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Portland Thorns vs. OL Reign: Previewing the rivalry match

OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe goes up against Portland Thorns FC midfielder Sam Coffey during the 2023 season. (Michael Thomas Shroyer/USA TODAY Sports)

OL Reign and the Portland Thorns will face off at 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday in the 38th meeting of the NWSL’s fiercest rivalry.

Each team has a win against the other this year, with Portland winning 2-0 on June 3, then falling 1-0 on June 28. The most recent meeting, though, ended in a 0-0 draw on Aug. 6. The two most recent matches were part of the 2023 Challenge Cup tournament.

Portland’s regular-season win against OL Reign marked their first on the road in Seattle since 2017. And the Reign will be looking to return the favor in Saturday’s matchup on their home turf. Even more is at stake this time around, with four matches left in the regular season. Portland sits second in the NWSL with 29 points, while the Reign are fourth with 27 points.

Both teams are missing key players: The Thorns are without Sophia Smith due to an MCL sprain, while goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce recently was whisked away by Manchester United.

OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns: How to watch

The Cascadia Cup match will take place on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. local time). Viewers can watch the rivalry match on Paramount+.

Keys to the game: OL Reign

Give the ball to Jordyn Huitema. The 22-year-old forward has seven goals across all NWSL competitions this season, leading the Reign. She’s also been among the best in the league in blocks (1.50 per 90), clearances (1.22 per 90) and tackles (1.50 per 90). Her 5.1 xG per game ranks eighth in the NWSL, and her 46 aerials won ranks third in the league. In short: Huitema has been all over the field for the Reign this season, and they’ve reaped the rewards.

The loss of Tullis-Joyce certainly will be felt, although Claudia Dickey has come into her own over the last two matches, having played in place of the former starting keeper. She’s allowed just two goals during those two games, one win and one loss. She’ll face arguably the biggest test of her career Saturday, and it’ll be a good indicator of where the Reign stand in net from here on out.

Defensively, the Reign will want to be better than they have been against a team that is one of the best in the league at shot creation. The Thorns’ 31.06 shot-creating actions per 90 ranks first in the NWSL, far ahead of any other team in the league (Louisville is second with 24.67 shot-creating actions per 90). If the Reign want to get the win on the road, they’ll have to find a way to keep the Thorns from doing what they do best.

One other thing to manage? The crowd. OL Reign are no stranger to the animosity they face from Portland fans, who can often act as a sixth man.

“What I love so much is that [the fans] truly hate Seattle as much as we all do,” Meghan Klingenberg told Just Women’s Sports earlier this week. “And I feel like it’s this grudge that the city holds against Seattle as a bigger, more well-known city. But we love it, we have a blast playing into that story.

“Every time Seattle shows up here, it’s always extra fun because I know the fans are going to be super loud and I can barely communicate to the people next to me. That’s how crazy it is.”

Megan Rapinoe is preparing to play her final regular-season match against Portland. Perhaps goal would be a fitting send-off for one of the game’s best in one of its fiercest rivalries.

Keys to the game: Portland Thorns

Let Christine Sinclair cook.

The 40-year-old forward, who is also the Thorns’ captain, has been the driving force behind this rivalry, and she has scored 11 goals in her 31 all-time matches against the Reign. Eight of those goals have come since the beginning of 2020. In that time, the only player with more goals against a single opponent is Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch, who has nine goals against North Carolina.

She also knows what the rivalry means, having been part of it long before stepping on the field for the Thorns. The hatred runs so deep, she punctuated the Thorns’ championship celebration last November with a hearty: “F–k Seattle!”

The Thorns will be without Smith, who remains sidelined with an MCL sprain. They’ve felt her absence, with a 1-1 draw against Washington and a 2-1 loss to Racing Louisville in their last two outings. Facing their rival, they’ll need to be on top of their game offensively. Luckily, they’re one of the best teams in the league when it comes to offense, having outscored opponents by 13 goals this season. That goal differential is nearly double that of any other team.

