PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan scored and the Portland Thorns advanced to the National Women’s Soccer League championship game with a 2-1 semifinal victory over the Seattle Reign on Saturday.
The defending NWSL champion Thorns (13-6-6) will play the winner of the other semifinal between the Chicago Red Stars and the North Carolina Courage for the title next Saturday at Portland’s Providence Park.
The semifinal between the Courage (17-1-6) and Red Stars (9-5-10) was originally set for Sunday in Cary, but the game was moved to Tuesday night in Portland because of Hurricane Florence.
The move left the Courage, who finished with the best record in the league, without a postseason game at home. The NWSL named its championship venue in May.
The Reign went up first in the 28th minute when Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick appeared to hit the cross bar and carom straight to Jasmyne Spencer, who scored.
Horan was challenged by defenders and handed the ball off to Heath, whose shot from the corner of the box n the 43rd minute to tie it.
Heath appeared to score again in the 69th minute but she was called offside. The crowd roared with boos when the replay shown on the video scoreboard showed she wasn’t.
Horan scored the go-ahead goal in the 77th minute on a header that bounced in off the post. It was her 14th of the season.
“Obviously we were ready,” Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna France said afterward. “That was a wild game. The first half, they came down our throats but we stayed in it and we got the job done.”
The Thorns defeated the Reign 3-1 in the regular-season finale last week. With the win, the Thorns secured home-field advantage for the semifinal.
Neither Rapinoe nor Allie Long played last week but both played in the semifinal. Long had missed the last three games with a knee injury while Rapinoe had rib soreness and missed the team’s last two.
2 Robbies: Manchester Derby, Liverpool win, draws for Chelsea, Arsenal
Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle look back at a defining derby match between Man City and Man United (00:30), Liverpool’s comfortable win against Fulham (25:45), the stalemate between Chelsea and Everton (31:30) and a hard fought match between Arsenal and Wolves (41:30).
The XI is set in a 3-4-3, with the New York Red Bulls, DC United, and Atlanta United leading the way with a pair of players each.
My predictions? Well, I only got six correct. Whoops. The only absence that really surprises me is Graham Zusi, and Sporting KC not having representation at all. I guess that explains why SKC manager Peter Vermes is going to be announced as the next USMNT– Wait, what’s that? Oh. I’ll stop talking.
2018 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Zack Steffen (Columbus)
Defenders: Kemar Lawrence (RBNY), Aaron Long (RBNY), Chad Marshall (Seattle)
Midfielders: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta), Luciano Acosta (DC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal), Carlos Vela (LAFC)
Serie A lags behind other top European league in TV money, which has hindered its ability to recruit top end talent relative to its competitors.
Ricci says if American sports see value in bringing their top leagues to Europe, it holds that the reverse would be true. From the BBC:
“If we look at some other more developed leagues in terms of commercial strategy; the NBA and NFL, they are exporting one or two of their matches abroad, to the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I think it is a good strategy. It is a way to export something that is not an exhibition.”
Would a regular season match bring any more eyes or attention than the International Champions Cup, at least enough to offset the sacrifice of atmosphere? It seems doubtful, but the money is the key here. Italy wants to catch up with Spain, Germany, and England.