A season that often seemed on the brink of disaster will end in the NWSL championship match for Portland Thorns FC.
Allie Long’s 103rd minute goal capped a comeback from 2-0 down in the 1st half and staked the Thorns to a 3-2, extra time win at Verizon Wireless Field. Tobin Heath and Tiffany Weimer scored in each half to bring the Thorns level after Erika Tymrak and Melissa Henderson gave FC Kansas City an early advantage.
“It’s unreal,” Long said about coming back from a two-goal deficit, courtesy of FOX. “We just kept fighting.”
The Thorns managed the match without using Alex Morgan. However a new injury concern arose when Tobin Heath had her right foot stepped on by Desiree Scott midway through the 2nd half. Heath could be seen at the conclusion of regulation hopping back and forth to the team huddle without putting any weight on the foot.
The Blues took an early lead in the 12th minute when the Thorns failed to close off Tymrak near the top of the area. Following some of what was a rare bit of sustained attack for FC Kansas City, Tymrak slipped into space and took a pass from Leigh Ann Robinson. Neither Thorns’ center back Kat Williamson nor Rachel Beuhler stepped up to close down the Rookie of the Year and her right footed shot from 22 yards split them perfectly before alluding Karina LeBlanc to the far post.
At 25 minutes FCKC doubled the advantage. This time Lauren Holiday did much of the work, drawing most of the Thorns defense central with an on-the-ball run before finding Merritt Mathias in the vacated space on the right flank. Mathias put her pass on Henderson’s head and the forward hit it perfectly to make it 2-0. It was Henderson’s first goal of the season and the first by an FC Kansas City forward since Renae Cuellar was traded.
Henderson’s goal thwarted what had been some forward momentum for Portland which included a hard shot by Angie Kerr that forced Nicole Barnhart to leap and knock it over the bar. The Thorns did not back up though. In the 33rd minute Defender of the Year Becky Sauerbrunn made an uncharacteristically poor pass that went to Kerr. Reacting quickly Kerr one-touched it to Christine Sinclair who knocked it back wide to Kerr. The next pass was a cross to a wide open Tobin Heath whose near post finish was true to cut the host’s lead to 2-1.
The lone goal of the second half came from Weimer who had replaced Danielle Foxhoven. Nikki Marshall jumped in to keep an attacking sequence alive and sent a cross that Sinclair stepped over. The dummy run left the Blues defense confused and allowed Weimer an open shot at knotting the match.
Weimer then assisted on the game-winner when she warded off Tymrak to get into space near the top of the 18. Lauren Sesselmann came in to make the tackle but was too late and Long fell over her as she scored.
“I didn’t even look at the goal, I just knew where the goal was and I just hit it,” Long said to FOX. “It was great that it went in.”
The Thorns won for the first time all season when trailing at halftime while the Blues gave up a lead for the seventh time during the season. It was the third time they led by at least two goals and failed to get a victory.
“It’s pretty obvious that the problem we had throughout the season just hunted us down in the playoffs,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski told The Equalizer.
The Thorns will be either at Western New York or home to Sky Blue FC in next weekend’s final.
NWSL Playoffs Semifinal – Portland Thorns FC at FC Kansas City
Aug. 24, 2013 – Verizon Wireless Field at Shawnee Mission District Stadium (Overland Park, Kan.)
Goals by Half 1 2 OT F
Portland Thorns FC 1 1 1 3
FC Kansas City 2 0 0 2
FCKC: Tymrak (Robinson), 12
FCKC: Henderson (Mathias), 25
POR: Heath (Kerr), 33
POR: Weimer (Marshall), 65
POR: Long (Weimer), 103
POR: Dougherty (Caution), 50
POR: Long (Caution), 60
FCKC: Scott (Caution), 73
FCKC: Buczkowski (Caution), 86
Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Karina LeBlanc; D Marian Dougherty, D Kathryn Williamson, D Rachel Buehler, D Nikki Marshall, M Angie Kerr (Tina Ellertson, 106), M Allie Long, M Meleana Shim, M Tobin Heath (Courtney Wetzel, 74), F Christine Sinclair (capt.), F Danielle Foxhoven (Tiffany Weimer, 56)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay, D/M Emilee O’Neil, D Casey Ramirez, F Alex Morgan
TOTAL SHOTS: 21 (Sinclair, 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 12 (Shim, Weimer, 3); FOULS: 11 (Long, 4); OFFSIDES: 3; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 10
FCKC: GK Nicole Barnhart; D Kristie Mewis, D Lauren Sesselmann (Sinead Farrelly, 106), D Becky Sauerbrunn, D Leigh Ann Robinson, M Desiree Scott, M Jen Buczkowski, M Erika Tymrak, M Merritt Mathias (Courtney Jones, 82), F Lauren Holiday, F Melissa Henderson (Casey Loyd, 74)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Bianca Henninger, D Nia Williams, M Katie Kelly, M Teresa Noyola
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Holiday, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 10 (Holiday, Tymrak, 3); FOULS: 8 (Buczkowski, 4); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 9
Referee: Christina Unkel
Assistant Referees: Felisha Mariscal, Jennifer Jones
Fourth Official: Kara Honthumb
Weather: Sunny, 90 degrees
All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial