Westfield Matildas clash in NWSL playoffs this weekend

A spot in the championship is up for grabs this weekend as the NWSL comes to a thrilling finale.

Westfield Matildas players Lydia Williams and Steph Catley will take on Ellie Carpenter and Caitlin Foord when Seattle Reign travel to Portland Thorns.

Meanwhile, could the form of Sam Kerr see Chicago Red Stars upset Shield winners North Carolina Courage?

Read on for our preview of both matches!

BREAKDOWN: The stats behind Kerr's incredible NWSL season
KERR: Westfield Matildas striker in NWSL team of the season

Portland Thorns v Seattle Reign

Sunday 5.00am AEST

Having beaten their rivals 3-1 on Saturday morning to clinch second place in the NWSL and earn a home semi-final playoff match, Portland will be gearing up to host Seattle once more on Sunday morning.

The reigning 2017 champions are unbeaten against their Cascadia rivals this season and their victory over Seattle last week showed the Thorns are hitting their stride at just the right time.

Lindsey Horan's display against Seattle captures why many feel the Thorns have the potential to go back to back this year. Horan notched a superb double against Reign and has been a regular goal threat throughout the campaign, finishing with 13 goals.

She’ll likely receive support from Caitlin Foord, who nearly competed 90 minutes for the first time this season last weekend. Foord managed 86 minutes of excellent forward play against the Reign before her late substitution.

Ellie Carpenter was also impressive against Seattle, getting forward to great effect and winning her duel with Steph Catley on Portland’s right flank.

That match up looms as one of several decisive areas that could prove to be difference maker when the two teams line up again on Sunday morning.

Any chance Seattle have of bouncing back from last weekend’s defeat and notching their first win over the Thorns might depend on Lydia Williams. Williams has enjoyed a fine season in between the posts for Reign and her 10 clean sheets has been matched by her peerless distribution from the back.

North Carolina Courage v Chicago Red Stars

Wednesday 11.00am AEST

There's been a late switch for this clash which has been moved to midweek due to Hurricane Florence which has hit the US.

The match has also been moved from North Carolina to Providence Park in Portland.

North Carolina Courage’s dominance has reigned supreme in this season’s NWSL. The Courage clinched the 2018 shield with several rounds to spare and have only lost one match all season – a 1-0 defeat to Katrina Gorry’s Utah Royals in June.

But if there’s one woman who can ruin North Carolina’s outstanding season, it’s Sam Kerr.

The Westfield Matildas forward has already been the scourge of the Red Stars this season, notching a second half equaliser in the side’s 1-1 draw back in August.

She also hit what appeared to be a vital winner for the Red Stars in the sides’ clash back in May, but her first half effort was cancelled out by a late reply from North Carolina’s McCall Zerboni.

Kerr finished with the NWSL golden boot for the second year running after hitting 16 goals in 19 matches. She enters the match in red-hot form too, having slotted away five goals in four August matches for the Red Stars.

The form of their superstar striker should give Chicago belief they can pull off an upset, but they’ll need to be wary of a North Carolina team that have been the competition’s benchmark this season.

The Courage boast the league’s most miserly defence having conceded just 17 goals, while the combination of Jessica Mcdonald and Lynn Williams going forward has been one of the key drivers of the team’s success.

Mcdonald and Williams account for 22 goals and 13 assists combined and will need to be marshalled by Kerr’s Red Stars carefully should the Chicago outfit pull off a famous upset.

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This article was originally published on the Westfield Matildas website.