Portland is the second-best passing team in the league, with a 75.7% completion rate. And the Thorns’ 38.7% shots on target percentage is first in the league. On paper, they blow the Reign out of the water offensively. But reality could be another story. On Saturday, they’ll need to lean into what has made them one of the best teams in the league this season if they want to get back-to-back regular-season wins against the Reign.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

Caitlin Clark Signs Multi-Year Deal with Wilson, Gets Signature Basketball Collection

caitlin clark poses with wilson basketball
Clark is just the second athlete to get a signature basketball collection with Wilson. (Wilson Sporting Goods)

Caitlin Clark has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Wilson Sporting Goods that will include a signature basketball collection, the brand announced early Tuesday. 

According to Boardroom, Clark is just the second athlete to develop a signature collection with Wilson, with the first being Michael Jordan in the 1980s. In addition to her basketball collection, she will also "test, advise and provide feedback on a range" of related products. 

Three Clark-branded white-and-gold Wilson basketballs have already dropped. Each ball features laser-cut engravings of some of the guard's most memorable moments at Iowa, where she became the all-time leading scorer in Division I college basketball history.

Three Wilson basketballs from Clark's collection have already dropped. (Wilson Sporting Goods).

"I think it is super special, and it's been fun for me," Clark told Boardroom. "I feel like I was just that young kid who had those basketballs that I would store in the garage. I'm just very lucky and fortunate to partner with Wilson to create something that everyone can enjoy. It connects with a lot of generations, and it'll be fun to see kids walking around holding them."

The No. 1 overall pick at the 2024 WNBA Draft, Clark has been building up a slate of major endorsements since turning pro. Current partnerships include Gatorade and Panini, and she’s also close to signing a signature shoe deal with Nike worth a reported $28 million.

New York Liberty off to First 4-0 Start in 17 Years

sabrina ionescu of the new york liberty on the court
Sabrina Ionescu led the undefeated Liberty to a 74-63 win over Seattle Monday night. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2007. 

The 2023 WNBA title finalists notched a 74-63 win over Seattle on Monday night, with Sabrina Ionescu dropping 20 points alongside eight assists. After the game, Ionescu told reporters she thought the team was coming together a bit easier than they did last year.

"I think having a year together, we don't nearly have to communicate as much on the court anymore," she said. "Because we can just play off one another and read. And that's obviously been the growth of this team, is being able to play a season together last year."

The team’s defense has also contributed heavily to the season's winning start. Last night, the Liberty held Jewell Loyd to just 13 points and nine rebounds. Loyd let the Storm in scoring, with only two other players in double digits, while Nneka Ogwumike missed her second straight game with an ankle injury. 

Storm free agency acquisition Skylar Diggins-Smith had eight points, and is averaging 14.5 points and 5.8 assists per game this season. In her postgame remarks, Storm head coach Noelle Quinn called on others to give her grace in her return. 

"There needs to be respect about the fact that she's had two children and hasn’t played in 20 months," said Quinn. "She’s not going to come overnight and be who she was 20 months ago and we have to respect that and honor that. And I do.

"My grace as a coach is to know she’s working her butt off every day. You guys don’t see it. Every single day. Two children. Not one, two. Not many can do that."

Australia’s Sam Kerr Ruled Out for 2024 Paris Olympics With ACL Injury

sam kerr playing for the australian womens national team
A longtime Matildas mainstay, Kerr has made 128 appearances for Australia alongside 69 career goals. (Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Australia has confirmed that captain and star striker Sam Kerr will miss the Paris Olympics due to an ACL injury suffered early this year. 

Kerr, who also stars for Chelsea, tore her ACL in January. While unlikely that she would recover in time for the Olympics, Football Australia (FA) hadn’t confirmed her status until Tuesday when the team revealed its squad for upcoming warm-up games. 

In a statement, the FA said that Kerr remained on the sidelines and will continue her rehab program at Chelsea. 

"Attacker Amy Sayer (ACL) and forward Sam Kerr (ACL) remain on the sidelines with long term injuries," the report read. "Kerr and Sayer will continue their rehabilitation programmes in their home club environments and subsequently will not be available for selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

Tuesdays 23-player squad is a "strong guide" to the final Olympic lineup, according to coach Tony Gustavsson, but others like injured midfielders Katrina Gorry and Aivi Luik could potentially figure into the conversation. 

"[They] most likely will be physically available to be part of an Olympic roster," Gustavsson said of Gorry and Luik. "This window will be a tough one for me and my staff in terms of evaluating players, where they are, and then the final selection process for Paris."

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