Portland Thorns win NWSL championship
Tobin Heath and Christine Sinclair led the Portland Thorns to
the National Women’s Soccer League title Saturday night, scoring in
a 2-0 victory over the Western New York Flash.
Heath scored in the 41st minute off a free kick in front of
9,129 fans at Sahlen Stadium. There had been questions during the
week whether an injured right foot would allow her to play.
”As soon as I saw an opportunity like that, I just wanted it
really badly,” Heath said. ”It was shot all the way, for
The Flash were frustrated to not be awarded a penalty kick in
the 49th minute when Portland defender Kathryn Williamson was given
her first yellow card for colliding with Abby Wambach.
”Wambach’s clearly in and scores off that,” Flash coach Aaran
Lines said. ”It should’ve been a red card.”
The red came just seven minutes later, as Williamson was ejected
in the 56th minute with a second yellow card. The dismissal forced
Portland to play a player short the rest of the match, but Western
New York could not capitalize on the advantage.
”When Portland’s down a player for 35 minutes and we’re not
able to put a ball in the back of the net in that time, Portland
deserves it,” Lines said.
Former Flash star Sinclair scored in stoppage time on a pass
from 72nd-minute substitute Alex Morgan, who had been held out of
the starting lineup because of a knee ailment.
Sinclair headed directly to the few dozen vocal Thorns
supporters stationed behind the goal to celebrate and blow kisses
after effectively sealing the first year team’s championship.
”I was going to go over to our bench but I thought, `I’m not
running that far,”’ Sinclair said.
Playing with the advantage, the Flash attempted 18 shots, nine
more than the Thorns. Portland goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made seven
saves in the short-handed win.
”The team is fantastic,” Heath said. ”You saw it in the
semifinal and you saw it again here. It’s almost like when some
kind of adversity happens, our team comes together more.”
The Flash failed in their bid to win their fourth title across
four leagues in four seasons. That didn’t stop goalkeeper Adrianna
Franch from reflecting on the crowd.
”I had chills as soon as I walked out here for warm-ups, let
alone when the game started,” Franch said. ”If we can continue to
have that, this league is going to go far.”
Heath was selected the match’s most valuable player despite
subbing off in the 63rd minute. She had three shots on goal in
addition to her goal.
Wambach did not register a shot on goal, though she attempted
three shots. Flash teammate Carli Lloyd led all players with four
shots on goal