PORTLAND, Ore. – In a dramatic 2016 NWSL Playoff Semifinal at Providence Park Sunday, Thorns FC showcased all the elements of their strong season: goals, teamwork, grit and energy.
But in a cruel twist, Portland lost to the Western New York Flash 4-3 in extra time.
Thorns FC captain Christine Sinclair was reflective after the hard-fought match that saw momentum swing back and forth throughout.
“It’s a tough result and we’re all pretty disappointed right now,” she said. “We’re just trying to rally everyone and support our fans, support the organization.”
After going down 2-0 in the first half, Portland rallied with a timely goal from Sinclair in the 39th minute to help key a Portland comeback. Taking a nice ball forward from defender Katherine Reynolds, Sinclair neatly spun her defender before hitting the ball on the volley.
“I got mad and just told our players to kick the ball up the field,” said Sinclair of her goal. “I definitely got a little bump on their center back and, yeah, I was mad so I just shot it and it went in.”
And while Portland defender Emily Sonnett tied the game at 2-2 in regulation and midfielder Lindsey Horan scored in the first period of extra time to bring the Thorns to a goal down at 4-3, Portland could not find the final strike to force penalties.
An NWSL Playoffs record crowd of 20,086 attended the match and were raucous and loud throughout. In the North End, the Rose City Riveters unfurled a massive tifo display at the beginning of the game and continued to chant to the team even after the final whistle. That volume and dedication to the club was keenly felt by Sinclair and the team.
“The fans are incredible. The entire season, they’ve been amazing,” she said. “For me, personally, that’s the hardest part about the result tonight. They deserve better.”
But she also knew that there’s the potential for herself and her teammates to learn from the result as they move forward.
“There’s no shame in feeling sad and mad and all those things, but we’ll do this with grace,” she said. “It’s what this organization represents.”
For Sinclair, though the loss hurt after a season where the team won the 2016 NWSL Shield with the most points in the regular season, she knew that it would help motivate them as they already started to look ahead to 2017.
“If you look at it, it’s been an incredible year with incredible support,” she said. “[Head coach] Mark [Parsons] just mentioned that we should just bottle this up, remember this feeling for preparation for next year. He’s going to give it his all so that we can come out flying next season and try and go a game further next year.”