A couple of weeks ago the regular season finale this weekend between the Reign and the Thorns looked like it might not have much on the line other than some rivalry pride and the difference for the Thorns between a 3 seed and a 4 seed going into the playoffs. But events have very quickly conspired to put Portland in dire straits.
First, the Reign pasted the Thorns 5-0 at home to end Portland's 7 game undefeated run. Then (after a narrow home win over the Dash) the Thorns lost on the road to bottom-of-the-table Boston. Combined with consecutive wins by Chicago, that puts Portland currently on the outside of the playoff picture — one point behind the Red Stars with 1 game remaining for each team. A Thorns loss this weekend eliminates the Thorns from the playoffs a season after winning the Championship. In fact, a draw would likely eliminate them as well as even a two goal loss by Chicago would still give them the tiebreaker. And in both previous matchups this season Seattle has beaten the Thorns.
If you want to be Machiavellian, you might argue you'd prefer to see Portland in the playoffs than Chicago, so maybe we should take it easy. After all, the Red Stars are the only team to have beaten the Reign this season. And they've shown a knack for playing the kind of suffocating defense built around a high line and two holding midfielders that's discombobulated the Reign attack. But that's probably too clever by half. Having a good gameplan is one thing, but the Thorns have talent like Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair, and Vero Boquete. And even if they haven't figure out how to mesh yet, and even if they have yet to score a single goal on the Reign this year so far, I think they're still dangerous enough that you'd rather avoid them if at all possible.
And, it turns out, it is possible. Keep doing what you've done all year and get at least a point on the road this weekend and it's very likely that that talented trio of attackers will be watching the playoffs from the couch rather than running at the Reign defenders.