Thorns bring Portland reason to celebrate

Shootout win earns Thorns NWSL Challenge Cup title

Cliff Pfenning
May 13, 2021

The Portland Thorns outlasted NJ/NY Gotham FC on penalty kicks 6-5 on Saturday to win the NWSL Challenge Cup, with Morgan Weaver clinching it in the seventh round of the shootout.

After the teams finished regulation tied 1-1, each missed once off the crossbar in the first three rounds of the shootout, and it was tied 4-4 through five rounds. To open the seventh round, Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch dove to her right and parried Nahomi Kawasumi's shot away with her left hand. Weaver buried the next shot to seal the win for Portland, which dominated chances throughout the game. Franch earned MVP honors.

Christine Sinclair struck first for the Thorns in the eighth minute with a curling left-footed strike from the top of the box into the left corner, after stealing the ball from Carli Lloyd.

Lloyd answered in the 61st minute, elevating over U.S. national teammate and Thorns defender Becky Sauerbrunn to head home a cross from Imani Dorsey into the right corner.

Portland had 11 shots (three on goal) in the first half and several close calls in the second half. In a seven-minute span starting in the 72nd minute, the Thorns narrowly missed four chances to retake the lead: Gotham defender Mandy Freeman cleared a ball off her own goal line; Sinclair put a close-range header wide left; Sophia Smith missed wide right on a breakaway; and Simone Charley's breakaway goal was called back for an offside ruling.

Then in the 86th minute, Sinclair's left-footed strike from inside the box was deflected just past the post by diving Gotham keeper DiDi Haracic, who got enough on the shot with her left hand.

Ifeoma Onumonu missed a point-blank header for Gotham in the third minute of stoppage time.

Cliff Pfenning

Cliff is the publisher of, and has decades of experience in writing, photography, videography and graphic design. He's been a sportswriter in Oregon for more than three decades and has even taught sports broadcasting in Portland. He lives in North Portland in a house built in 1912 that has a backyard deck easily turned into a 'Top Golf' set-up for wiffle golf balls ... and cornhole.