Thorns win NWSL Championship, 1-0 over Courage
Lindsey Horan scored in the 50th minute
Portland Thorns FC players celebrate winning the 2017 NWSL Championship. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/
Portland Thorns FC players celebrate winning the 2017 NWSL Championship. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/

Orlando, Florida — Portland Thorns FC won their second NWSL Championship, with a 1-0 win over the North Carolina Courage on Saturday evening at Orlando City Stadium. In front of a crowd of 8,124, Portland redeemed their semifinals loss last year with a win over many of the same players who handed them a home semifinal loss 12 months ago.


Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan was named MVP of the game after scoring the game’s only goal in the 50th minute.


Defender Emily Sonnett served a long free kick into the box. Horan slipped in behind the Courage defense and lifted the ball with her foot over goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland to make it 1-0.



Sonnett took the free kick after Courage defender Abby Dahlkemper was called for a handball near midfield. Her service appeared to have potentially been headed on by Thorns midfielder Amandine Henry or bounced off Dahlkemper, but Sonnett was credited with the assist.


“I can’t even remember the goal,” Horan said at the postgame press conference.


“I do,” Parsons responded. “Freaking enjoyed it.”


Horan started all 24 games this season, playing all but 35 minutes for the Thorns. She scored four goals and added two assists.


“She’s the best and biggest in enormous games,” Parson said. “You think back in the last two years, the semifinal of last year, the person who grabbed that goal to make it 4-3 was Lindsey. Thankful the ball dropped to her and knew it was going to end up in one place. Tight game, maybe the most beautiful ugly game I’ve ever been a part of. Glad we won and that’s over.”


Defensively, the Thorns backline held firm against North Carolina’s three top scoring threats in Lynn Williams, Ashley Hatch and Jessica McDonald, especially late in the game as the Courage pushed for an equalizer.


“Our defense was incredible,” Horan said. “ I credit our backline so much and the work that we put into this game. Everyone was out there to win and give their 100 percent.”


In the 83rd minute, McDonald looked to have a great chance to even the match, but defender Emily Menges came up with a game-saving block on her shot. After initially getting beat on the play, Menges recovered, stayed with McDonald, and got in the way of what looked like a game-tying goal.



“That just kind of showed who this team is,” Horan said of the play. “We were not going to let another goal in.”


“Whoever’s been in our backline has been tremendous,” Parsons said. “We’re proud to be a good, hard-working defensive team.”


The first half lacked rhythm after several fouls and two injuries to Courage players. Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath fouled Taylor Smith in the second minute and Smith went down with a shoulder injury. The defender came back into the game, but was subbed out a few minutes later after trying to go up for a header.


Courage midfielder McCall Zerboni was asked at the postgame press conference whether she thought the game would’ve unfolded differently if a yellow card had been shown in the second minute by referee Danielle Chesky. Heath eventually received a yellow in the 41st minute, but did not get one for the foul on Smith.


“Yes,” Courage coach Paul Riley interjected.


“The rules of the game are as such. You want the referee to get control of the game and hold on to the game. That’s what they’re there for,” Zerboni said. “I thought she did her job. I thought some things could’ve been changed and gotten control of the game earlier with maybe a couple of cards shown and I thought there was a couple of tackles that maybe could’ve been a red card, honestly.”


The Thorns committed 13 fouls to the Courage’s 11. Portland received three yellow cards (Heath, Hayley Raso and Dagný Brynjarsdóttir). Kristen Hamilton also left the match with a left leg injury after a collision with Heath.


“I’m surprised the way Portland played in the first half to be honest with you. It’s not that type of team. They have some great players and I’d rather see the players play than kick people, but they chose the latter in the first half. At least in the second half, [the] game started. More like a 45-minute game than I think that it was a 90-minute game,” Riley said.


“I’m making comments off the live game. I thought Tobin received the two worst challenges in the game,” Parsons said when asked about Riley’s comments.  He pointed to a hard challenge from Makenzy Doniak on Heath in the first half, that was not called a foul. “It was always going to be a physical game. Carolina have built an identity around being physical, being fast, putting pressure on people. And that’s what we were last year, something we’ve continued to develop.”


Heath left the match briefly in the 74th minute after being fouled by Williams, but returned to the match.

It’s the 12th shutout of the season for Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, who set a league record with 11 during the regular season.


“AD [Franch] gave us all dryer sheets today for ‘clean sheets’. It’s something we pride ourselves on and that’s the goal we go into every game: a clean sheet. That’s the best we can do. We did our job. It’s the most important things for us,” Menges told reporters after the game.


Franch and the Thorns can also thank the crossbar for coming up big win Courage midfielder Sam Mewis tried to chip the goalkeeper from midfield in the 14th minute.



The Courage had been on the winning side of eight 1-0 wins this year, including their dramatic playoff win last week, but ended up losing by that scoreline this evening.


While it wouldn’t have been considered a repeat win for the Courage, many of the same players on the field won the NWSL Championship last season as part of the Western New York Flash before the franchise relocated to the North Carolina in January of this year. The Flash upset Portland, the NWSL Shield winners, in the semifinals last season. This time, the Thorns returned the favor.


Through five years in the NWSL, no Shield winners have ever gone on to win the title.


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