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Thorns win inaugural NWSL title over Flash

PortlandThornsNationalChampionsNWSL (PortlandThorns)


The highly-anticipated National Women’s Soccer League final between Abby Wambach’s Western New York Flash and the and Alex Morgan’s Portland Thorns produced an instant classic.

In the inaugural final, the Thorns came out winners, defeating the Flash on Saturday evening, 2-0, at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, New York. U.S. Women’s National Team veteran Tobin Heath struck a perfectly-placed free kick in the first half while teammate and Canadian international veteran Christine Sinclair put the game away in stoppage-time, despite playing much of the second half down to ten players.

Although the Thorns finished on top, the Flash had their fair share of chances, especially early on. Flash forward Samantha Kerr made something out of nothing with a long-range header in the 11th minute that forced Thorns goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc to parry it off the crossbar.

USWNT midfielder Carli Lloyd also had a few golden chances for side within two minutes in the middle of the first half, especially a wide-open opportunity in the 25th minute that she put wide of goal.

The end-to-end nature of the match took another turn in the 40th minute when Heath stepped up to take a free kick from around 35 yards out. The playmaking midfielder showed off her free kick precision with an accurate blast past Flash goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, giving the visitors a deserved lead.

Moments into the second half, Wambach became determined to pull her side back into the match. In the 49th minute, as she was driving towards the box, Thorns defender Kat Williamson took her down, earning a yellow card. Only eight minutes later, Williamson saw red when she again pulled down Wambach just outside of the box, putting the Thorns down to ten players.

With the Flash throwing everything forward, Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow brought on her star Morgan off the bench to give the visitors some speed in the counter attack, a decision that worked wonders towards the end of the match. In the second minute of stoppage-time, Morgan ran uninhibited through the middle of the field before feeding Sinclair, who finished easily to ensure the Thorns the first-ever NWSL title.

Here are the game highlights:


      • He repeated it a minute later (see below) if you want to know. I guess he really wants to impress upon us all his skepticism about the league’s prospects for success. Seems important to him.

      • 17,619 fans in Jeld-Wen Stadium on August 4th, along with many, many others here in Portland, disagree with him re: the league’s prospects for success. Figuring out how to replicate what we have here with the Thorns will be the big trick between now and next year. But it can be done and make the league a success.

      • You can’t relocate the entire league to Portland. Who knows, maybe they can replicate the smashing success that is the WNBA.

        The Data (NWSL):

        Average Attendance: 4,271
        (Average Attendance Without Portland’s Home Games: 2,978)

        The Data (WNBA):

        1997: 9,684
        1998: 10,869
        1999: 10,207
        2000: 9,074
        2001: 9,074
        2002: 9,228
        2003: 8,800
        2004: 8,613
        2005: 8,172
        2006: 7,490
        2007: 7,819
        2008: 7,948
        2009: 8,039
        2010: 7,834
        2011: 7,954
        2012: 7,452

      • The WNBA wouldn’t exist without the backing of the NBA. The NWSL can’t expect the same from MLS. With a league that draws only 40% (2,978/7,452) as much the WNBA, I think it’s fair to be skeptical about their ability to continue as a going-concern.

        Although I really know nothing about the cost structure of the NWSL. Maybe 3K fans is enough support to sustain the league and they will continue to operate at a USL Pro type level.

      • Another interesting thing to note about the WNBA is that their attendance has been relatively stable despite 3 relocations and 6 teams that folded in its brief 15 season existence.

  1. One thing I always preferred in Women’s Football is the general behavior. You’re always going to have a few good and bad in any group, but there is far too much complaining and diving ( a.k.a. “Gamesmanship”) in the Men’s game. With that said, I got a little tired of Carli Lloyd holding up the imaginary card, and trying to pressure the ref into certain calls. The favoritism in this league in nowhere near as bad as the Dan Borislow situation, but you can tell some of the players expect it.

  2. Good for Portland! Will they have Men and Women’s championships in 2013? Nothing to do with article, but I am still not crazy about NWSL franchise names. They are a little too MLS cerca 1996.


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