NWSL Semifinals: A Look Back

FCKansasCityPortlandThornsNWSLPlayoffs1 (PortlandThorns)

By MIKE McCALL

Save for possibly the location, the first National Women’s Soccer League championship will go down just as expected.

The two preseason favorites, the Portland Timbers and Western New York Flash, won their semifinal games on Saturday to set up a final that features some of the biggest names in women’s soccer.

Perhaps the only surprise — a mild one — in the matchup is that the Flash will be the favorites next weekend, playing at home against a Portland squad that’s dealing with a key injury and coming off a wild match in Kansas City.

For a closer look at how the Thorns and Flash booked their places in the final, here’s a rundown of the two semifinals:

PORTLAND TRIUMPHS IN OVERTIME

Down two goals after 25 minutes in Kansas City and playing without injured star forward Alex Morgan, it looked like the Thorns had reached the end of the road.

But Portland came roaring back to tie the score before Allie Long found the net in the first period of extra time to give the Thorns a 3-2 victory in front of 4,016 fans at Shawnee Mission District Stadium.

The home side took a quick lead behind goals from NWSL Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak and Melissa Henderson, but Portland’s third musketeer, U.S. midfielder Tobin Heath, pulled one back in the 33rd minute to keep hope alive.

Tiffany Weimer knocked home the equalizer in the 65th, sending the match to extra time and setting the table for Long’s heroics in the 103rd.

The comeback saved face a bit for Portland. Even if they have fallen short of lofty expectations this season, it’s hard to argue with a club finishing tied for first and reaching the final. However, there were troubling signs, as Heath had to leave the game with a foot injury and Morgan didn’t leave the subs bench due to her MCL sprain.

On the other side, FCKC’s season got even more heartbreaking. A late goal in the finale cost them the regular season title, and then they blew a two-goal lead at home in the semifinal. The story of their year can be summed up with this stat: they led in 18 of 23 matches but came away with 11 wins.

FLASH CRUISE PAST SBFC

While one semifinal was chock full of drama, the Flash didn’t leave much doubt with a 2-0 win at home over Sky Blue FC.

The NWSL Shield winners did exactly as they were supposed to, disposing of a struggling SBFC team with goals from Carli Lloyd in the first half and in stoppage time.

WNY outshot their opponents 14-5, led by the duo of Lloyd and Abby Wambach, and they’ll head to the final riding an eight-game unbeaten streak.

With that kind of form, Portland’s health concerns and a home crowd (7,316 were at Sahlen’s Stadium on Saturday), the Flash will be liking their chances to solidify a fourth title across four leagues in their past four seasons.

What did you think? Surprised FCKC collapsed again? Is this the matchup you expected all along? Will Heath and Morgan suit up? And can the Thorns win without them?

Share your thoughts below.

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10 Responses to NWSL Semifinals: A Look Back

  1. RB says:

    “the Flash will be liking their chances to solidify a fourth title across four leagues in their past four seasons”

    There’s something you don’t read every day.

    Thanks for the report. Guess the league won’t get its likely preferred high-attendance showcase sort of final in Portland, but that’s the way it goes.

    • West of the Cascades says:

      We’ll miss watching the Thorns here in Portland next Saturday, but hope that the Rochester fans will turn out at least 10,000 for the final — they turned out 10,461 for the 2011 WPS championship game. Of course, that’s half of the crowd we would have had here in Portland … but thank god the final is on a real soccer field and not a high school football field.

  2. Rory says:

    Was Alex Morgan tweeting while on the bench? I’m not 100% sure of the timing, but I think she was. In any case, she didn’t like a joke that Beau Dure put up about how USWNT players get all the calls, she retweeted his joke and called him an idiot. I think this happened during the actual game. Do they allow someone to sit on the bench and tweet when they could go in at any moment?

  3. Nicole says:

    Portland Timbers??? Come on!

  4. CharonPDX says:

    “the Flash will be liking their chances to solidify a fourth title across four leagues in their past four seasons”

    There’s something you don’t read every day.

    That’s just a sad reflection of the reality of women’s professional soccer in the US of late.

    Of course, the teams have been COMPLETELY revamped since last year – WNY only has a single player that was on last year’s squad, and three of their players from last year (Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair, and Becky Edwards) now play for Portland. So, in an interesting turn, if WNY repeats, only one player continues the run, but if Portland wins, three players continue the run of being on the championship team.

    • Flash Fan says:

      Morgan, SInclair and Edwards did not play for the Flash in 2012 (WPSL Elite). That was 2011.

  5. Ben says:

    FCKC’s attendance was about half of what the announced number was. Nowhere close to 4,000. Then a third of the crowd left at halftime. Just adds to the embarrassment of playing on a high school football field. These ladies are professionals and deserve much better than what KC has to offer. The franchise should be embarrased, and relocated to a city that actually wants them.

  6. CW in LA says:

    I hope the Flash will bring in some extra lighting to shine on the field; that place is pretty dark for night games.