Thorns Clinch First NWSL Championship Spot in Overtime
Thorns Clinch First NWSL Championship Spot in Overtime avatar

The Portland Thorns upset No. 2 Kansas City FC 3-2 today in Overland Park, KS to clinch their spot in the NWSL Championship next weekend.

But, it was a hard earned win that had to be settled in overtime, with the Blues leading in the first half and the Thorns equalizing in the second.  Golden Boot winner Lauren Holiday stayed relatively quiet throughout the game while Alex Morgan was spied warming up, brace intact, but no action.

Goalkeepers Nicole Barnhart and Karina LeBlanc were superb, holding strong under constant pressure to keep the suspense of the game high, and it was Thorns midfielder Allie Long who scored the winning goal for the Thorns to cement the win.

Holiday (C) could not get on the scoresheet for her team. (Photo courtesy of FC Kansas City)

Holiday (C) could not get on the scoresheet for her team. (Photo courtesy of FC Kansas City)

The Blues took the initiative in the first half, with forward and NWSL Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak opening scoring with an early 11th minute goal. It was a powerful low shot that billowed the corner of the net to give Kansas City the 1-0 lead.

The Thorns, who looked lackadaisical in the beginning while Kansas City kept possession, got a rude awakening and worked to create more chances. In the 18th minute, midfielder Angie Kerr surprised Kansas City defense with a high flying long ball heading straight for the top of the net, but NWSL goal keeper of the year, Nicole Barnhart was ready, launching herself to knock the ball out of harms way.

Kansas City could sense the burgeoning threat, and extended their lead 2-0 with an exhilarating goal in the 25th minute. Defender Merritt Mathias crossed the ball from the left side to forward Melissa Henderson as the opposition poured in from all sides, and Henderson responded beautifully, heading the ball in past Thorns keeper Karina LeBlanc.

Tobin Heath got the first goal for Portland and it was at a very crucial time. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Tobin Heath got the first goal for Portland and it was at a very crucial time. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

As the first half wound down, the Thorns were eager to get on the board, and were transformed on the field, creating more chances and keeping Barnhart on her toes. Their diligence was rewarded in the 33rd minute with goal produced by U.S. WNT midfielder Tobin Heath with Kerr on the assist. Heath’s quick goal was just what the Thorns needed to get fired up for the second half, as overtime commenced with the score set at 2-1.

Both teams were ready for heightened tension on the field as the game resumed, with dutiful back lines keeping the ball out of either net. The Thorns got close with a shaky shot by a wide-open Sinclair in the 58th minute, but it just missed the post to deny an equalizer.

But that equalizer wasn’t as far away as they thought. Forward Tiffany Weimer shattered Kansas City’s one point lead in the 65th minute to raise the stakes. She collected a cross and bumped it in past Barnhart from the box to tie 2-2.

Allie Long (L) got the game winner in extra time to lead Portland to the final. (Photo courtesy of FC Kansas City)

Allie Long (L) got the game winner in extra time to lead Portland to the final. (Photo courtesy of FC Kansas City)

With a trip to the Championship on the line, Kansas City countered back with a hard shot from Holiday in the 70th minute, but it flew straight into LeBlanc’s waiting arms. The Thorns responded with Sinclair pounding Barnhart with two close goals, but the resilient goalkeeper stood her ground as well.

Both back lines held up under heavy pressure in the final minutes with LeBlanc kicking away a close Tymrak shot in stoppage time and Sinclair hitting the crossbar before the final whistle to end regulation 2-2.

Would either be able to break the stalemate in overtime?

Thorns savior Long answered “yes” with the winning goal to wrap up the first 15-minute period. Weimer got the ball in the in the 103rd minute and played it in before crossing to Long. She saw her target, firing the ball into the net to give the Thorns their first lead of the afternoon 3-2, and ultimately the win, as Kansas City failed to break Thorns defense in the second overtime period.

GOALS
1
2
OT
F
Portland
1
1
1
3
FC Kansas City
2
0
0
2
SCORING SUMMARY
Goal
1
Time
12
Team
FC Kansas City
GoalScorer
Erika Tymrak
Assists
Leigh-Ann Robinson
Note
2
25
FC Kansas City
Melissa Henderson
Merritt Mathias
3
33
Portland
Tobin Heath
Angie Kerr
4
65
Portland
Tiffany Weimer
Nikki Marshall
5
103
Portland
Allie Long
Tiffany Weimer
 

About Courtney Lambert

A competitive athlete in her college days, Courtney writes on events happening at state and local level. She has previous experience covering news and writing for the Jacksonville Times Union and graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in journalism.
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