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Crystal Dunn sends Thorns to NWSL final with stoppage-time stunner

Portland is into the NWSL championship. (Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)

Crystal Dunn scored in the third minute of stoppage time Sunday to send the Portland Thorns to the NWSL Championship and end the San Diego Wave’s dream season.

Taylor Kornieck and Alex Morgan once again proved to be the thorn in Portland’s side. Morgan sent a cross in to Kornieck, who put it past Bella Bixby with a header to give San Diego a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.

“It will take a lot of defensive cover,” Becky Sauerbrunn told reporters on Saturday when asked about containing Kornieck and Morgan. “I think with Taylor, she’s just gifted in the air and so you have to assume she’s gonna win the majority of the aerial battles.

But the outstanding goals didn’t stop there, and Portland didn’t go away quietly.

Rocky Rodriguez answered in the 20th minute with an equalizing blast into the top shelf that quickly became a goal of the year candidate. The 1-1 scoreline held through the second half and the end of regulation, and the game appeared to be headed for extra time.

Dunn, however, played the hero for Portland after subbing on in the 60th minute. Her banger just beat Sheridan into the top corner in the 93rd minute, sealing the win for the Thorns.

The defender made her return to the field in early September after giving birth to son Marcel in May and played limited minutes heading into the NWSL playoffs.

“It’s hard to believe that I gave birth five months ago, but my team was so supportive and they’re a big reason why I’m able to get back on the pitch and play this game,” Dunn said after the game. “My teammates are incredible.”

She spoke on Saturday about playing in the big moments and wanting to put on a great performance. Dunn did that on Sunday, sending her team to the NWSL championship for the first time since 2018.

“This is it, this is why we have this job that we love,” Dunn said. “To be a part of it is just playing for these big moments and these big games coming up.

“It’s really nice to know that you’re playing for something so much bigger than just a regular season game.”