Horan Helps Portland Thorns Win Second NWSL Championship

One goal was enough for Portland to claim its first title since 2013 with a win over North Carolina.

Lindsey Horan struck in the 50th minute to propel the Portland Thorns to their second NWSL championship, a 1-0 victory over the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL final on Saturday in Orlando, Florida. 

A crowd of 8,124 watched the final at Orlando City Stadium.

Portland won the inaugural NWSL championship in 2013 and lost in the semifinals to North Carolina last year after winning the NWSL Shield. On Saturday, the Thorns edged the Courage, who themselves won the NWSL Shield this year as the league’s best regular-season team. 

 

Horan got on the end of a flicked-on free kick sent into the box by Emily Sonnett to score the only goal of the match. Surprisingly wide open at the far post, Horan smashed the ball into the back of the net with a well-placed volley past Courage keeper Katelyn Rowland.  

“She’s the best and biggest in enormous games,” Portland coach Mark Parson said. “You think back in the last two years, the semifinal of last year, the person who grabbed that goal to make it 4-3 was Lindsey. Thankful the ball dropped to her and knew it was going to end up in one place. Tight game, maybe the most beautiful ugly game I’ve ever been a part of. Glad we won and that’s over.”

 

North Carolina struck the cross bar in the first half and both teams had great chances in the second half as the match opened up, but no one could put anything away. 

The match was a physical one, with North Carolina losing both defender Taylor Smith and forward Kristen Hamilton to injury in the first half after both collided with Tobin Heath on separate occasions. The whistle was blown for 24 total fouls and three yellow cards.

But in the end, as it was throughout the season for Portland, defense won the match for the Thorns. Adrianna French had a league-record 11 clean sheets in the regular season and added a 12th on Saturday thanks in large part to this timely block from Emily Menges late in the match. 

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