Portland Thorns FC tops NC Courage 1-0 in NWSL Championship
Photo Credit: Brad Smith / ISI Photos
ORLANDO, Fla. (Via NWSL) – Lindsey Horan scored the lone goal of the match and Adrianna Franch made six saves to lead Portland Thorns FC to a 1-0 victory over the North Carolina Courage at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. to claim the 2017 NWSL Championship.
The Thorns – who also won the inaugural NWSL championship in 2013 – become the second club in NWSL history with two league titles, matching the two championships won by FC Kansas City in 2014 and 2015.
Horan was voted MVP of the 2017 NWSL Championship, while Franch – who set an NWSL single-season for a goalkeeper with 11 shutouts – notched just the third clean sheet against North Carolina this year.
Including their two postseason victories, the Thorns finished the year unbeaten in their final eight matches – tied with FC Kansas City in 2015 for the longest such run to finish a season by an NWSL champion.
With the loss, North Carolina became the latest NWSL Shield winner unable to also claim the NWSL Championship in the same season. The regular-season champion has never gone on to win the league title in the five-year history of the NWSL.
The Courage had been vying for a different type of title defense after the players and manager Paul Riley had won the 2016 NWSL Championship before relocating to North Carolina prior to the 2017 season.
With the victory, Portland coach Mark Parsons, 31, becomes the youngest coach to win an NWSL title.
See below for a breakdown of all the action.
Portland Thorns FC 1, North Carolina Courage 0
Goals: THORNS – Lindsey Horan (Emily Sonnett) 50′. COURAGE – None.
The Breakdown: A physical first half was marked by a pair of forced changes for North Carolina as Paul Riley had to bring off defender Taylor Smith in the 12th minute and midfielder Kristen Hamilton in the 39th due to injury.
The opening 45 minutes was a cagey affair with chances held to a minimum – punctuated by a moment of exhilaration in the 14thminute when Courage midfielder Samantha Mewis spotted Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch off her line and launched a left-footed blast from inside the center circle that pinged off the crossbar.
Following the halftime intermission, the game sprung to life as Franch got down smartly to her right to deny Lynn Williams two minutes into the second half. Three minutes, later the Thorns opened the scoring in the 50th minute when Portland defender Emily Sonnett delivered a dead ball into the penalty area that was allowed to bounce before forward Lindsey Horan lashed a right-footed shot past North Carolina goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland from six yards out.
The Thorns nearly extended their advantage in the 72nd minute when Rowland had trouble with the ball at her feet near the top of the box. The North Carolina goalkeeper had to venture outside her penalty area to close the angle on Tobin Heath and get her body in the way of the shot from the Portland forward.
The sequence continued until Rowland returned to her line and was able to make a save on a header from Thorns substitute Nadia Nadim less than 20 seconds later. It would be the last effort on goal for Portland as North Carolina began to generate one-way traffic toward the Thorns’ net as they went in search of an equalizer over the last quarter of the match.
Courage forward Jessica McDonald had perhaps the best opportunity for North Carolina to get on the scoreboard, but saw her left-footed shot in the 82nd minute blocked. McDonald was also involved in the next best chance for the Courage as she was able to heave her long throw-in far enough for Mewis to put a dangerous flicked header on target that forced an important save from Franch in the 91st minute.
Moment of the match: After being beat to a ball played into the box, Portland defender Emily Menges recovered to get back in position and get a foot out to block a shot from Courage forward Jessica McDonald just outside that six-yard box.
The effort by Menges in the 82nd minute helped to preserve a 1-0 lead for the Thorns and was one of five blocked shots for the Portland defense in the match.
NWSL Match Report
Match: North Carolina Courage (16-7-1, 49 pts) vs. Portland Thorns FC (14-5-5, 47 pts)
Date: Oct. 14, 2017
Venue: Orlando City Stadium
Kickoff: 4:57 p.m. ET
Weather: 86 degrees, Partly Cloudy
|North Carolina Courage||0||0||0|
|Portland Thorns FC||0||1||1|
POR – Lindsey Horan (Emily Sonnett) 50′
North Carolina: Katelyn Rowland, Abby Erceg (C), Jaelene Hinkle, Taylor Smith (Makenzy Doniak 12′), Abby Dahlkemper, McCall Zerboni, Samantha Mewis, Denise O’Sullivan (Stephanie Ochs 87′), Kristen Hamilton (Jessica McDonald 39′), Ashley Hatch, Lynn Williams
Substitutes Not Used: Samantha Witteman, Sabrina D’Angelo, Meredith Speck, Nora Holstad
Portland Thorns FC: Adrianna Franch, Emily Sonnett, Katherine Reynolds, Emily Menges, Ashleigh Sykes (Dagny Brynjarsdottir 54′), Meghan Klingenberg, Amandine Henry (Allie Long 90’+3), Lindsey Horan, Tobin Heath, Hayley Raso (Nadia Nadim 69′), Christine Sinclair
Substitutes Not Used: Mallory Weber, Tyler Lussi, Britt Eckerstrom, Celeste Boureille
Stats Summary: NC/POR
Shots: 16 / 4
Shots on Goal: 5 / 3
Saves: 2 / 5
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 11 / 13
Offsides: 3 / 0
POR – Tobin Heath (Yellow) 41′
POR – Hayley Raso (Yellow) 46+
POR – Dagny Brynjarsdottir (Yellow) 72′
Referee: Danielle Chesky
Assistant Referees: Adrienne McDonald, Cory Richardson
Fourth Official: Christina Unkel
Fifth Official: Benjamin Wooten
Most Valuable Player:
Portland Thorns FC midfielder Lindsey Horan