by Blaise Ogutu (31/10/22).
Above: Portland Thorns players lift the championship trophy in DC. Photo: @ThornsFC/Twitter.
An easy 2-0 win over the Kansas City Current gave the Portland Thorns the NWSL Championship at Audi Field in Washington DC on Saturday night. It was Kansas’ first trip to the championship final as the relatively newly-revamped Current but their exploits were not enough to win the ultimate prize.
The league’s M.V.P Sophia Smith put Portland ahead only four minutes into the game with her 15th goal of the season. Pouncing onto a long pass from Yazmeen Ryan in midfield, Smith found herself one on one with Adrianna Franch before rounding her to easily slot into the net.
The game gradually drifted into Portland’s hand and Smith again had a sight at goal in the 26th minute. She dribbled well into Current’s box while taking on defenders and her attempt to curl a shot could only go wide.
Kate Del Fava could have leveled matters in the 33rd minute but her header following a quick freekick did not dip in time to trouble Bella Bixby in Thorns’ goal. The teams went into the break with a single goal between them.
In the second half, Portland dictated play for large swathes of the game as they stifled every Kansas City attack. The Thorns doubled their advantage 11 minutes into the second half through an own goal by Addisyn Merrick.
After failing to track Ryan’s run down the right flank, Portland’s winger drove in a sharp cross and a moment of miscommunication by Merrick and Franch led to the ball ricocheting off Merrick and trickling ever slowly across the goal line.
Morgan Weaver could have made it 3-0 two minutes later with a left-foot shot. Finding herself unmarked, Weaver tried to bend one past Franch but her effort was pushed onto the crossbar and over by the slightest of touches.
French was again called to action in the 71st minute to deny Hina Sugita from adding a third. The Japanese midfielder was again left unattended and she took the opportunity to test Franch and the shot-stopper met the shot with equal zeal and kept the scores respectable.
Portland would see off the game in the remaining minutes as the wind was blown out of Current’s sails securing their third NWSL Championship after a tumultuous year off the pitch for the north-western side.