Thorns FC

NWSL Playoffs | A look back at some top Thorns moments


It's NWSL Playoffs season. For 2021 NWSL Shield-winning Portland Thorns FC, they earned a bye in the first round and will host the winner of the Chicago Red Stars-NJ/NY Gotham FC match at Providence Park in the semifinals on Nov. 14 (2:30pm PT, CBS Sports Network).

While Portland watches this weekend and prepares, let's take a look back at some of the memorable moments in Thorns playoff (or knockout game) history.

Allie Long game winner vs. FC Kansas City in 2013 semifinals

In the team and league's inaugural campaign, the Thorns finished the regular season in third place and faced a very strong FC Kansas City side on the road in the playoff semifinal . Portland trailed 2-0 only 25 minutes into the game but roared back with goals from Tobin Heath in the 33rd minute and Tiffany Weimer in the 50th.

Tied at 2-2 after 90 minutes of regulation, the game went to overtime but did not reach penalties thanks to a bit of magic from midfielder Allie Long who tallied the game-winner in the 103rd minute.

Tobin Heath free kick laser in the 2013 NWSL Championship

After defeating Kansas City, Portland moved on to the NWSL Championship against the Western New York Flash in Rochester, NY. The first half was a cagey affair until Tobin Heath broke the scoreless deadlock with a thundering free kick to put Portland up 1-0. Christine Sinclair added a second for Portland late in second half stoppage time to seal the win but it was Heath's goal that got the Thorns on the board. Watch the goal where the highlights pick up here at the 3:28 mark (and stay to the end to see Sinclair's goal). BONUS: New Thorns GM Karina LeBlanc, then starting goalkeeper, made a number of sharp saves to earn the shutout.

Lindsey Horan game-winner against North Carolina in the 2017 NWSL Championship

Despite winning the NWSL Shield in 2016 – the club's first – Portland was knocked out at home in cruel fashion in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Western New York Flash.

Fast forward to 2017 and the Flash – now moved south and known as the North Carolina Courage – win the Shield with Portland having fought through the playoffs to face them in the NWSL Championship in Orlando.

A physical, grinding match saw Lindsey Horan play the hero when she scored the game's lone goal in the 50th minute and the team won their second league championship trophy.

The come-from-behind 2-1 semifinal win over Seattle Reign FC in 2018

Horan continued her stellar play in 2018 putting up 13 goals and two assists in an NWSL MVP campaign.

Come playoff time, second place Portland drew third place Seattle Reign FC, setting the stage for a Northwest rivalry match at Providence Park.

Down 1-0 following Jazmyne Spencer's 29th minute goal for Seattle, Portland was faced with a comeback and it's hard to pick just one moment of the game to highlight so we'll include the full highlights.

Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch helped rescue the team following Spencer's goal with a flurry of spectacular saves that began in the 33rd minute when she denied a volley from Seattle's Jodie Taylor. She made two more excellent saves before Portland scored just before halftime. Horan drove forward with the ball, slipped it out left to Heath who slotted it home to make it 1-1.

Heath thought she had the game-winner on a counter attack in the 43rd minute but the goal was wrongfully called offside. But it was Horan, again, who rose to the occasion and headed home a beautifully chipped ball from Sinclair in the 77th minute to give Portland the victory. Watch the full highlights below.

Britt Eckerstrom's shutout against North Carolina in the knockout stage of the 2020 Challenge Cup

We know. This isn't an NWSL Playoff match but in the pandemic-affected 2020 season, the Challenge Cup was an exciting substitute and produced a performance from Britt Eckerstrom in goal that, in the words of head coach Mark Parsons, “was the best goalkeeping performance I have ever seen.”

Heading into the tournament, teams quarantined and stayed in Utah with the Royals serving as hosts for this first-ever event. While players lived in a hotel "bubble" for an extended period, they also had the option of opting out. Adrianna Franch chose not to participate so goalkeeping duties for the tournament turned to Bella Bixby and Britt Eckerstrom.

Bixby was stellar throughout but suffered an injury following the team's final preliminary round game. Eckerstrom, who had not played at all in the tournament, got the start against North Carolina and proceed to make 11 saves, arguably each one better than the one that proceeded it, and Portland won 1-0.