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NWSL Oct 30, 2022

Portland Thorns capture 2022 NWSL Championship, beating KC Current 2-0

Washington, D.C. – The Portland Thorns were crowned NWSL Champions after a 2-0 win over the Kansas City Current at Audi Field on Saturday night, a performance that saw the club cap off a stellar season with a dominant Championship performance and victory.

Wasting no time in attack in the first half, Portland opened the scoring after just four minutes when league MVP and lethal forward Sophia Smith put the Thorns in front after a defensive slip up by Kansas City. A ball through the center of defense toward Smith’s run was not handled well as a defender slipped when attempting to stop the pass, leaving the No. 9 with one person to beat in front of goal. Facing her one-on-one with Kansas City goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, Smith rounded the netminder and casually slotted home to send the Thorns faithful in attendance into a frenzy. The goal made Smith just the second player to win league MVP and score in an NWSL Championship in the same season.

Then, just seconds after Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby claimed a cross at the other end, Portland nearly found its second goal again through Smith at the other end. A well-worked move down the left side saw Smith in possession just inside the penalty area where she kept the ball on a string as she danced between defenders as she cut onto her right foot. Picking her head up, Smith then fired on goal only for her curling effort to fall just wide of the far post as the chance went missing.

The Current were not without chances though, and one of the best created in the first half came for midfielder Kate Del Fava in the 34th minute. Del Fava had made in run into the right side of the box where a long ball was lifted over the Thorns defense for her to attack. Leaping to get her head on the ball, though, Del Fava’s effort bounced narrowly over the crossbar and out of play.

As the half wore on, either side could have made the claim that they should have scored at least one more. However, at the halftime interval it was still Smith’s early strike that separated the two sides.

Back for the second half, another chance for Smith came just 40 seconds into the second half as she burst ahead of the Current defense and got a shot away from just inside the box. That shot would not have enough power to beat Franch, though, and Kansas City breathed a sigh of relief.

After continuing to threaten the opposition goal, Portland would then add its second goal of the night as an Addisyn Merrick own goal in the 56th minute put the Thorns two to the good and provided a slight cushion. Portland went from defense to attack in just four passes as attacker Yazmeen Ryan was unleashed down the right side and into space. From there, Ryan belted a ball into the center of the penalty area that, amidst confusion between Current defenders, an onrushing Smith and a diving Franch, snuck underneath Franch after an unfortunate touch from Merrick and just crossed the line to double Portland’s advantage.

The Thorns would only continue to knock on the door with forward Morgan Weaver rattling the crossbar in the 59th minute and substitute Hina Sugita forcing a fantastic save out of Franch in the 71st minute to prevent a third. Then, in the 83rd minute, substitute Crystal Dunn, who sent the Thorns to the NWSL Championship with her stunning stoppage time goal against San Diego, also had a chance of her own on the right side the box. Played through toward goal, Dunn was ultimately unable to fire on target though as her right-footed rocket sailed high and wide.

Though Portland would create several more opportunities through the end of regulation time, their two-goal lead would be enough to seal the deal as the Thorns were crowned NWSL Champions after 90+ minutes of dominant play. Impressive play from Franch kept her side in the match, but in the end Portland’s tallies early on in both halves make them now the most decorated team in the NWSL with their third NWSL Championship after 2013 and 2017.

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