The 2022 NWSL Championship is here.
The Portland Thorns and Kansas City Current kick off at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. For the first time in league history, the game will be broadcast at primetime on a nationally televised network, CBS, for American viewers. International fans can watch on Twitch.
Here is everything you need to know heading into the final:
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She set the Thorns' single-season clean sheet record this year 💪🎥 @JakeZivin chats with @bellageist about her regular-season and championship prep leading into Saturday.— X - Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) October 26, 2022
She set the Thorns' single-season clean sheet record this year 💪🎥 @JakeZivin chats with @bellageist about her regular-season and championship prep leading into Saturday.
Job's not finished. #CurrentRising pic.twitter.com/vmrWLqyobN— KC Current (@thekccurrent) October 26, 2022
Job's not finished. #CurrentRising pic.twitter.com/vmrWLqyobN
The Thorns and Current are finishing their season the way they started it — against each other. In their first match on April 30, Portland won in a 3-0 shutout. When they met again in September, the sides drew 1-1, despite Thorns having even more possession (58 percent) and shots (29) than they did in the first matchup (55 percent, 19 shots).
No matter who wins on Saturday, the victorious team will hold the record for the most NWSL titles in league history with three (if Kansas City’s two titles as FC Kansas City count toward the overall tally). This is Kansas City’s second year as the Current, but their players’ rights transferred from the first Kansas City franchise to Utah in 2017, and then back to Kansas City in 2020.
The Current’s path to victory will likely have to go through Portland’s deep bench. If the Current have a hard time against the Thorns’ possession-dominating starting lineup, that’s not even the worst of it, with world-class stars Christine Sinclair and Crystal Dunn waiting in the wings.
The Thorns can’t afford to get comfortable. The Current will be looking for any opportunity to turn the tide in their favor, with Elyse Bennett, Kristen Hamilton, Cece Kizer and Lo’eau Labonta creating dangerous chances on the attack. Kansas City leads the league in penalties awarded, which shouldn’t go unnoticed considering a penalty kick in the fourth minute of their quarterfinal game contributed to a 2-1 win over the Houston Dash.
Players to watch
Sophia Smith, Portland
The 2022 NWSL MVP is the most dangerous player to defend on the Thorns. With the ability to dribble through multiple opponents on her own, Smith finished the regular season with 14 goals, just one fewer than Golden Boot winner Alex Morgan.
Crystal Dunn, Portland
After giving birth to her son five months ago, Dunn subbed into the midfield in the 62nd minute of Sunday’s semifinal and dominated the attacking third. After contributing to multiple scoring chances, Dunn volleyed home the game-winning goal in stoppage time.
AD Franch, Kansas City
The goalkeeper was the hero of the match for Kansas City in Sunday’s semifinal. Making several acrobatic saves to preserve the shutout, she’s now tied for the most shutouts in playoff history and holds the record for the most saves in the playoffs with 11.
Kristen Hamilton, Kansas City
With a goal on Sunday to solidify the Current’s 2-0 win over OL Reign, the forward increased her scoring tally to seven goals, the most on the team in regulation. She’s also contributed two assists and 19 key passes this season.
Kansas City over Portland, 2-1. The Current make a comeback in the second half.
Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.