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

sure.”

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