Thorns vs. Courage
NWSL title game
Who: Portland Thorns vs. North Carolina Courage
When, where: 1:30 p.m. PT Saturday, Orlando (Fla.) City Stadium
About the Courage: After winning last season's NWSL title, the Western New York franchise was sold and relocated to Cary, North Carolina.
Series history: This will the third playoff match between the franchises. In 2013, Portland won the first NWSL championship game by beating the Flash on their home field thanks to a Tobin Heath free kick. In the semifinals last season, Western New York beat Portland 4-3 in overtime at Providence Park.
This season: North Carolina finished first and Portland second in the regular season. ... The teams split two games, with each home team winning 1-0. The most recent meeting was a July 15 win for the Thorns in Portland.
Watch for: Both teams have fast wide players and each will want to get those players forward to force their counterparts to defend and to create a numbers advantage in the attack. ... If the teams line up as they have been, the ability of Portland's three midfielders to win battles with North Carolina's four midfielders could be significant. ... A free kick or corner kick could be the difference. Portland has scored 15 such goals this season and allowed only two, counting Orlando's goal in the semifinal. North Carolina won its semifinal over Chicago on goal from a corner kick in the 90th minute.
Thorns coach Mark Parsons says: "They've evolved as a team and can play different ways. We've evolved as a team and can play different ways. It's going to be high pressure, it's going to be high energy, it's going to be physical. That's what we love to compete with."
Thorns' biggest challenge: "It will be the toughest travel we've had all year," Parsons said before the team left Wednesday. "It's a long, long, long trip. For North Carolina, it's going to be a short trip down the road and on the same time zone. We've got a lot more to do to adjust."