Portland, Oregon – On Saturday at Providence Park, the Portland Thorns defeated NJ/NY Gotham FC on penalty kicks (6-5) after playing to a 1-1 draw to win the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup.
Canadian striker Christine Sinclair got the home side going early in the first half, capitalizing off of a Gotham FC mistake and curling a shot past DiDi Haracic’s post in the eight minute. The goal moved the legendary forward past Lynn Williams for the active all-time leader in NWSL goals. Portland enjoyed an edge in all major offensive statistics, but two crucial saves from DiDi Haracic kept the match at 1-0 heading into the break.
In a hectic second half, Carli Lloyd headed in a pinpoint cross from Imani Dorsey in the 61st minute to get the visitors back in the title tilt. A flurry of chances would come in the final ten minutes, with Lindsey Horan finishing the match with a club-record twelve shots. Most notably, DiDi Haracic made a soaring fingertip save to deny Christine Sinclair a brace in 86th minutes. Neither side would earn a winning goal, sending the Championship match straight to penalty kicks.
It would be the first competitive penalty shootout in club history for the Thorns, and the first time a league trophy would be awarded in that manner since the 2016 NWSL Championship.
The crossbar denied both Meghan Klingenberg and Jennifer Cudjoe, but all other shooters were perfect as the seventh round of penalties began. There, Adrianna Franch denied Nahomi Kawasumi with an acrobatic fingertip save, setting the scene for Morgan Weaver to slot home Portland’s sixth and winning penalty kick. The victory gives Portland Thorns FC their first title since the 2017 NWSL Championship.
COURTESY NATIONAL WOMEN’S SOCCER LEAGUE