Portland Thorns

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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.

[ USMNT-BRAZIL: Full recap | Player ratings ]

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.

NWSL final: Horan’s goal all Thorns need against NC Courage

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Lindsey Horan scored in the 50th minute, and the Portland Thorns beat the North Carolina Courage 1-0 on Saturday for the National Women’s Soccer League championship.

It is Portland’s second title. The Thorns also won the NWSL’s inaugural championship in 2013.

The Courage, who finished the regular season atop the league standings, lost both Taylor Smith and Kristen Hamilton to injury in the first half of the physical match in front of 8,124 fans at Orlando City Stadium.

“Maybe the most beautiful ugly game I’ve ever been a part of,” Thorns coach Mark Parsons said.

No team has ever won the Supporters’ Shield and the championship in the same season. The Courage also were trying for back-to-back titles.

The Thorns were knocked by the New York Flash last season in a semifinal match at Providence Park. The Flash went on to beat the Washington Spirit for the league title before moving to North Carolina and becoming the Courage.

The Thorns’ journey this year included a team-bonding trip to Astoria to start the season and a league-high 10 wins at home for a 14-5-5 finish before a 4-1 semifinal victory over the Orlando Pride.

In its semifinal, North Carolina defeated the Chicago Red Stars 1-0 on Denise O’Sullivan’s goal in the 90th minute.

The Courage finished 16-7-1 to claim the Supporters’ Shield. The team won its first four games this season and stayed atop the table for almost the rest of the way, led by Lynn Williams — last season’s league MVP — with nine goals and five assists.

Christine Sinclair, who plays for the Canadian national team, was Portland’s top scorer this year with eight goals. Meghan Klingenberg had six assists.

Portland beat the Flash 2-0 to win the championship in the league’s first season in 2013. This season, the two teams split their two regular-season meetings.

The NWSL is wrapping up its fifth season. No other professional women’s soccer league in the United States has lasted as long.

The league was boosted by a television deal that put games on Lifetime throughout the season, including the championship.

NC Courage advance to NWSL final, will face Portland

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CARY, N.C. (AP) Denise O’Sullivan scored in the 90th minute to send the North Carolina Courage to the National Women’s Soccer League championship with a 1-0 semifinal victory over the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.

The Courage will face the Portland Thorns next Saturday in Orlando, Florida. The Thorns beat the Orlando Pride 4-1 on Saturday.

The Courage won the league’s Supporters’ Shield for the best regular season record at 16-7-1. The team was previously the Western New York Flash. The franchise won last season’s NWSL championship before being sold and moving to North Carolina in the offseason.

The Thorns (14-5-5) finished second in the 10-team league. Last season, Portland went 12-3-5 and finished with the league’s best record but fell 4-3 in the semifinals to the Flash.

The Courage won its first four games this season and stayed atop the table for almost the rest of the way, led by Lynn Williams – last season’s league MVP – with nine goals and five assists.

No team has ever won the Supporters’ Shield and the championship in the same season.

Chicago, paced by forward Christen Press with 11 goals, stumbled in August with three losses at home but went undefeated for its final four games. Teammate Julie Ertz had four goals and three assists playing a defensive midfield position.

The Red Stars had won all three regular-season meetings with the Courage.

The NWSL is wrapping up its historic fifth season. No other professional women’s soccer league in the United States has lasted as long.