PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC conceded a pair of first-half goals and were unable to overcome the deficit, falling 3-0 to the North Carolina Courage in front of the largest crowd for a championship match in U.S. women’s professional soccer history – 21,144 fans – Saturday afternoon in the 2018 NWSL Championship at Providence Park. It marked Thorns FC’s third appearance in the NWSL Championship match in the league’s six seasons and the second straight season Portland squared off against North Carolina in the final after defeating the Courage in the 2017 Championship.
Pro women’s soccer championships
The 2018 NWSL Championship at Providence Park featured the largest crowd (21,144) for a U.S. women’s professional soccer championship match, including Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA). The attendance number surpassed the previous record of 21,078 fans set at the 2001 WUSA Championship match. Additionally, the five largest crowds for an NWSL playoff match have been at Providence Park (2018 NWSL Championship, 2018, 2017, 2016 NWSL semifinal, 2015 NWSL Championship).
Saturday’s match marked Portland’s third championship appearance in six NWSL seasons – the most appearances in the championship match for any team in league history. Christine Sinclair and Tobin Heath played in their third championship match for Portland and are the only two players in club history to feature in all three championship matches. Notably, Sinclair and Heath have played in every NWSL playoff match in club history. The match also marked the first appearance in the NWSL Championship for several Thorns FC players, including Andressinha, Celeste Boureille, Ellie Carpenter, Ana Crnogorcevic, Caitlin Foord and Midge Purce.
Portland earned its fifth NWSL postseason berth in six seasons and hosted an NWSL semifinal match for a third consecutive season. For a third straight season, Thorns FC recorded 12 or more wins during the regular season and equaled the club’s best road record, posting a mark of 6-3-3 away from home. As a team, Portland scored a club-best 40 goals. Individually, Lindsey Horan established single-season club records for points (28) and goals (13). Horan, who finished the regular-season ranked third in the NWSL in goals, was named NWSL MVP. Individually, Horan was named to the NWSL Best XI along with Adrianna Franch, Tobin Heath and Emily Sonnett, while Emily Menges and Christine Sinclair were Second XI selections.
North Carolina took the lead against the run of play in the 13th minute. Lynn Williams won the ball near midfield and dribbled into the box, firing a shot off the left post that bounced back into the box and into the path of Debinha, who finished with a header from close range.
Franch made a key stop in the 33rd minute of the match. Denise O’Sullivan dribbled down the right side of the box and delivered a shot from close range, forcing Franch to react quickly and block the attempt with her right leg before the ball was cleared from the box.
The Courage doubled their lead in the 41st minute. Jaelene Hinkle served a ball from the left wing into the center of the box near the penalty spot. Jessica McDonald beat Franch to the ball and headed it into the back of the net.
Heath came close to notching a goal for Portland in the 55th minute. Controlling a spell of possession in the Courage’s half of the field, Sinclair was able to find Horan near the edge of the box. Horan quickly played the ball out on the left wing to Heath, who cut back into the box and fired a shot from a tight angle, forcing a save by North Carolina goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland.
Franch made another critical stop in the 64th minute. Williams received a pass from Debinha in the box and she fired a shot from inside the box that Franch was able to tip past the right post and out for a corner kick. On the ensuing corner kick, McDonald scored with a header near the penalty spot, getting on the end of a cross played into the box by Merritt Mathias.
Heath created another scoring chance in the 68th minute, dribbling to the edge of the box before sending a dipping strike toward the right corner that skipped just wide of the right post.
Continuing to push for a goal, Sinclair received a pass near the edge of the box and turned to send a curling shot to the right top corner of the goal, but Rowland was able to jump and push the ball over the crossbar in the 72nd minute.
In the 81st minute, Horan slipped the ball to Foord running to the top of the box. Foord settled the ball and unleashed a powerful strike that went just wide of the right post. Horan’s dipping shot from outside the box was saved by Rowland in the 87th minute.
2018 NWSL Championship
Portland Thorns FC vs. North Carolina Courage
Sept. 22, 2018 – Providence Park (Portland, Ore.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Portland Thorns FC 0 0 0
North Carolina Courage 2 1 3
NCC: Debinha, 13
NCC: McDonald (Hinkle), 41
NCC: McDonald (Mathias), 64
NCC: O’Sullivan (caution), 42
NCC: McDonald (caution), 64
POR: GK Franch, D Carpenter (Purce, 90+2), D Sonnett, D Menges, D Klingenberg, M Boureille, M Horan, M Sinclair ©, F Crnogorcevic (Andressinha, 68), F Foord, F Heath
Substitutes Not Used: GK Eckerstrom, D Ball, F Weber, F Onumonu, F Lussi
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Heath, 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Three players tied, 1); FOULS: 13 (Heath, 4), OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 2
NCC: GK Rowland, D Mathias, D Dahlkemper, D Erceg ©, D Hinkle, M Dunn (O’Reilly, 87), M Mewis, M O’Sullivan, M Debinha (Hamilton, 78), F McDonald, F Williams
Substitutes Not Used: GK D’Angelo, D Roccaro, D Speck, D Kurtz, F Jenkins
TOTAL SHOTS: 23 (McDonald, 8); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Three players tied, 1); FOULS: 11 (Five players tied, 2); OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 3
Referee: Guido Gonzales
Assistant Referees: Brooke Mayo, Adrienne McDonald
4th Official: Karen Abt
5th Official: Alicia Messer
Weather: Cloudy, 66 degrees