Westfield Matildas star Caitlin Foord could be in line for a long-awaited return to action as her Portland Thorns side travel to face Sky Blue FC in the final round of the NWSL before the Tournament of Nations.
Meanwhile, a host of other Westfield Matildas will be in action across the weekend, with Utah Royals, Orlando Pride, Seattle Reign and Houston Dash also set for action on Saturday and Sunday.
Here’s a preview of the weekend’s NWSL action leading into the Tournament of Nations.
Utah Royals vs North Carolina Courage
Katrina Gorry’s Utah Royals will host runaway NWSL league leaders North Carolina Courage on Saturday in a bid to keep their hopes of a top four finish alive.
North Carolina, who have picked up a whopping 45 points from 18 games so far, have already guaranteed themselves a spot in the play-offs after a 2-0 win over Washington Spirit.
They have lost just once this NWSL season, which came at the hands of Utah when the two sides met in June.
Gorry started and starred in that game, registering three shots before eventually being replaced with just over 10 minutes remaining where Utah grabbed a last-gasp winner.
She has since been in an impact sub role in the past two games, but will be hoping to return to the starting XI for Saturday.
Orlando Pride vs Seattle Reign
A bumper two versus three meeting looms when Orlando Pride once again face off against Seattle Reign — with four Aussies set to play.
Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond’s Orlando have been almost inseparable from Steph Catley and Lydia Williams’ Seattle side — both during their two meetings and across the NWSL as a whole.
Orlando and Seattle played out a 1-1 draw in April soon after the Westfield Matildas retuned from the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Then in June there was another draw between the Reign and the Pride, this time scoreless.
That closeness is also reflected in the NWSL ladder, with Seattle narrowly topping Orlando by one point (albeit with a game in hand) in a neck-and-neck race for the play-offs.
Sam Kerr’s Chicago Red Stars also trail Seattle by just the lone point, while Portland Thorns are close behind.
The Pride’s 2-1 win over Utah, coupled with Seattle’s loss to Chicago last week makes this tie even tastier.
Sky Blue vs Portland Thorns FC
Caitlin Foord is set to travel to New Jersey with Westfield Matildas teammates Hayley Raso and Ellie Carpenter as the Portland Thorns trio prepare to face Sky Blue.
Foord has been out of action for five months after suffering a foot injury in the Westfield W-League semi-final while playing for Sydney FC.
The lay-off meant the 23-year-old attacker missed out on the Algarve Cup in February and the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in April and is yet to walk out as a Portland player after joining the club in an off-season trade that saw United States stalwart Allie Long move to Seattle Reign.
Now, Thorns coach Mark Parsons has confirmed the Aussie attacker will travel with teammates for the NWSL clash and could appear in the dying stages of the match if cleared to play.
"She's doing really well and keeps progressing," Parsons told Oregon Live.
"If she does play, it will be very, very low minutes.
“If she's not ready, then no problem. We'll remain patient and know the good work that she's putting in is getting her closer.”
Foord has been called up to the Westfield Matildas’ 21-player squad for the Tournament of Nations, although coach Alen Stajcic has drafted in 15-year-old Mary Fowler in anticipation that Foord will not make it onto the field against Brazil, the United States or Japan.
“Mary has been brought in because Caitlin won’t be able to contribute in terms of game time,” Stajcic told matildas.footballaustralia.com.au.
“With Caitlin, it will be a great to reintegrate her into the squad, but there’s also an opportunity to give another player an opportunity to come in.”
The game against Sky Blue, who remain winless after 15 games, looms as crucial for Portland Thorns.
The Thorns sit two points behind Chicago Red Stars with a game in hand in the race for a top four finish.
Hayley Raso’s return to the starting line up saw Portland top Utah Royals 4-0 in their most recent game, with the winger notching an assist, while teammate Ellie Carpenter played the full game at right back.
Washington Spirit vs Houston Dash
The final NWSL game of the weekend sees Kyah Simon and Clare Polkinghorne travel to Washington Spirit as Houston Dash’s season hangs in the balance.
The Dash are eight points outside a play-off spot with seven games of their regular season remaining and an upcoming run of winnable games.
First comes the test of Washington, who have won twice in their 17 fixtures.
Westfield Matildas stalwart Polkinghorne has played the last three Dash games in a central midfield role, having made five starts in total since joining mid-season from Brisbane Roar. Simon has also started Dash’s last three fixtures but will be looking to end a goal drought that dates back to May.
*Teams in bold contain Westfield Matildas players
- North Carolina Courage – played 18, 45 points, +27
- Seattle Reign – played 17, 29 points, +5
- Orlando Pride – played 18, 28 points, +1
- Chicago Red Stars – played 18, 28 points, +4
- Portland Thorns – played 17, 26 points, +6
- Utah Royals – played 17, 21 points, -4
- Houston Dash – played 17, 20 points, -7
- Washington Spirit – played 17, 10 points, -13
- Sky Blue – played 15, 3 points, -19
Here are the game details for Westfield Matildas stars and their teams…
Utah Royals v North Carolina Courage | Saturday 12.00PM AEST
Orlando Pride v Seattle Reign | Sunday 5.30AM AEST
Sky Blue v Portland Thorns | Sunday 9.00AM AEST
Washington Spirit v Houston Dash | Sunday 9.00AM AEST
Matches can be live-streamed at nwslsoccer.com