Portland faced off against Kansas City in Washington D.C. Saturday evening for the NWSL’s first primetime final on CBS and walked away with the Thorn’s third NWSL Championship.
Portland came out prepared for everything that Kansas City could throw at them and controlled the match from the first whistle. With the 2–0 win, the Thorns will be adding a third star to their jerseys next season.
Portland drew first blood early when in the 4th minute when the Thorns started a counter-attack led by Rocky Rodriguez. Yazmeen Ryan sent a through ball toward 2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith charging at the Kansas City box. Current defender Elizabeth Ball attempted to slide tackle the ball away from the threat of Smith but unfortunately for Kansas City, came up unsuccessful. With Ball on the ground, Smith was able to take on the Current goalkeeper AD Franch 1–v–1, got her to commit to a dive, then slotted the ball into the open net.
The Thorns came out well-prepared for the Kansas City attack and shut them down for the entirety of the first half, keeping them to just 5 shots—with none on target-–and only 0.08 expected goals. Portland continued to push and attack, but was unable to find netting again in the first half. They ended the half with 9 shots—2 on target—and 1.54 expected goals.
Kansas City came out in the second half with a level of physicality that was missing in the first in hopes of slowing down the tempo of the Portland attacks. Unfortunately for the Current, it didn’t fully work. In the 56th minute, a Thorns attack led by Rocky Rodriguez found Yazmeen Ryan wide. Ryan pushed down the wing and sent in a cross toward Sophia Smith, who was making a run toward the near post. The ball deflected off a couple of players, but ended up hitting Addisyn Merrick last and rolled past the goal line to put Portland up 2–0.
In the 63rd minute, Portland brought on Janine Beckie and Hina Sugita for Morgan Weaver and Rocky Rodriguez to cycle in some fresh legs and keep the pressure on Kansas City.
There was a worrisome moment in the 68’ when Sophia Smith went down while defending and needed to get her knee checked out by trainers. Luckily for Portland and the USWNT, she walked off the pitch on her own accord and was able to continue playing.
In the 73rd minute, captain Christine Sinclair was subbed off to bring on Crystal Dunn and Becky Sauerbrunn received the captain’s armband. Portland finished off their substitution windows in stoppage time when Olivia Moultrie came onto the pitch for Yazmeen Ryan.
Portland continued to look dangerous throughout the second half but was unable to find the netting again. Franch’s 5 saves on the evening definitely didn’t help them in that regard. When the final whistle blew, the Thorns had 18 shots with 6 of those being on target. In comparison, Kansas City finished with 9 shots, none of them being on target.
Sophia Smith was once again a major threat for the Thorns the entire match. She finished the match with 6 shots, 2 on target, and 12 touches in the box in addition to her goal. She was understandably named MVP for the Championship match. On the defensive side, Kelli Hubly continued to be the staple in the backline with 5 tackles won, 1 interception, and 4 clearances. The Thorns returned home to Portland on Sunday and were met by a large group of fans at the airport eager to show their support for the team.