NWSL 2022 semifinals: What to know about the matchups

2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith leads the reigning champion Portland Thorns into the new season. (Soobum Im/Getty Images)

The NWSL is onto the semifinals on Sunday after two thrilling quarterfinal matchups.

The San Diego Wave and Kansas City Current advanced after each scoring the winning goal in the 10th minute of added time against the Chicago Red Stars and Houston Dash, respectively.

In the semis, the Wave will face the Portland Thorns and the Current will take on OL Reign. The Thorns and Reign each received a bye to the semis after finishing as the top two teams in regular season.

The action on Sunday begins with the Thorns and Wave at Providence Park in Portland at 5 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network), followed by the Current and Reign at Lumen Field in Seattle at 7:30 p.m. ET (CBSSN). International viewers can watch on Twitch. The winners move on to the NWSL Championship on Oct. 29.

Here’s an overview of each semifinal team and matchup.

Portland Thorns vs. San Diego Wave FC

Portland (10-3-9)

  • For the fifth time in six years, the Thorns finished the regular season as a top-two team in the NWSL, and since the league’s inception in 2013, they’ve won two NWSL titles and two Shields.
  • They lead the league in goals with 49, 15 ahead of the next-closest playoff team (San Diego with 34).
  • The Thorns are second in accurate passes per match (340), behind the North Carolina Courage.

San Diego (10-6-6)

  • The Wave played their first postseason game in franchise history on Sunday against the Chicago Red Stars, winning 2-1.
  • San Diego is second in the NWSL in accurate long balls per match with 26.2.
  • They’ve also conceded the second-fewest goals per match, at an average of one, and they are tied with the Thorns and Reign for the most clean sheets.

The Thorns and Wave are in for a physical game, as both were among the top three teams in the standings for most of the year. Portland forward Sophia Smith and San Diego forward Alex Morgan were in close contention for the Golden Boot, with Morgan finishing just one goal ahead of Smith (15 to 14) at the end of the regular season.

Head-to-head, San Diego defeated Portland 2-0 on Aug. 27 after the teams tied 2-2 in their first meeting on June 8. On Sunday, Portland has the advantage of fresher legs and a home crowd at Providence Park, a stadium known to break attendance records.

Prediction: Thorns. The Wave have a backline made of brick, but if anyone can find a way to break through it, it’ll be Portland.

OL Reign vs. Kansas City Current

Reign (11-4-7)

  • OL Reign won their third NWSL Shield this year and are making their fourth consecutive appearance in the playoffs.
  • They allowed a league-low 19 goals against during the regular season.
  • They lead the league in accurate long balls per match, accurate crosses per match and possession won in the final third.

Kansas City (10-6-6)

  • The Current played their first playoff game as a franchise on Sunday, defeating the Houston Dash 2-1 and becoming the first team to win in their playoff debut since the Reign in 2014.
  • They are first in the league in penalties awarded.
  • The team is undefeated in games in which midfielder Lo’eau Labonta scores.

While the Reign hung around playoff contention for most of the season and the Current went through ebbs and flows, both teams are peaking at the right time. Kansas City went on a 13-game undefeated streak to earn the fifth seed in the playoffs, and the Reign orchestrated dangerously creative attacks to steal the top seed from the Thorns.

Players to watch in this matchup start with the goalkeepers: Kansas City’s AD Franch and OL Reign’s Phallon Tullis-Joyce. Each nominated for Goalkeeper of the Year, they are capable of making highlight-reel saves at any point. 

The teams are even when it comes to their prior meetings this season. The Reign won 1-0 at the end of May, and the Current got revenge in July with a 1-0 victory of their own. Like Portland, the Reign have the advantage on Sunday, playing at home and on extra rest.

Prediction: Reign. They’ve waited 10 years for an NWSL championship. Finals, here they come.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.