Thursday, May 13, 2021

USWNT Rewind: Thorns Clinch West, Goals Abound Abroad

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From the UEFA Women’s Champions League to the NWSL Challenge Cup, it was an action-packed week stateside and across the Atlantic for the U.S. Women’s National Team Players with their respective clubs.

One spot in the NWSL Challenge Cup Championship match has been clinched as Portland Thorns FC secured the Western Division title with a 2-0 win over rivals OL Reign on Wednesday evening. U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan was instrumental in both Portland goals, curling in a masterful free kick from 19-yards out in the 17th minute to open the scoring after USWNT forward Sophia Smith drew the foul for Portland just outside the area.

Leading 1-0 at the half, Portland quickly added to its advantage after the break, scoring on the 46th minute. Simone Charley buried the rebound after the initial strike by Horan was saved by Reign goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. The match also marked the Thorns debut for Crystal Dunn, who joined the club in October of 2020 after winning back-to-back NWSL Championships with the North Carolina Courage. Dunn went the full 90 minutes in her Thorns debut, as did Horan, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Adrianna Franch, who made three saves while recording her second consecutive shutout. The win gave Portland nine points through three matches in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup and secured a berth to the Championship Match on May 8 which will pit Portland – the winner of the Western Division – against the top finisher from the Eastern Division.

Elsewhere in the Western Division, the Chicago Red Stars and Kansas City played to a 1-1 draw. Amy Rodriguez put Kansas City in front in the 80th minute, but the Red Stars equalized just two minutes later with a goal by Katie Johnson. USWNT forward Mallory Pugh played 35 minutes in her Red Stars debut while fellow U.S. internationals Alyssa Naeher, Casey Krueger, Julie Ertz and Tierna Davidson went the full 90 for Chicago.

While the battle for the top spot in the Eastern Division is still ongoing, newly rebranded NJ/NY Gotham FC sits in first thanks to a thrilling 4-3 victory over the North Carolina Courage on April 20. Midge Purce tallied a brace in the first half hour, scoring in the 18th and 26th minutes. Carli Lloyd added a goal of her own in the 32nd minute before a Jessica McDonald equalizer for North Carolina to make it 3-3 in the 50th minute. In the second minute of stoppage time, Gotham’s Evelyne Viens scored off a great build-up started by Lloyd to give the home side three points.

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