Spare a thought for Portland Thorns’ Hayley Raso. She’ll have to watch this weekend’s NWSL Championship from the sidelines following a serious back injury. It means that she won’t be able to take to the pitch to capture a second Championship with the Thorns, after she and fellow Australian Ashley Sykes claimed the ultimate club achievement in Women’s US football last year.

In Raso’s on-field absence, another Aussie duo will be tasked with the challenge of delivering back-to-back Championship Trophies for Portland – and carrying the hopes of Raso on the sidelines.

North Carolina Courage stand in the way. But Matildas pair Carpenter and Foord are confident they can deliver for the Oregon-based club.

Both players are in their first season with Portland and have been blown away by the support of the Thorns. Following their semi-final win over Seattle Reign last Sunday, Foord said the city has been swept up in the hype of the play-offs.

“It was insane,” Foord said of the celebrations following the semi-final win. “It started with the weekend before in our last regular game of the season against Seattle Reign we needed a win to finish second and clinch a home semi-final.

“Portland and Seattle have a massive rivalry, so that game almost felt a play-off game within itself. So to win that one and then be hosting the semi-final here in Portland instead of having to travel and play away from home was massive for us. To then face Seattle again here at home in front of a packed stadium in the semi, we put our self in the best possible environment to be able do it all again and beat Seattle. it was incredible! I can’t explain how cool it is to play here in Portland in front of some many passionate fans in this city.”

18-year-old Carpenter– an emerging Matildas star who, previous to her switch to Portland this year, has played three seasons in the W-League with Canberra United and Western Sydney Wanderers – echoed Foord’s sentiments as she prepares for her first-ever final.

“[It was] unbelievable. I’ve never been in a final for a club team before and to be in the final in front of the most incredibly supportive fans is a dream come true.”

Food added: “You just have to watch one Thorns game to see the support, it’s honestly amazing how dedicated and passionate the people of this city are.

“I don’t really know what to pin it down to, I guess Portland is a very free, fun city and honestly they make the most of the games not only do they make it fun for us to play in but when I look up in the stands sometimes I wish I was up there with them because they are just having the best time, it looks like so much fun!”

Despite the incredible fanfare and passion in the city Foord and Carpenter know that this week is not the time to get carried away; their focus needs to be on the task ahead, one which they view as ‘just another match’.

“Everything I do will be deliberate so as to try and ensure I can be fit and healthy for Saturday’s match; sleep, diet, training, recovery and focus,” Carpenter said.

“We will just prepare the same way we have all season, training and our preparation won’t change,” Foord said. “But there’s obviously going to be a lot more attention around the group going into a championship match. So we’re just going to try enjoy it while staying focus at the same time. It’s going to be really fun, these kind of games are the ones we play for.”

Foord said the team would be confident of success, but the team would need to work on some areas leading into the finale.

“[Our goal is]to win of course. But we know last weekend we didn’t play up to our standard, so the main focus for this week will be to get those things right and go into the game as well as we can to give ourselves the best possible chance of winning this championship,” Foord said.

For Carpenter, it’s simple: “To play our best football and to fight for the result.”

The road to the final has been far from easy for both players. Foord returned to action with the Thorns after suffering a serious foot injury – a ruptured Lisfranc ligament – in February while helping Sydney FC qualify for the 2018 W-League Grand Final. Foord has played just seven matches during the NWSL season as a result, with the injury initially delaying her return to the US league.

“It was super frustrating, I was so excited to finally be traded and returning to the NWSL after sitting out two seasons and not only to be traded but to be traded to the Portland Thorns. I had only ever seen and heard good things about the club so I was over the moon to join them and for that to be put on hold it was hard to come to terms with,” Foord said.

“When I think about it, ideally I would have loved to of been here for the whole season. But I’m just so glad my injury didn’t give me any setbacks and delayed me even more. And I am so happy to finally be involved and we were able to make finals and win our semi because I definitely wasn’t ready for this season to end, especially when it just felt like it has started for me.”

For Carpenter, at just 18, it has been difficult adjusting to the quality of one of the world’s leading Women’s football competitions.

“My first season in the NWSL has been very challenging but at the same time extremely rewarding. It was difficult at first adjusting to a totally new environment and being totally on my own and making all my own decisions. However, it has been a time of huge personal growth for me.  The pace of the league is very similar to international matches. I love being challenged every week, both at training and in the games. The standard across the league is very high and there is no easy game or predictable outcome.”

The NWSL Championship will be held this Sunday, 23 September at 6.30am (AEST) at Providence Park between Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage.