Portland, unfortunately won't be available as she continues to rehabilitate a fractured back.

Instead, the winger will be cheering on Foord and Carpenter.

Both are in line to start after playing the full 90 minutes in last weekend's narrow semi-final success against Seattle Reign.

This encounter presents another valuable learning experience for teenager Carpenter, who has appeared 18 times in an excellent debut campaign in the NWSL.

Foord's involvement in any capacity this season is testament to her will to recover from a serious foot injury, and the versatile forward now looms as a potential game-breaker.

How they got there

Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan were on target as Portland booked their spot in the final by coming from a goal down to edge out a Seattle side featuring Steph Catley and Lydia Williams.

The 2-1 triumph maintained the fine form that saw them end the regular season in second place.

However, Portland's impressive run of results never looked like being enough to concern a dominant North Carolina.

Paul Riley's side finished 15 points clear in first, winning 17 of 24 matches and losing just once.

They punched their ticket to the Championship with an efficient 2-0 defeat of Sam Kerr's Chicago Red Stars.

Key history

North Carolina's excellent record should make them favourites against a side they have beaten all three times this term.

This, though, is an altogether different kind of test for the NWSL Shield winners.

Courage also topped the table last season before losing out in the decider to none other than Portland, with Horan scoring the decisive goal in the 50th minute.

That was the Thorns' second triumph in as many trips to the Championship.

Indeed, the playoff specialists have only ever lifted the trophy after finishing lower than first.

Can they do it again? Don't be surprised if our two Westfield Matildas play a big part in upsetting the odds with Raso watching on.

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This article was originally published on the Westfield Matildas website.
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