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Portland acquires two-time World Cup winner Becky Sauerbrunn

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Thorns have acquired veteran U.S. national team defender Becky Sauerbrunn from the Utah Royals.

The long-rumored deal was made official Tuesday. The Royals acquired defender Elizabeth Ball and $100,000 in allocation money, with the possibility of additional allocation money if future conditions are met.

Sauerbrunn is in Orlando, Florida with the national team, preparing for the SheBelieves Cup tournament. The United States opens the tournament on Thursday night against England.

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In an interview published on the Portland Thorns’ website, Sauerbrunn said she was excited to come to Portland, where she lives in the offseason.

“As a player, I’ve lived my life in two parts, where my life with my team has been away from where I (otherwise) lived,” she said. “Going to Portland at this point in my career, having lived there for five years, that changes. This move allows me to play at home.”

Sauerbrunn has played professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League since 2013, starting with FC Kansas City before moving to the Royals in 2018. She’s been named NWSL Defender of the Year four times.

Thorns general manager Gavin Wilkinson said he appreciated Utah’s cooperation in the deal to bring Sauerbrunn home.

“Becky will give us tremendous experience and leadership at the back,” Wilkinson said. “Her addition to a group of players with championship capabilities and aspirations is exciting on all levels.”

Sauerbrunn was on the U.S. team that won the World Cup in 2015 and again last summer in France. She also won the Olympic gold medal with the team in 2012. She has 174 appearances with the national team.

Fan banned from all NWSL games after investigation

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A person who directed racist taunts at Portland Thorns’ goalkeeper Adrianna Franch has been banned from attending National Women’s Soccer League games.

A fan at the Sept. 6 game between the Thorns and Utah Royals in Salt Lake City first called attention to the unidentified person on Twitter. The tweet was later deleted, but both the Thorns and Royals, as well as the league, investigated the incident.

The NWSL issued a statement Saturday saying the person was identified. In addition to being banned from NWSL matches, the person – who was not identified publicly by the league – was also banned from attending events at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“NWSL will not tolerate inappropriate fan behavior,” the league’s statement said. “Racism has no place in our sport.”

The Royals also offered “thanks in no small part to assistance from fans seated in the vicinity,” for identifying the offending party.

A few days after the incident, Franch posted a statement to Twitter: “The situation surrounding our game Friday night is not a NEW issue, nor is it a first for me. RACISM is NOT okay in any form!! We as a HUMAN RACE can be better and should be better. We as a SPORT can help show the way.”

Franch was on the roster of the U.S. national team that won the Women’s World Cup this summer in France.

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NWSL: NC Courage complete regular-season, playoff double

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Jess McDonald scored two goals and the North Carolina Courage won the National Women’s Soccer League championship with a 3-0 victory over the Portland Thorns on Saturday.

The victory was a bit of revenge for the Courage, who lost 1-0 to the Thorns in last year’s title match.

The Courage (17-1-6) won the league’s Supporters’ Shield for best record and never dropped a game on the road. The team also set NWSL records this season for the most wins, points and goals.

The match was played before a sellout crowd of 21,144 at Portland’s Providence Park. That was a record for the final of a women’s pro league championship in the United States.

Brazilian Debinha scored on a header in the 13th minute, and McDonald followed with her own in the 40th. Shortly thereafter, Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch appeared to teak her ankle, but she returned for the second half.

Portland came out energized in the second half, but Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland denied a Tobin Heath blast in the 55th minute.

McDonald struck again with a header in the 64th minute that Franch got a hand on but couldn’t stop.

McDonald, a 30-year-old vet who has played for five teams in six years, led the league with eight assists in the regular season. She has three goals in the postseason.

“It feels absolutely amazing. This is what we worked so hard for,” McDonald said. “Every single minute, every single day that we put work into – it counted today,” McDonald said.

Portland Thorns beat Seattle Reign to reach NWSL final

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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.

USWNT star Horan secures NWSL No. 2 seed for Portland

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Lindsey Horan scored two goals and the Portland Thorns secured home-field advantage for the NWSL semifinals with a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Reign on Friday night.

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The victory gave the Thorns a second-place finish in the league’s standings, behind North Carolina. Portland will host the third-place Reign on Sept. 15. North Carolina will host the Chicago Red Stars in the other semifinal the next day.

The Reign went up early on Jess Fishlock’s goal in the fourth minute, stunning the sellout crowd of 21,144.

Ellie Carpenter had a chance for the Thorns in the 24th minute but her shot from distance caromed off the far post. Horan broke through in the 30th minute to tie the match, blasting a shot that that came back to her after Christine Sinclair was challenged in the box.

Heath curled a shot from distance out of Reign goalkeeper Lydia William’s reach in the 49th minute to give the Thorns the lead before Horan’s second goal, a header, in the 82nd.

Horan now has 12 goals this season, second only in the league to Chicago’s Sam Kerr, who has 15.

Megan Rapinoe did not play for the Reign because of a rib injury that also kept her out of the U.S. national team’s two recent exhibition matches against Chile. Allie Long also missed the game for the Reign because of a right knee sprain.

Portland hosts the league championship Sept. 22.