The Portland Thorns won the West group of the NWSL Challenge Cup and advanced to the title game after defeating OL Reign 2-0.
Portland started their match against Cascadia rivals OL Reign quickly. The Thorns pressed the Reign high up the pitch and forced them into turnovers in their own half. But the first chance of the game fell to the Reign. Bethany Balcer got her head to a lofted cross but Adrianna Franch caught it cleanly.
Two minutes later Meghan Klingenberg found Simone Charley in the box and her shot was saved. Portland started to dictate the tempo and pinned the Reign in their own half.
Lindsey Horan played a penetrative pass to Sophia Smith on the top of the 18-yard box. Smith was fouled and Horan stepped up to take the free-kick in the 17th minute. Horan curled her shot into the top corner to give the Thorns a 1-0 lead.
Portland continued to dominate throughout the half but OL Reign created a few dangerous moments on the break. In the 35th minute, Balcer tried to round Franch after a Portland turnover. She cut down her angle and the Thorns defense recovered.
The Thorns countered and Charley found Christine Sinclair in the penalty area. Sinclair blasted the shot over the bar. Charley was involved in the rest of the opportunities in the first half. She forced Karen Bardsley into three saves and one of her shots deflected to the feet of Smith. Her shot was cleared off the line.
Charley doubled the Thorns’ lead at the start of the second half. Her shot was saved and Horan’s shot was saved. But Charley finished her second opportunity.
“Today would have been my grandma’s 94th birthday,” said Charley in the post-match press conference. “She passed away during preseason so being able to get a goal for her today meant the world to me. That was definitely for her.”
“It was a great ball by Lindsay [Horan]. She had a great shot and I was able to follow it up and... I was really excited about it just because it was my first goal of the season. And I just I had my grandma on my mind today and so I did it for Lillie Mae Charlie.”
Smith almost made it 3-0 a few minutes later. She was through on goal and Bardsley came up with a good save.
As the second half progressed, OL Reign made multiple substitutions, including Jess Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe, which helped the Reign create more going forward.
Rapinoe had the Reign’s best chance of the second half. She met a cross at the back post but couldn’t steer it on target. Rapinoe had another chance to cut the deficit in half. In the 80th minute, she beat Natalia Kuikka off the dribble and forced Franch into a save.
The Thorns wrap up group play against the Houston Dash at BBVA Stadium on May 2 at 4:30 p.m. (Pacific).