Portland Thorns Crowned NWSL Champions
Portland Thorns Crowned NWSL Champions avatar

It was an electrifying night at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, NY as the Portland Thorns shut out WNY Flash 2-0 to take home the first NWSL Championship title in history.

Wambach caused Portland's Williamson problems all evening which saw the defender being dismissed from the game. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Wambach caused Portland’s Williamson problems all evening which saw the defender being dismissed after her second yellow in the 56th minute, leaving her team to play with 10 players for most of the second half . (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

“I’m just so proud of the way they played with so much heart,” said Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone. “We battled through the semifinal and battled through the final- obviously getting a red card and having to play with only 10 players on the field, and different people stepping up all season long; Im so proud of them coming together as a team.”

The win was hard earned and the game was not for the weak hearted as the two best teams in the NWSL pushed physical and mental boundaries though overwhelming pressure that at times gave way to drama.

Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath gave Portland a 1-0 lead in the first half, and excellent defense kept that lead steady into stoppage time, especially from Thorns goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc who registered a complete shut out. Forward Alex Morgan saw some playing time late in the second half, assisting forward Christine Sinclair in the winning goal.

“I was ready to go on and play my role,” said Morgan. “The teams energy was definintely up and when I came on I was just trying to run balls down and relieve the defense a little bit.”

Alex Morgan came off the bench and assisted Christine SInclair's goal. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Alex Morgan came off the bench and assisted Christine SInclair’s goal. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

The tension was thick on the field as the first half got underway, and drama erupted early on with a small argument between Flash midfielder Angela Salem and Thorns midfielder Allie Long. It ended in Salem making a fist, but it went unnoticed by the referees and there was no call, leaving a visibly unhappy Thorns coach, Cindy Parlow Cone, on the sidelines.

The aggression continued as WNY Flash physically pursued the ball, creating several opportunities, but Thorns goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc was ready for every shot that came her way. In the 11th minute Flash forward Samantha Kerr came close to scoring with a header, but LeBlanc dove and hit it off the crossbar.

LeBlanc made two more outstanding saves in the first half, thwarting a low driving shot from forward Abby Wambach in the 25th minute and beating midfielder Carli Lloyd to capture the ball before she could connect in the 28th.

“The ball came of reach and I was able to get the second one. Those are the things as a keeper you make the quick decision and hope it tuns out in the end,” said LeBlanc.

Tobin Heath scored a spectacular 25 yard free kick in the first half to give the Thorns the lead. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

Tobin Heath scored a spectacular 25 yard free kick in the first half to give the Thorns the lead. (ISI Photos/Howard C. Smith)

After struggling back and forth, the big play of the first half came in the 38th minute after Heath and Flash defender Amy Barczuk tumbled, getting into it for a second before Barczuk trotted off, bumping shoulders with Heath. Heath was awarded a free kick, and took her revenge out on the net, cracking the ball into the upper left corner to give the Thorns the 1-0 lead before halftime.

The second half was more stressful than the first, becoming increasingly physical as the Thorns pushed back aggressively. Thorns defender Kathryn Willimason received a red card after tripping up Wambach twice, but the Flash kept their focus on pursuing an equalizer. Forward Vicki DiMartino came close in the 76th minute, trying for a complicated angled shot that rolled behind the net.

The minutes wound down as Flash desperately created countless chances, but LeBlanc was resilient. Then, in stoppage time, Sinclair surged forward, racing ahead of the pack and cracking the ball over Flash goalkeeper Adrianna Franch to up the Thorns lead 2-0 in stoppage time, securing the monumental win.

Christine Sinclair
Alex Morgan

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.
This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *