Thorns advance to championship game with overtime win at Kansas City
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Midfielder Allie Long scored the game-winning goal in the 103rd minute as Portland Thorns FC erased a two-goal deficit for a 3-2, overtime win against FC Kansas City in a National Women's Soccer League playoff semifinal match before 4,016 fans at Verizon Wireless Field at Shawnee Mission District Stadium on Saturday.
Thorns FC will face the winner of Saturday's second semifinal between No. 1 seed Western New York and No. 4 seed Sky Blue FC in the NWSL championship game on Saturday, Aug. 31. Portland will host the final if Sky Blue FC records an upset over the Flash. If Western New York wins, Thorns FC will travel to Rochester, N.Y., to play the championship match.
With two minutes remaining in the first half of overtime, substitute forward Tiffany Weimer threaded a through ball into space near the top of the box for Long. The midfielder fired a quick shot from nearly 18 yards out that beat FC Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart low inside the far left post, giving Thorns FC a one-goal lead entering the final 15 minutes of overtime. The game-winning goal was Long's fourth of the year, after recording three goals and three assists during the regular season.
Portland goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who tied a season high with 10 saves, and the Thorns FC defense helped hold FC Kansas City to just one shot on goal in overtime.
Thorns FC, who entered the match as the No.3 seed in the playoffs, conceded two goals in the opening 25 minutes of the match as NWSL Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak netted the opening goal in the 12th minute. Taking a pass from defender Leigh Ann Robinson, Tymrak found space near the top of the penalty box and fired a shot that snuck inside the far left post.
FC Kansas City doubled its lead in the 25th minute when forward Melissa Henderson delivered a looping header over LeBlanc following a cross from midfielder Merritt Mathias on the right flank.
Facing a two-goal deficit for the second time this season at FC Kansas City, Portland pulled a goal back before the halftime break as midfielder Tobin Heath netted her first goal for Thorns FC in the 33rd minute. After a turnover by FC Kansas City in the attacking third, forward Christine Sinclair collected the loose ball and delivered a pass to midfielder Angie Kerr on the right side. Kerr's cross into the box met Heath near the penalty spot and the U.S. Women's National Team midfielder made no mistake with a strong shot past Barnhart.
Trailing by a goal with 25 minutes remaining in regulation, Thorns FC found the equalizer off the foot of Weimer, who entered the match just nine minutes earlier. Defender Nikki Marshall sent a ball into the middle of the penalty box that Sinclair stepped over and left for Weimer to deposit into the back of the net in the 65th minute.
Thorns FC finished the semifinal match with a 21-14 advantage in shots, including a 12-10 edge in shots on goal. Weimer tallied a goal and an assist on four shots and Sinclair attempted a team-high six shots for Portland.
For FC Kansas City, midfielder Lauren Holiday attempted four shots and Tymrak fired three shots on goal.
The NWSL championship game will be nationally televised on FOX Sports 2, while also being available on FOXSoccer2Go, on Saturday, Aug. 31, at a location yet to be determined.
Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan was an available substitute on Saturday, but did not see action.
Both Allie Long and Tiffany Weimer have recorded a point in consecutive games.
Weimer has tallied a goal and two assists in the last two matches.
After going 0-4-1 during the regular season when trailing at halftime, Thorns FC recorded their first win of 2013 when trailing at the half.
Including the regular season, Thorns FC improved its NWSL-best road record to 7-2-3.
The win was Portland's first in three visits to Verizon Wireless Field at Shawnee Mission District Stadium this year.
Tobin Heath's goal in the 33rd minute was her first in a Thorns FC uniform; she recorded three assists during the regular season. Heath later left the match in the 75th minute due to an injury.
Portland attempted more than 20 shots for the fourth time this year.
Portland's 12 shots on goal was one shy of tying the season-high mark of 13.
Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc tied a season-high with 10 saves against FC Kansas City.