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 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 she Move to a fast break saw her in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Adrianna Franch. The keeper did not present a challenge for Smith, who also won the game’s MVP, as she scored what would have been the winner with a brilliant cut down the left and a low finish. The Thorns kept up the pressure as Kansas City held their own until the second half when an Addisyn Merrick own goal doubled the lead. Yazmeen Ryan created the danger by finding Smith in the box and Merrick slotted the cross past Franch to double Portland’s lead and cement the title for the favourites.

This is 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 a shot on goal, Bella Bixby may have been sitting in a chair for parts of the game as the Thorns’ defense came into play. Relentless in their pressing, the current midfield were never allowed time to get into a rhythm. Additionally, the offense created too many chances for Kansas City’s defense to contain.

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Here are some highlights from the match:

Spectacular Smith

Tearing defenders apart and doing it with a smile, that’s what Smith does after becoming the youngest player to score in an NWSL final with her opening goal to power the Thorns to victory. Also being named the last MVP to go along with her league MVP award, Smith has had quite the season. What’s scary is that while she got into space with ease and was also able to help force an own goal for Portland’s insurance goal, there’s so much room for Smith to grow.

She is learning from good company in Cristine Sinclair, who has more international goals than any player with 190 for Canada, but there are more accolades in Smith’s future. Over the course of the game, she committed just three misplaced passes, put two of her four shots on goal and completed three dribbles as her presence powered Kansas City on the night. It’s only up from here, and it’s already way up.

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The current can keep the head up

While it was disappointing for Current not to register a shot on goal as they looked out of their depth in the match, 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 multiple players who have won NWSL championships in the past. A team can get experience in big games just by playing in them and that’s what Rryma can get from the night. In just their second season of existence, the Stream went from bottom of the league to the finals, got a name and logo, and received significant investment in their facilities and roster.

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This is a team that is trending and this final will be the first of many for Aktuality. Making more additions to have a deeper bench and just one more year together should see Aktualja improve by leaps and bounds next season.

Past, present and future

The Thorns have the deepest roster in the league and are excellent 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 age 17, Moultrie became the youngest player ever to appear in an NWSL championship after scoring three goals and assisting three more during the season. With the world at her feet, Moultrie will continue to push for playing time as the future is in good hands.


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