Western New York 0 : 2 Portland Thorns
by Kara McDermott, Prost Amerika Womens Football Correspondent
With one final knife thrust in stoppage time, Christine Sinclair guaranteed the Portland Thorns the title in the NWSL championship game against Western New York Flash.
The real star of the day though was Tobin Heath, who scored to put the Thorns on the board just before half time in the 40th minute.
A minute before, Heath was brought down roughly by the shirt by New York’s Amy Barczuk. Heath had been struggling with a injury to her left ankle leading up to the game and was visibly angry with the foul that did not bring a card.
But the opportunity for revenge came quickly as another tackle earned Portland a free kick 10 yards outside the penalty area on the left side.
Defender Marian Dougherty along with Sinclair and Heath conferenced over the ball, but in the end there was no subterfuge. Heath clearly approached the ball and with one clean, hard strike rocketed it into the top near post outside the dive of goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.
The eye-popping shot earned Heath MVP honors for the match. She has been instrumental in the playoffs for Portland. This is Heath’s second goal of the season, the first came in the semi-finals when she helped bring the Thorns back from a deficit to win a nail-biter against Kansas City FC.
The match was a ping-pong game of aggressive play and dangerous chances. The stakes rose considerably for the Thorns in the 61st minute when defender Kat Williamson tangled up with New York’s Abby Wambach at the top of Portland’s box as the ball was being served from the right side of the field. The contact wasn’t too great, but referee Kari Seitz judged it enough to earn Williamson a second yellow and an ejection from the game.
Portland was forced to play down a man for a third of the game, but managed to hold off New York’s offensive onslaught lead by Wambach and Carli Lloyd, who alone took eight shots. Altogether, the Flash doubled Portland’s opportunities 18-9, though the teams were equal in shots on goal with seven apiece.
But the goal-seeking wasn’t one-sided. Sinclair was denied off the line on a corner kick in the 61st minute, but came back for her taste of flesh in the waning minutes of the match to make sure that the Flash did not force overtime.
From the right side, substitute Alex Morgan played a textbook through ball threaded up the middle of the field. The formidable Canadian, already outpositioning her defender, ran on to the ball and had the time and space to perfectly place a ball on the ground to the far post past the approaching Franch.
The Rose City was able to celebrate the victory with an excited contingent of fans who flew across the country to support the team in New York, and then later with a larger group that met the returning champions at the airport.
The side will hold a 2013 National Women’s Soccer League championship celebration event, free and open to the public, on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 12 noon (Pacific) at JELD-WEN Field.
Lineups & Stats
WNY: GK Adrianna Franch, D Brittany Taylor, D Estelle Johnson, D Amy Barczuk (McCall Zerboni, 55), D Sarah Huffman (Vicki DiMartino, 72), M Angela Salem, M Carli Lloyd, M Katherine Reynolds, M Adriana Martin, F Abby Wambach, F Samantha Kerr (Jodi-Ann Robinson, 84)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Pamela Tajonar, M Laura Heyboer, M Veronica Perez, M Ingrid Wells
TOTAL SHOTS: 18 (Lloyd, 8); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Lloyd, 4); FOULS: 16 (Lloyd, 3); OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 5
POR: GK Karina LeBlanc, D Marian Dougherty, D Kathryn Williamson, D Rachel Buehler, D Nikki Marshall, M Angie Kerr (Courtney Wetzel, 80), M Allie Long, M Meleana Shim, M Tobin Heath (Tina Ellertson, 63), F Danielle Foxhoven (Alex Morgan, 71), F Christine Sinclair (capt.)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay, D/M Emilee O’Neil, D Casey Ramirez, F Tiffany Weimer
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Heath, 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Heath, 3); FOULS: 12 (Long, 4); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 7
Referee: Kari Seitz