all scores

Sophia Smith leads Thorns to historic third NWSL Championship

NWSL MVP Sophia Smith scored in the fourth minute to give the Thorns a lead they would never concede. (Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns have achieved what no other NWSL club has in the league’s 10-year history, winning their third NWSL Championship with a 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Current on Saturday night.

Thorns striker and 2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith scored in the fourth minute, and Kansas City allowed an own goal right after halftime to complete Portland’s shutout at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

Smith added to her hardware collection after the game, named Championship MVP for her performance in the Thorns’ attack. As the Thorns celebrate on stage at midfield, captain Christine Sinclair received the championship trophy from commissioner Jessica Berman, nine years after winning her first NWSL title with Portland in the league’s inaugural season.

The Thorns added to their lead in the 56th minute and continued to control possession, keeping Kansas City off the scoreboard until the final whistle despite several dangerous chances by the No. 5 seed.

Ten minutes into the second half, Portland’s Raquel Rodriguez passed the ball down the flank to Yazmeen Ryan — who kickstarted much of the Thorn’s offense on Saturday. Ryan sent a low cross into the box as Smith crashed the net. The forward just missed the ball, but Current goalkeeper Adrianna Franch tipped it off defender Addisyn Merrick and into their own goal.

Portland didn’t let up after taking a 2-0 lead. Thorns striker Morgan Weaver tested Franch in the 57th minute with a flicked header to the left post, which Franch dove to tip over the endline. One minute later, Weaver drilled a shot from outside the 18-yard box that hit off the crossbar and over the net.

In the 70th minute, Franch made her best save of the night, blocking Hinan Sugita’s curving shot with a full-extension dive to maintain the 2-0 scoreline.

Portland put Kansas City in an early hole, forcing a turnover in the midfield and pouncing on a mistake by the Current’s backline in the fourth minute. As center back Elizabeth Ball slid to try to recover a misplayed pass, Smith ran onto the ball and beat Adrianna Franch on a breakaway, cutting to the left and slotting it home.

The goal was Smith’s first of the playoffs and 15th of the season.

The Thorns dominated possession for most of the half, holding a 56 percent advantage over the Current for the first 45 minutes. Smith had another dangerous chance in the 27th minute, splitting two defenders in the box and firing a shot just wide right of the goal.

From there, Kansas City built momentum going into halftime. Forward Kristen Hamilton sent a cross in toward Kate Del Fava at the back post in the 33rd minute, which Del Fava headed just over the crossbar. Six minutes later, Hamilton nearly split Thorns defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Meghan Klingenberg in the box off a pass from Hailie Mace, but she slipped on the turn and the Thorns recovered.

Portland now holds the all-time record for the most NWSL Championships after winning the title in 2013 and 2017. The Thorns finished the postseason on top after conceding the NWSL Shield to OL Reign in the final weekend of the regular season, with head coach Rhian Wilkinson earning the trophy in her first season at the helm.