For a state that has no women’s professional soccer team, Saturday’s National Women’s Soccer League championship game will have a definitive Colorado feel to it — even if it will be played over 1,600 miles away.
The Portland Thorns will face the Kansas City Current before a near-capacity crowd at Audi Field in Washington D.C., with six Coloradans (four on the Thorns, two on the Current) spread out between the two rosters.
Three in particular will take center stage: Windsor’s Sophia Smith, named the league’s youngest MVP Thursday at age 22, with the Thorns; and Thornton’s Alex Loera and Littleton’s Kristen Hamilton with Kansas City.
“These two teams got here in very different ways,” said CBS Sports analyst Lisa Roman, who will participate in Saturday’s national broadcast, set for 6 p.m. MT on KCNC-4. “There’s a lot of pedigree around this Portland side as they know how to execute and have really heavy hitters. For Kansas City, it’s a worst-to-first story. Making a final is something they wanted to do, but only they believed in themselves.”
Portland is going for its third title in club history in its fourth championship appearance. The team is known for its depth and features standouts Becky Sauerbrunn and Crystal Dunn from the USWNT, while Canada’s Christine Sinclair still has her staggering goal-scoring touch. Still, Roman said she’s been most impressed with Portland’s in-game tactics and flexibility, which has made games difficult for opponents.
The other Coloradans on the Thorns roster include former DU Pioneers Natalie Beckman (Aurora) and Cheyenne Shorts (Denver), as well as Janine Beckie of Highlands Ranch. But the focus undoubtedly will be on Smith, who has a club-record 14 goals and three assists heading into the finale.
“She has played lights out. She did an interview with CBS earlier in the year (about) how she wants to be the very best player in the world but still felt that she could be better,” Roman said. “There’s this innate drive that she has at 22 years old to know that she still has to work really hard every day to prove herself. You don’t see that in a lot of people her age.”
Meanwhile, second-year side Kansas City is led by new coach Matt Potter, whose tactics are rooted in fundamentals. He didn’t hesitate to make a trio of rookies, including Loera on the backline, integral starters.
Up top, Hamilton, the 30-year-old DU alum, has been a lethal presence in attack (7 goals, 3 assists) as she proved with a game-clinching semifinal stunner on the road. Loera got things stared in that 2-0 victory over the OL Reign with the game-opening goal.
“Kansas City is really having fun and are living their best life — it truly is a team that is enjoying the ride.” Roman said. “… The reason why the youth of this team is able to be successful is because of players like (Hamilton) and goalkeeper Addy Franch, because they can tell them how it’s done in this league. Hamilton has been really flexible from a tactical standpoint. You can put her alongside anyone and she’s still really effective.”
CBS looks to deliver
CBS announced it will feature an all-female,10-woman broadcast team from pre-game, commentary and post-game. Green Mountain High alum and former Rapids’ in-game host and radio analyst Jordan Angeli will be on pre-game duties.
A total of 23 cameras will be used for the broadcast, including for the first time, a four-point aerial camera. It will be similar to CBS’ broadcasts of the UEFA Champions League, which has drawn acclaim for its strong production value.