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NWSL Oct 24, 2022

Portland Thorns and Kansas City Current advance to 2022 NWSL Championship

The Portland Thorns will face the Kansas City Current in the 2022 NWSL Championship on Saturday, October 29 at Audi Field with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

See below for a look at how each team advanced through the semifinal round of the NWSL Playoffs over the weekend.

Semifinal #1: Portland Thorns defeat San Diego Wave, 2-1

Portland, Oregon – The first of two semifinals across the NWSL playoffs on Sunday evening saw a dramatic late winner from Portland’s Crystal Dunn lift the Thorns over San Diego Wave FC, ending the expansion side’s hopes of an appearance in the Final in year one. The goal, which came in the third minute of added time at the end of the second half, thrusts Portland back into the Championship for the first time since 2018.

Though Portland came out on top, it was an early score from the visiting side that silenced the home crowd as San Diego’s Taylor Kornieck put home an Alex Morgan cross in the eighth minute to open the scoring and send shockwaves through Providence Park. In possession on the right side of the field, Morgan did well to cut back up field and onto her left foot where she was able to swing in a cross. Morgan’s ball in picked out Kornieck in the center of the box near the six-yard area, and she headed home powerfully to beat Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby and put her side in front.

Portland wasted very little time pushing the San Diego defense, though, and nearly found an equalizer two minutes later through forward Sophia Smith. The Thorns had worked the ball down the left flank and, after a cross had not been properly cleared, found its way into the path of the forward Smith just inside the 18-yard box. Smith then ripped a snapshot from that position but watched in agony as it soared low and just past the outside of San Diego goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan’s goal for a goal kick. Then, in the 18th minute, a shot from a similar position to the same corner forced a save out of Sheridan, but the Thorns were knocking on the door and didn’t have to wait much longer for their equalizer.

In the 21st minute, Portland had won a corner and saw the initial delivery from that set piece cleared to the back post where attacker Hina Sugita was waiting to collect. Sugita then lifted a cross in from the opposite side that was also dealt with well by the San Diego defense as the ball was headed clear and outside the box. Fortunately for Portland, though, midfielder Rocky Rodriguez was awaiting an opportunity and, as the ball bounced from the clearance, she unleashed an effort worthy of winning any game. Swinging her right foot with precision, Rodriguez hit the ball on the half-volley and saw her effort sail across goal and into the top right corner to beat Sheridan and bring her side level as momentum began to even out.

Six minutes later, Smith was again on the receiving end of a pass played forward, this time by attacker Morgan Weaver, but as she strove into the box she was unable to properly collect the pass and Sheridan came off her line to collect and quell the chance. As the first half wore on, the closest either side would come to separating the two sides came just on the stroke of halftime and this time for San Diego. Having won a corner, the ball into the box was initially won by Morgan at the back post but was headed down into a scramble of bodies. Latching onto it first was the forward Kornieck, and though she did well to get her foot over the ball and send it toward goal, Bixby did even better as she pushed the shot onto the post and eventually clear to keep the score level heading into the halftime interval.

The second half saw chances few and far between for both teams immediately out of the break. A one-on-one for Weaver in the 78th minute after Smith spotted her run through the defense saw the attacker fire back across goal and safely into the palms of Sheridan, and the hosts would test Sheridan multiple times over in the next few minutes as they attempted to find a winner in regulation time.

Just as all had seemed destined for extra time, though, substitute Crystal Dunn did what only she could do in the third minute of added time as she created something out of nothing and fired past Sheridan for a late winner. Again following a corner, Portland’s initial ball in was cleared by San Diego but not nearly to proper effect as the ball bounced toward the top of the box. Rushing onto the loose ball, Dunn got ahold of every seam as she rocketed an unstoppable shot past Sheridan and into the top left corner to send her side through in the game’s dying moments.

Portland now advances to the NWSL Championship and will face the Kansas City Current next Saturday, October 29 at Audi Field, with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and televised on CBS.

