The Soccer Desk

NWSL: Portland Thorns FC Win Inaugural Championship


As the final game was played in the inaugural NWSL season, a champion was crowned. After war was waged in front of 9,125 fans at Sahlen’s Stadium, the Thorns would grind out a 2-0 win over the Western New York Flash to take home the title.

The game started out with a very fast tempo as the Flash and Thorns both squandered great goal scoring opportunities at both ends of the field, only to see Adrianna Franch and Karina LeBlanc come up big to make key saves. The gloves came off early in this game when just nine minutes in, a rugby scrum broke out between Western New York’s Angela Sahlem and Portland’s Katherine Williamson broke out behind the play missing the eyes of the officials. After the restart, Flash forward Samantha Kerr nearly put the home side up in the 11th minute when her header ricocheted off the crossbar only to see LeBlanc there to make the rebound save. The Flash would continue with the early pressure when Carli Lloyd struck a ball from 40 yards out just to see it go wide of the net.




The Thorns would pick up their play after the Flash seemed to be controlling the midfield battles, but the best two Portland chances were squandered and the game remained scoreless. As the chippiness of the game continued, the officials seemed content to let play continue without a card issued until the 33rd minute when Flash defender Estelle Johnson was shown the games first yellow for persistent infringement. Johnson’s yellow would be the first of six cards handed out on the night. The physical play of both teams continued when Flash midfielder Amy Barczuk threw Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath to the ground and a sparring match nearly erupted between the two players. Western New York put themselves in a bad position. In the 39th minute, the Flash gave away a free kick from 30 yards out, with Tobin Heath taking the free kick. Heath placed the kick into the top corner of the Flash goal, out of the reach of a sprawling Franch to give the Thorns the lead in the 40th minute of play.

tobin goal

Portland would take the lead into the half knowing that this game was still very much up for grabs. The Thorns would pick up their first yellow card of the match shortly after the half when Kathryn Williamson would receive the booking for a reckless foul, setting the Flash attack into action. While LeBlanc saw less action than she did in the first half, she was still sharp and alert. The Flash refused to back down from this game and would continue to press for the equalizer that would never come.

Portland would be reduced to 10 players in the 57th minute when Williamson would receive her second yellow card of the match for a reckless foul on Abby Wambach just outside the penalty area. The resulting free kick for Western New York would barely trouble LeBlanc and the Thorns were back on the offensive. With Portland controlling the run of play for most of the second half, a sense of urgency showed on the faces of the Flash players, but they couldn’t break down the Portland D.


red card

The sending off of Williamson delayed the entrance of Alex Morgan to the game, with Tina Ellerston coming on instead, replacing Tobin Heath in the 63rd minute. Morgan would make her appearance in the final in the 71st minute, replacing Danielle Foxhoven as the Thorns second sub. Flash forward Adrianna would pick up a yellow card in the 74th minute after a reckless challenge on LeBlanc saw the Portland keeper take a vicious hit and stay down for a few minutes before she could resume play. Western New York was unable to wear down a Portland team that was a player down to really test LeBlanc in goal as they desperately searched for the equalizer.

With neither team backing down from their physical play, it would only be a matter of time before Kari Seitz would find another name in her book. In the 80th minute, Seitz would book Portland’s Allie Long for delay of game as it was clear that the Thorns were content to watch the clock tick away. Just a minute later Seitz, would go to her pocket again and show yellow to Portland defender Tina Ellerston for delay of game as well.


While there could have been a lot more names in Seitz’s book at the end of the night, the game was already too far out of her hands to continue to book players. After five minutes of stoppage time was added on at the end of the game, the Flash did all that they could, but it would be Thorns forward Christine Sinclair that would ice the game for Portland in the 92nd minute. After receiving a pass from Morgan, Sinclair found herself one-on-one with Franch as she easily slotted her shot home to give the Thorns a 2-0 lead.

When the final whistle blew, Portland Thorns FC would be crowned the 2013 NWSL Champions. Leaving everything on the field, both teams could not have played any harder or wanted it more Saturday night. As the Thorns celebrated with a group of traveling Rose City Riveters, the faces of the Flash players told a different story. Portland were the early season favorites only to find themselves as the underdogs going into this match. Like most underdogs do when tested, they proved that they could not be counted out and will now return to Portland as Champions.