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2017 NWSL Championship: Sunday notebook

The Portland Thorns celebrate their NWSL Championship (photo copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

One day after the Portland Thorns defeated the North Carolina Courage, 1-0 to win the NWSL Championship, here are some story lines to follow in the aftermath.

Taylor Smith has separated AC joint

Courage right back Taylor Smith suffered an AC joint sepraratoion when she landed awkwardly on her right arm following a two-handed shove from behind by Tobin Heath. The diagnosis was confirmed by the club to Neil Morris of WRAL Sports Fan.

The challenge occurred in the 2nd minute of Saturday’s match. Heath was whistled for a foul but not issued a card. Smith initially stayed in the match but was carrying her right arm very close to her body while running. She finally capitulated and was replaced by Makenzy Doniak in the 12th minute.

Smith is scheduled to join the United States national team on Sunday. U.S. Soccer has yet to make a statement, but with three-to-four weeks of recovery time anticipated it seems unlikely Smith will be able to participate in camp or friendlies against South Korea next week.

There has been no update yet on Kristen Hamilton who stretched awkwardly and went down in a challenge with Heath later in the first half. Hamilton, who had initially dropped back to cover Smith’s right back spot, also had to come off. Doniak finished the match as the Courage right back.

Thorns catch early flight, will celebrate at Timbers match

After a night of celebrating in downtown Orlando the NWSL champion Thorns were set to catch an early flight back to Portland where they will attend Sunday’s Timbers game against D.C. United.

“I remember the celebration in 2013 when we got back and a few hundred people met us,” Christine Sinclair, one of three holdovers with Tobin Heath and Allie Long, said. “It should be even bigger this time.”

The Thorns managed to finagle things with U.S. Soccer to allow the club’s contingent of USWNT players to spend one extra day with the club before departing for training camp. The team was not planning to organize any sort of formal celebration without them.

Sinclair is first to four

The fifth NWSL Championship was also the 11th WoSoPro final dating back to WUSA (2001-2003) and WPS (2009-2011). Christine Sinclair is now the first player to be victorious in four different league seasons. The Canadian skipper was part of FC Gold Pride in 2010 and the Western New York Flash in 2011. She was then on the two Thorns title teams in 2013 and 2017.

Sinclair, who has never been on the losing end of a final, has four goals in her four finals. Saturday was the first time she did not score in a final.

In other NWSL Championship minutea, the pattern of backup goalkeepers repeating as champions continues. Katelyn Rowland was the backup on FC Kansas City in 2015 and one of two backups on the Flash in 2016. The other backup on the 2016 Flash was Britt Eckerstrom who was Adrianna Franch’s backup on these Thorns. Rowland was bidding for three straight when she started for the Courage on Saturday but wound up on the losing end.

Chants over the line?

Saturday’s match featured two lively supporters groups, the Riveters from Portland and the Oak City Supporters from North Carolina. As the match fell apart under an avalanche of hard challenges and sloppy play, so too did the language in the chants coming down from at least one of the supporters groups in Orlando City Stadium.

Asked about one particularly unoriginal chant directed at the city of Portland, Sinclair shrugged it off and then offered this gem about having profanities directed at her team and her city.

“I’ve been waiting my entire career for people to care.”

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