Semifinal #2: Kansas City Current defeats OL Reign, 2-0

Seattle, Washington – The Kansas City Current continued their impressive 2022 campaign by storming into Seattle and defeating OL Reign, 2-0, at Lumen Field to advance to the NWSL Championship where they will face Portland Thorns FC. A first half tally from midfielder Alexis Loera initially separated the two sides, and forward Kristen Hamilton all but sealed the result with the team’s second goal just after the hour mark to keep the Current rolling into the winner-take-all final.

Jumping off the mark without hesitation, the Current attacked early and often and reaped the benefit of what they sowed with a goal by Loera in the fourth minute of play. Quick play by the Current attack inside the Reign box saw forward CeCe Kizer attempt to dance around and through a pair of Reign defenders only to lose the ball still inside the box. However, a failure to clear the ball by the hosts allowed Loera to pounce on the chance and her right-footed shot saw Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce get a hand on the ball, but it was not enough to keep it out as the visitors went in front early.

As the half continued on, the best follow-up chance Kansas City created came in the 25th minute as the forward Hamilton held up play inside the box and laid the ball off to Loera just outside the penalty area. Firing with venom toward goal, Loera’s shot ultimately landed wide of the near post and the chance went missing. However, OL Reign continued to press the visitors’ goal with forward Jordyn Huitema missing on a similar effort as she failed to beat Kansas City goalkeeper Adrianna Franch at her near post.

Minutes later, Franch was forced into a save in the 31st minute on a point-blank headed effort from Huitema that kept the visitors on their respective toes. Down the left side of the field, Reign attacker Megan Rapinoe took Kansas City defender Kate Del Fava one-on-one and eventually lifted a cross in toward Huitema. Rushing to meet the pass, Huitema got plenty of power on her header but not enough direction as Franch got big to keep the ball out and preserve her side’s slender lead.

Not clear of the danger just yet as halftime approached, the Reign made sure to test Franch twice more and put their stamp on the match. First, right on the stroke of the end of regular time, Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock cleaned her boots on a powerful drive with her right foot from well outside the penalty area. As the ball soared toward goal, it ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar and back into play where the visiting defense was eventually able to get it clear. Then, into the second minute of added time, Fishlock again tested Franch with an effort from distance following a corner, but the goalkeeper was equal to the shot and eventually smothered it to hold the lead into the break.

Out and into the second half, the Reign were the first of the two sides to test the other when Fishlock again forced a good save out of Franch in the 56th minute. As Rapinoe was sent down the left side of the field, she carried the ball into the final third and picked out the run of Fishlock toward the edge of the box for another opportunity. Fishlock did well to get around a defender and rip another effort on goal, but Franch was able to palm it down and get ahold of the ball before it got loose in the box to prevent the score.

However, just after the hour mark and against the run of play, Hamilton put the visitors in an extremely advantageous position with a clinical finish from just inside the box to go two up. Weaving her way through the Reign defense, Hamilton broke into the box and preventing a defender from getting in front of her as she cut onto her right foot and fired a low effort to the bottom left corner that Tullis-Joyce could not keep out.

As expected, the Reign refused to quit and came close again in the 74th minute when Rapinoe’s corner kick delivery sailed into the center of the six-yard box where Franch was unable to fully collect, resulting in a necessary goalline clearance from a Current defender to prevent the hosts’ first. Then, in the following sequence, Franch was again forced into action as a deflected effort from Fishlock nearly found its way to the top left corner had the goalkeeper not dove to push it away.

Not for lack of trying, as the second half continued on the Reign were ultimately unable to find a way back in and as the full-time whistle blew, a small but mighty visitors section erupted in elation as the Kansas City Current defeated the hosts OL Reign to advance.

Kansas City will now face Portland Thorns FC in the NWSL Championship on Saturday, October 29 at Audi Field with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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