NWSL Championship: Sophia Smith scores winner as Portland Thorns blanks Kansas City Current for league title

The Portland Thorns became the first team to win three NWSL championships, defeating the Kansas City Current 2-0 on Saturday night in the final at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. League MVP Sophia Smith opened the scoring in the fourth minute of the game when the movement at a quick penetration saw her in a one-on-one confrontation with goalkeeper Adrianna Franch. The goalkeeper posed no challenge for Smith, who also won the game’s MVP, as she scored what would be the game-winner with a smooth cut from the left and a low shot. The Thorns kept the pressure on while Kansas City held its defense until the second half when Addisyn Merrick doubled the lead with an own goal. Yazmeen Ryan created the danger by looking for Smith in the box and Merrick fed Franch to double Portland’s lead and cement the title favourites.

Here’s the winning goal:

From start to finish, Portland’s championship experience showed as they played like a team that had been here before. Not allowing Kansas City to get a shot on goal, Bella Bixby was able to sit in her chair for parts of the game as the Thorns defense came into play. Relentless in pressing, the current midfield had no time to get into a rhythm. On top of that, the offense created too many chances for the Kansas City defense.

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Here are some conclusions from the match:

Spectacular Smith

Destroying defenders with a smile is what Smith does as she becomes the youngest player to score in an NWSL final with her first goal to lead the Thorns to victory. She was named the final MVP along with the league MVP award, Smith had a good season. The scary thing is that while she got into space with ease and was also able to score an own goal for Portland’s insurance goal, Smith has so much room to grow.

She’s learning from good company in Cristine Sinclair who has the most international goals of any player with 190 for Canada, but more accolades are in Smith’s future. During the match, she misplaced just three passes, had two of her four shots on goal and completed three dribbles as her presence sparked Kansas City’s offense that night. It’s only from here, but it’s already far worse.

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Electricity can lift their heads

While it was disappointing for the Current to not register a shot on goal as they looked out of their depth in the game, it is a good time to compare the teams. Not only do the Thorns have two players who have been on the roster in each of the 10 NWSL seasons thus far in Becky Sauerbrunn and Sinclair, but they also have plenty of players who have won NWSL championships in the past. A team can gain experience in big games just by playing in them and that’s what Struja can take from the night. In just its second season of existence, Current went from the bottom of the league to the finals, got a name and logo, and received significant investment in its facilities and roster.

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This is a team on the rise and this final will be the first of many for the Current. With the addition of new players to have a deeper bench and only one more year together, the Current should see leaps and bounds next season.

Past, present and future

The Thorns have the largest roster in the league and excel at transitioning from club legends to future torchbearers. While we’ve already covered Smith and Sinclair, Olivia Moultrie will also be able to build on her season. At 17, Moultrie became the youngest player ever to appear in the NWSL Championship after scoring three goals and assisting on three more during the season. With the world at his feet, Moultrie will continue to fight to play because the future is in good hands.


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