This afternoon the Seattle Reign play what is likely to be their most important home game remaining in the regular season. They have already clinched at least a 2nd overall finish and are almost certain to clinch 1st in the next few games (Sports Club Stats gives them a 99.6% chance of finishing top of the league). The motivation now is getting the team right for the playoffs and keeping the level of intensity high. And nothing should encourage intensity like their only home match against rival and defending champion Portland Thorns, at least until the playoffs.
The proximity and the massive fanbase in Portland is likely to make this sound like a road game. The Reign's supporter presence has grown in fits and starts this year, but has yet to grow beyond a small handful of call and response chants that the larger crowd has yet to warm to. Last season the team countered the Riveters with a cameo from the Seahawks' Blue Thunder drumline. If nothing similar happens this year, they'll likely be drowned out by the coordinated support from the traveling Thorns contingent.
But of course games are decided by what happens on the field. In the last matchup, Kim Little scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at Providence Park — the Reign's first every win against Portland and an early indication of the historic season Seattle was building. The Reign's momentum has staggered a bit in the last few weeks, though they've still only lost once all year and never at home. And most of their struggles have come against teams willing to bunker and starve Little of space (like Chicago). I don't think the Thorns are either capable of or willing to bunker like that, so it's more likely to be a shootout and that portends some goals from Seattle, especially with Megan Rapinoe fully fit.
The biggest question mark is which Thorns offense will show up. Behind world class forwards Alex Morgan and Chrstine Sinclair and unlocked by skilled playmaker Vero Boquete they have the potential to score 4 goals on anyone. And yet they haven't scored more than 1 goal on the road in over a month. The key for Seattle will be dominating possession in the midfield and preventing any kind of Portland build up. If they can do that and Little and Rapinoe can find their own space, Seattle has a good chance of getting another three points and denting their rivals' playoff hopes.