Portland Denies Flash Fourth Straight Title 2-0

12:20 AM, Sep 1, 2013   |    comments
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Rochester, N.Y. (Saturday, August 24, 2013) - On Saturday night, the Portland Thorns FC ended the Western New York Flash's bid for a fourth-consecutive title, defeating the home team 2-0 in the 2013 National Women's Soccer League Championship. Goals from Tobin Heath and Christine Sinclair lifted the Thorns in front of a season-high 9,129 fans at Sahlen's Stadium.

The visiting Thorns scored a goal on each side of the half, breaking through in the 40th minute off a set piece goal from Heath. After being fouled about 30-yards out, Heath sent a clear strike into the upper-left corner, beating the outstretched hand of Flash goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.

Sinclair extended the deficit to two goals in second half stoppage time after she found herself alone with Franch. After the Flash had pushed up for the equalizer, the Canadian international broke free on a pass from Alex Morgan and hit the low corner.

The Championship game was a physical battle throughout, with 28 total fouls and six yellow cards distributed. The Flash had the majority of opportunities early on, starting just two minutes in. After Sarah Huffman sent a long ball to Samantha Kerr, the forward used a crafty one-touch with her heel to send Abby Wambach toward the net. However, Kat Williamson was able to get a foot on the ball, passing back to Leblanc for the clear.

In the ninth minute, Carli Lloyd nearly set-up Wambach with a lofted inside of the foot chip, but Leblanc grabbed the ball just before header contact could be made.

The Flash had their best opportunity of the half in the 12th minute. Wambach and Lloyd exchanged the ball closely before Wambach sent a cross to Kerr. One-on-one with her defender, the Australian international was able to head the ball toward net but Leblanc made a fingertip save, deflecting the ball off the crossbar to keep it out.

Eighteen minutes into the first leg, Lloyd stepped through a ball in the midfield and, about 40 yards out, took aim at the Portland net. The distance shot nearly picked out the left upper 90, provoking Leblanc to dive across the goalmouth for a save attempt. However, Lloyd's shot went just wide.

Franch received her first true test 22-minutes in when Sinclair put a strong header effort towards net. After the Canadian connected on a cross from Marian Dougherty, Franch punched the ball over the net and out of play.

The crowd was treated to a nail-biting 25th minute after both teams had great opportunities. It was Portland first after a Dougherty free kick was flicked on by the head of Danielle Foxhoven, finding a wide-open Nikki Marshall on the other end. However, the defender could not hit the target and sent the ball wide of Franch. Just seconds later, the Flash responded when Adriana Martin drew two defenders and laid the ball off for an unmarked Lloyd. However, Lloyd's shot went wide in nearly the same fashion as Portland's previous attempt.

With under 10 minutes to play in the first half, Franch came up with a huge save, denying Foxhoven at point-blank range to keep the game scoreless.

Coming out of the locker room with the Thorns up 1-0, Kat Williamson dragged down Wambach in the box, earning her second yellow card and an automatic red, putting Portland down to 10 players. The Flash were granted a free kick just outside the penalty box but Lloyd's shot was blocked and eventually cleared by the defense.

The Thorns nearly put the home team in a two-goal deficit in the 60th minute after Franch was unable to clear a corner kick. The ball landed in front of Sinclair who hit forward with her knee, but Katherine Reynolds was on the line and headed the ball out to keep the game 1-0. However, the forward would later add the insurance goal to put the game away.

The Flash outshot the visitors 18-9 in the game, with both teams putting seven on target. Franch came up with five stops while Leblanc totaled seven.

Tobin Heath was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

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