NWSL Playoff Predictions: North Carolina Courage will fall short

NWSL playoffs
TACOMA, WA — MAY 18: Seattle Reign FC forward Jodie Taylor (9) takes a shot on goal during the NWSL soccer match between the Sky Blue FC and the Seattle Reign on May 18, 2019 at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, WA. (Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Editorial — The same four teams from the 2018 season playoffs are back in the post season yet again. They will compete in, what I hope, will be the crowning of a new champion. These are some predictions as the playoffs are set to begin Oct. 20.

Can the Courage push through?

The North Carolina Courage is ranked at the top of the leaderboard, earning them their third consecutive NWSL Shield. Although they are going into these playoffs as defending champions, I don’t think that drive will help them push pass Reign FC in the finals. The Courage will have to focus and really keep up with the speed of Reign in order to have a repeat title. Keep in mind, Reign FC has battled through injuries throughout the season, missing Michelle Betos and Jasmyne Spencer, among names.

Reign FC has the power

Reign FC has shown its strength this season with many valuable players including potential Rookie of the Year, Bethany Balcer. Balcer has shown what we know she has been capable of since she received Goal of the Week during Week 7. As a player, she is nothing short of fast and able when handling the ball. This team has kept up their momentum throughout each game by attacking and using every ball to their advantage. Another key player has been Jodie Taylor, who recently opened the score during the game against the Portland Thorns. The game winning goal, though? That was scored by Balcer.

Thoughts on Portland and Chicago

This will be the third year the Portland Thorns have made it to the playoffs. I feel like fans would be happy with a change of teams making it to the final and becoming the NWSL Champions. I personally will enjoy seeing Alyssa Naeher make some saves for the Chicago Red Stars. Naeher had an incredible campaign with USWNT during the FIFA Women’s World Cup and has not had the chance to showcase her talent with the NWSL. It would be quite a turn for the Red Starts to make it to the finals this year. However, it would be rather interesting to see how Naeher can potentially be a key player for Chicago to succeed.

Other Predictions

Editor’s Note: Lead NWSL writer Rachael McKriger also shares her NWSL predictions. See how they match up with Shannon’s, here! 

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