Thorns Recap

First team to three stars

Thorns blank the Kansas City Current 2-0, win their third NWSL Championship title

Portland Thorns FC has something no other NWSL club has: a third star above the crest.

Yes, the 2022 NWSL Championship title belongs to the Thorns—an astonishing achievement at the end of an already historic season: A league Most Valuable Player. The most team goals scored in the entire league. A bench Mariana Trench deep. A team chemistry that seemed unbreakable. And all that clicked under a brand-new, first-year head coach.

Speaking to media in the pregame show, head coach Rhian Wilkinson was asked what would be the final words she’d give the team as they walked out of the locker room come game time. Her answer foreshadowed the performance to follow: “Show up and earn it.” General Manager Karina LeBlanc (herself a former NWSL champion with PTFC) echoed coach, and let it be known that the Thorns were ready: “They want to do it for themselves, they want to do it for the city."

What defender Meghan Klingenberg told her her teammates in the pre-kickoff huddle summed up the power of this 2022 Thorns team: "Joy, love, bravery, and YOU equals success."

Newly-crowned league MVP Sophia Smith only waited four minutes to strike gold for Portland, with an elegant juke of Kansas City’s Adrianna Franch (and an assist going to Yazmeen Ryan on the precise through ball to make it possible) she tapped a left-footed ball into an empty net, and got the party started both in Portland and D.C. Smith, being the youngest MVP winner in the league’s 10-year history at 22, also racked up the youngest NWSL Championship goalscorer award with her 15th goal of the campaign.

Her celebration was a shrug that said, simply: she was made for this.

If there were ever any doubts regarding her MVP award (there weren’t many), Smith shut them all down in a dominant first half showing, earning praise for her lethal and threatening goalscoring senses throughout the entire first half. Smith and Ryan controlled much of the Portland attack, and Morgan Weaver only made Kansas City’s defense that much more uncomfortable, rattling a screamer off that was tipped just over the KC goal early in the second half.

Christine Sinclair made history too, becoming the first player to win three NWSL championships with the same club—and clocking the most playoff minutes of any player in the league’s history, coming off in the 72nd to universal acclaim at Audi Field.

Come the second half it would be the MVP again finding herself involved in Portland’s commanding play, just 10 minutes after the restart. Officially recorded as a Kansas City own goal via Addisyn Merrick, It was a play that deserves an assist for Smith (whether Opta wants to agree or not) solely for being who she is. As Ryan sent a ball across the face of goal, Smith ran to the near post, forcing a costly mistake amongst the KC backline and producing a 2-0 lead for Portland.

Reams will be written about the 2022 Thorns—a Championship team in every sense of the word. But before the analysis, there's one more event to anticipate: tomorrow, the Thorns will be bring a new trophy home to Portland.

Portland Thorns FC vs. KC Current – 2022 NWSL Championship
Oct. 29, 2022 – Audi Field (Washington D.C.)

Scoring Summary:
POR: Smith, 4
POR: Merrick (own goal), 56

Misconduct Summary:

POR: GK Bixby, D Kuikka, D Hubly, D Sauerbrunn, D Klingenberg, M Coffey, M Rodriguez (Sugita, 63), M Sinclair (Dunn, 73), F Ryan (Moultrie, 93), F Weaver (Beckie, 63), F S. Smith

Substitutes Not Used: GK A. Smith, D McGrady, D Menges, D Nally, M Porter

TOTAL SHOTS: 18 (Smith, 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Weaver, 2); FOULS: 8 (Rodriguez, 3); OFFSIDES: 3; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 0

KC: GK Franch, D Loera, D Edmonds, D Merrick (Bennett, 64), D Ball, M Scott © (Rodriguez, 75), M Mace, M Del Fava, M LaBonta, F Kizer, F Hamilton

Substitutes Not Used: GK Schneider, GK Miller, D Leach, M Logarzo, M McCain, M Winebrenner, F Curran

TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Loera, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 0 (0); FOULS: 10 (Loera, 5); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 5

Referee: Natalie Simon
Assistant Referees: Kali Smith, Alicia Messer
Fourth Official: Danielle Chesky
Weather: Clear, 53 degrees
Attendance: 17,624

All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial


  • With tonight’s victory, Portland captured its third NWSL title – the most by any club in league history (2013, 2017, 2022).
  • Thorns FC became the first team in league history to qualify for four NWSL Championship games (2013, 2017, 2018, 2022). 
  • Portland has played three of its four previous NWSL championships on the road, winning all three of them.
  • Thorns FC have a league-best seven playoff wins.
  • Sophia Smith scored the game-winning goal in today’s match and her first in playoffs. 
  • Smith became the first player to earn league and championship game MVP in the same season. 
  • Smith tallied a team-leading 15 goals in the 2022 campaign.
  • Smith became the youngest player to score in a NWSL Championship match. 
  • Smith’s goal was the second fastest goal in NWSL Championship history at 3:59 minutes.
  • Smith became the second player in the league to win the NWSL MVP award and score in a NWSL Championship in the same season.
  • Christine Sinclair featured in her 13th career (12 starts) NWSL playoff game tonight, setting a new league record for postseason appearances.
  • Sinclair became the NWSL’s all-time leader in playoff minutes with 1,022 minutes, surpassing Abby Erceg (975).
  • Sinclair became the oldest played to ever play in a NWSL Championship (39 years old) followed by Becky Sauerbrunn (37).
  • Dunn, Sauerbrunn and Sinclair have won three league titles each. Menges, Klingenberg and Tegan McGrady have each won two league titles.
  • Bella Bixby, Natalia Kuikka, Kelli Hubly, Sam Coffey, Rocky Rodríguez, Hina Sugita, Olivia Moultrie, Morgan Weaver, Sophia Smith, Yazmeen Ryan and Janine Beckie made their NWSL Championship debut tonight.
  • Olivia Moultrie became the youngest player in league history to make a NWSL Championship appearance at 17 years, one month and 12 days old. It was her first playoff appearance.
  • Bella Bixby recorded her league leading 10th clean sheet in the 2022 campaign and first in a playoff match.
  • Tonight’s match was the first meeting between Portland and the Current in the postseason. 
  • In seven meetings across all competitions, Thorns FC are unbeaten against KC with a record of 5-0-2, outscoring them 11-2.
  • With tonight’s win, head coach Rhian Wilkinson became the second female head coach to win a final since Cindy Parlow Cone (Portland in 2013).
  • Karina LeBlanc became the first to win a NWSL title as both general manager and player (starting keeper for Portland in 2013).
  • It is the first NWSL final to air in network primetime in league history.