Sam Kerr's Chicago Red Stars head into Monday’s National Women’s Soccer League Semi Final dreaming of playing their first Championship game but a trio of Westfield Matildas stand in their path.
This is Chicago’s fifth straight Semi Final and not once have they reached the promised land, while two-time Champions Portland Thorns — whose team features Hayley Raso, Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter — are competing to play in their third straight Championship game.
Featured image courtesy of Chicago Red Stars' official website.
The second and third placed teams played out a thrilling 4-4 draw in April, before Portland took the ascendancy at Providence Park with a 3-0 home win against Chicago in June.
That loss sparked a run of five straight wins for Kerr’s Red Stars, outscoring their opponents 12 goals to two during that stretch. A sixth straight win will achieve something they have yet to do in the NWSL — reach the Championship game.
It has been two years since the Thorns lifted the NWSL Championship, when Raso starred in the 1-0 Grand Final win over Courage, and the visitors bring the big-game pedigree to Bridgeview, Illinois.
Only once before have Chicago hosted a Semi Final, a 2015 3-0 loss against FC Kansas City. The spotlight shines again on the Windy City as Portland travel to SeatGeek Stadium in a match that kicks off at 6.30am AEDT on Monday.
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Steph Catley and Lydia Williams must overcome all the odds to beat NWSL winners and reigning champions North Carolina Courage in Monday's Semi Final, a 4.30am AEDT kick off.
North Carolina are seeking their third straight final appearance, having won their third straight shield in 2019, when they run out at Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, North Carolina.
Seattle-based Reign finished the regular season fourth, and have never beaten the Courage away from home.
“Anybody that has been around this league, even a little bit, knows what North Carolina is capable of and how good they are,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said.
“We’re underdogs. We know that they’re ahead of us. We also know that if we play our best game, we have a chance. All our focus is now on preparing to play our best game.”
Catley will form part of a rearguard tasked with halting three of the competition's top 10 goalscorers: Lynn Williams (12 goals) Kristen Hamilton (9 goals) and Debinha (8 goals), all of whom have kept NWSL defences on high alert this season.
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Fresh off scoring her first goal for German giants Bayern Munich in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Emily Gielnik and her teammates host Potsdam back in the Frauen-Bundesliga.
Third-place Bayern will strive to close the six-point gap on leading pair Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim when they face the eighth-placed visitors at Campus Platz 1 at 11pm AEDT on Sunday.
Jacynta Galabadaarachchi’s West Ham United are seeking to build on their 3-1 Women’s Super League win against Brighton & Hove Albion last week.
The Hammers play against Tottenham Hotspur in the WSL Cup at 1am AEDT on Monday. Spurs take the bragging rights into this clash having beaten their London rivals in the league, 2-0, two weeks ago.
Alex Chidiac and Atletico Madrid are gearing up for a Madrid derby at 9pm AEDT on Sunday. Third-placed Atleit hold a three point advantage over their city rivals, Real Madrid, in the Primera Division Feminina table.
In Italy's Women's Serie A, Lisa De Vanna will be looking to add to her two goals for the season as fourth-placed Fiorentina travel to sixth-placed Sassuolo at midnight AEDT on Sunday.
And over in Norway, Tameka Yallop’s Klepp are on the road against Oslo-based club, Røa, at midnight AEDT Sunday, while Aivi Luik and Avaldsnes entertain Sandviken at the same time.