Thorns win Challenge Cup after penalty shootout with Gotham

Sports

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Morgan Weaver buried her penalty kick after Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch stopped Nahomi Kawasumi’s attempt and the Thorns won the Challenge Cup tournament on a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw with Gotham on Saturday.

The Thorns did not drop a match in the National Women’s Soccer League preseason tournament. Following the seven-round shootout, the fans at Providence Park chanted “A-D, A-D,” Franch’s nickname.

“Everybody did what they needed to do to put ourselves in a good position for me to make one save, and then we brought it home,” Franch said. “But it comes way before that. If we don’t score a goal in this game, we’re not taking PKs, if we don’t keep them off the board any more than one, we’re not taking PKs.”

Gotham, previously known as Sky Blue before an offseason rebrand, won a pair of group-stage games, including a 4-3 victory over the North Carolina Courage.

“We weren’t able to possess as we wanted to. Credit to the Thorns for putting us under pressure,” Gotham coach Freya Combe said. “We weren’t quite firing on all cylinders until the second half. So it turned into a bit more of a counter-attacking game. But I think it’s good that we’ve got those tools in our armory with the pace that we’ve got in our front line, that we can vary up our game a little bit.”

Christine Sinclair’s bending strike in the eighth minute gave the Thorns an early lead. It was her second goal of the tournament.

The Canadian forward became the NWSL’s active leader with 60 career goals. North Carolina’s Lynn Williams has 59. Sinclair holds the record for most career international goals, among men or women, with 186.

Portland’s Lindsey Horan had a free kick from a dangerous spot out in front of the goal in the 39th minute, but it hit the post after going over the wall.

Gotham broke through in the 60th minute on a header from Carli Lloyd. It was the veteran’s second goal of the tournament.

The Thorns had an opportunity in the 72nd minute, but Simone Charley’s shot from close range was cleared off the goal line by defender Mandy Freeman. It appeared Charley had a goal some five minutes later, but she was ruled offside and the game went to penalties.

Portland outshot Gotham 26-8 in regulation.

“I did think the game should have been wrapped up way much earlier. And look, we got away with it today because that could have snuck up and gone the wrong way, and that would have been a really harsh lesson for us,” Thorns coach Mark Parsons said. “The goal is not to do that again in the future.”

Franch stretched to make the one-handed save during the shootout and was named the game’s MVP. She was sidelined all last season because of injury, and missed Portland’s successful fall series.

“Outside of the rehab, everybody struggled with 2020. It was a rough year for everyone. The way this team performed last year, that’s what got us here today,” Franch said. “The growth that got us here today started last year.”

The match, broadcast nationally on CBS, had an early start at 10 a.m. local time. When the match was finalized last week, it appeared that fans would not be allowed in Providence Park. But Gov. Kate Brown reduced the coronavirus threat level in the county on Tuesday and some 4,000 spectators attended the game.

The league’s regular season opens next week.

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