NWSL Final: Portland Thorns strike in golden opportunity to clinch title over North Carolina Courage



The Thorns had unfinished business after last year’s semifinal loss to the Courage.

On Saturday, they got payback after an early second-half goal from Lindsey Horan lifted the Portland Thorns to a 1-0 victory over the North Carolina Courage to clinch the 2017 NWSL Championship in front of 8,124 at Orlando City Stadium.

“It was a physical instant, a constant battle, and we looked over what we tried to achieve in the game on the defensive side of the goal, we titled a lot of boxes, we knew it was going to be really hard to get into the game and get rhythm,” said Thorns head coach Mark Parsons. “They did a great job pressing us, pressing the center-mids, and when the opportunities came and there weren’t many of them, we put the ball in a couple dangerous areas.”

After a first half in which North Carolina outshot Portland 5-1, it took Portland’s midfielder Lindsey Horan five minutes into the second half to net the game’s first and only goal.

“Yeah, we did not get a lot of opportunities. They were pressing us the whole game, so the one opportunity we got, was a set piece,” said Horan. “We’ve gotten so great at them and Sonja plays a perfect ball, and I don’t know who got a touch on it beforehand, I can’t even remember the goal but I was very happy. “

“What Lindsay’s done all year is, she continues to grow, and she’s the best and biggest in enormous games,” added Parson on Horan’s performance Saturday. “If you think back two years, the semifinal last year, the person who grabbed that goal to make it 4-3 was Lindsey. Thankful that the ball dropped to her and I knew it was only going to end up in one place.”

North Carolina ended with 16 shot attempts and 51.9 percent of ball possession. Quadrupling their chances to score, as Portland ended with four shot attempts while slightly dominating the ball at 52 percent. 

Portland first saw the top of the NWSL Championship podium back in 2013 when it defeated the Western New York Flash 1-0. Last year it came close, the Thorns won the regular season, but fell 4-3 to the Flash as well.

With Saturday’s win, Portland ended their season remaining unbeaten for 8 consecutive games.

Here’s how the teams lined up: 

North Carolina Courage XI: Katelyn Rowland, Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg, Jaelene Hinkle, Taylor Smith (Makenzy Doniak 12’), McCall Zarboni, Samantha Mewis, Denise O’Sullivan (Stephanie Ochs 87’), Kristen Hamilton (Jessica McDonald 39’), Ashley Hatch, Lynn Williams.

North Carolina bench: Samantha Witteman, Stephanie Ochs, Sabrina D’Angelo, Makenzy Doniak, Meredith Speck, Jessica McDonald, Nora Holstad Berge

Portland Thorns FC XI: Adrianna Franch, Emily Sonnett, Katherine Reynolds, Meghan Klingenberg, Amandine Henry, Emily Menges, Hayley Raso (Nadia Nadim 69’), Lindsey Horan, Ashleigh Sykes (Dagny Brynjarsdottir 54’), Tobin Heath, Christine Sinclair. 

Portland Thorns FC bench: Nadia Nadim, Tyler Lussi, Britt Eckerstrom, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Celeste Boureille, Allie Long, Mallory Weber

(Brad Smith / ISIPhotos.com)

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