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Franch and Weaver deliver in penalties, Thorns win NWSL Challenge Cup

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Sinclair and Lloyd trade goals, but the Thorns win the NWSL Challenge Cup final from the spot.

Kansas City v Portland Thorns FC Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Adriana Franch and Morgan Weaver deliver the one-two punch in the penalty shootout to win the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup for the Portland Thorns.

The Portland Thorns immediately took control of the Challenge Cup final. Gotham FC sat deep and the Thorns pinned them back in the final third. Christine Sinclair opened the scoring with her second goal in as many games. She won the ball back, turned, and launched a curler into the back of the net.

Gotham almost responded in the 14th minute. Kelli Hubly and Becky Sauerbrunn attempted to play the ball out of the back and gave it away to Margaret Purce. She and Carli Lloyd were not on the same page and the opportunity was squandered.

Sophia Smith and Simone Charley combined to create multiple chances and Charley was denied by Didi Haricic one-on-one. Charley also won a free-kick in the 39th minute after a clever turn. Lindsey Horan stepped up and smashed her shot off the post.

The Thorns dominated the first half, but were only able to score one goal. Portland continued to dominate at the start of the second half, but there was more space for Gotham to exploit and they got on the ball more.

Horan got on the end of Meghan Klingenberg’s service and forced Haracic into another save. Gotham pressed more in the midfield and the game became more end-to-end. In the 55th minute, Lloyd found Paige Monaghan in transition and would have been in on goal if it weren’t for a crucial intervention from Natalia Kuikka.

Gotham equalized in the 61st minute. Purce swung in a cross and Lloyd rose higher than Becky Sauerbrunn and finished.

The Thorns pushed for the go-ahead goal. Smith had two chances that were fired over the bar and then wide. Klingenberg found Charley at the back post and her shot was cleared off the line. Horan lofted a ball to that same post and Sinclair headed it just wide. A minute later Sinclair played Smith through. She was one versus one and curled it wide of the post.

Klingenberg played Charley over the top and slotted it in the back of the net but it was waved off for offsides. Portland’s left back helped create another chance. She played the ball to Weaver, who squared to Sinclair and Haracic made a great save.

In the dying moments of the match Gotham recovered the ball and Ifeoma Onumonu was wide open on the back post but missed the target. The whistle blew at the end of stoppage time, meaning the final would be decided from the penalty spot.

Klingenberg and Cudjoe fired off the bar through the first six rounds. Franch made a diving one-handed save to deny Nahomi Kawasumi. Weaver stepped to the spot and delivered, winning the final for the Thorns.