Portland Thorns Win Challenge Cup After Wild Penalty Shootout With Gotham

It was a deserved victory for the Thorns despite Carli Lloyd’s best efforts.

The Portland Thorns showed that they’re the team to beat ahead of the 2021 National Women’s Soccer League season by lifting the Challenge Cup on Saturday afternoon. It shouldn’t have been so dramatic as the Thorns dominated NJ/NY Gotham FC over the course of 90 minutes, but Christine Sinclair’s early effort was all they had to show for it while Carli Lloyd buried Gotham’s only shot on target.

The match immediately went to a shootout in front of 5,000 spectators at Providence Park, and Morgan Weaver eventually converted the winning attempt after Adrianna Franch stonewalled Nahomi Kawasumi.  

The first half was all Portland with the Thorns controlling possession, attempting 11 shots and putting three on frame. The movement of Sophia Smith and Simone Charley up top caused Gotham all sorts of issues. Behind them, Christine Sinclair provided her usual guile and Crystal Dunn and Lindsey Horan frequently got forward from midfield to make things even more difficult for Gotham’s defense. 

At the other end, Lloyd grew increasingly frustrated with the fact that Gotham didn’t have 11 Carli Lloyds out there. 

Portland went ahead in the eighth-minute after Sinclair won possession in Gotham’s half, took the space given to her and curled one inside the far post from 22 yards out.

Gotham goalkeeper Dijana Haracic produced a couple good saves to keep it at 1-0, and then Horan struck the post with a free kick in the 39th minute.

Portland’s dominance continued in the second half with rising shot and corner kick counts, but then, in the 61st minute, Imani Dorsey hung up an inviting cross that allowed Lloyd to dunk on Becky Sauerbrunn.  

The match was destined to go straight to penalties after 90 minutes if still level, so the Thorns pushed desperately to regain their advantage. Sinclair came closest to finding a winner in the 86th minute, but Haracic denied her with a fingertip save.

The penalty shootout was intense with both Portland’s Meghan Klingenberg and Gotham’s Jennifer Cudjoe hitting the crossbar among the first five takers, setting the stage for Franch’s big save…

And Weaver’s winner in the seventh round.

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