The Portland Thorns emerged victorious over the San Diego Wave in their NWSL Semifinal match by a score of 2-1. Taylor Kornieck opened the scoring in the 8th minutes, and Rocky Rodriguez answered with a golazo in the 20th minute. Crystal Dunn brought the house down as they scored an absolute worldy in second half stoppage time to give Portland the win, and send them to the 2022 NWSL Championship.
The lineup from the Thorns featured most of their vaunted attacking firepower, with Sophia Smith and Morgan Waver leading the line. The biggest move head coach Rhian Wilkinson made was starting Yazmeen Ryan instead of team captain Christine Sinclair.
Before kickoff numerous “For Sale” signs were visible around the stands in Providence Park, in response to growing calls from the fanbase for Timbers and Thorns owner Merritt Paulson to sell both teams.
Right as the teams prepared to get affairs underway, the Rose City Riveters unveiled a Tifo display themed off of the movie Coraline. Then, the opening whistle sounded and the NWSL semifinals got underway.
It did not take long for the fireworks to begin, as the visitors opened the scoring in the eighth minute. Taylor Kornieck snuck past Kelli Hubly and got her head to the end of a pinpoint perfect Alex Morgan cross, and subsequently flicked it past Bella Bixby for the opening goal.
Undeterred, the Thorns came swarming forward and created numerous more attacking opportunities. One of those paid off in the equalizer, as a partially cleared corner kick from Portland fell to the feet of Rocky Rodriguez, who unleashed an absolute belter off the half-volley into the back of the net to level the game in the 21st minute.
The first half ended all square, which was a fair reflection of the first forty-five minutes. The Wave’s pressure and direct play disrupted much of the way the Thorns wanted to play, but it didn’t stop Portland from carving out attacking chances, particularly on the wings.
The second half started off as high-tempo as the first, but as the teams tired it gradually lost steam. Attacking transitions became sloppier, and defensive interventions became the dominant actions of the game.
A slight spark of end-to-end attacking fervor in the dying ten minutes of the match made things interesting. The Thorns particularly threw wave after wave of attacks at the, er, Wave, with Smith and Weaver both coming close to breaking the deadlock.
As the match stretched into stoppage time, it appeared that things were destined for extra time.
That is, of course, until Crystal Dunn decided to blow the roof off of Providence Park.
Off a corner kick deep into second half stoppage time, the Wave once again failed to fully clear the ball. It fell to Crystal Dunn who ran onto it, and launched an absolute world-class shot into the top corner of the net, sending the 22,000 fans into absolute delirium.
The final whistle blew minutes later, and the Thorns had punched their ticket in dramatic fashion to their first NWSL Championship since 2018.
8’ Goal San Diego 0-1. It’s Taylor Kornieck who again haunted the Thorns, as she got her head on the end of a picture perfect Alex Morgan cross. Kornieck snuck behind her defender, and had plenty of time and space to powerfully redirect the ball past Bella Bixby and into the net for the opening goal.
10’ Nearly an immediate response from the Thorns as Morgan Weaver sent a volley just wide of the goal.
14’ Meghan Klingenberg sent a shot through traffic destined to the bottom corner — but Kailen Sheridan saw it in time and dove to make the save.
19’ Kaleigh Riehl was shown a yellow card for dragging back Smith and stopping a promising counterattack.
20’ GOAL THORNS! 1-1 Rocky Rodriguez let loose an absolute screamer off the volley from a recycled set piece. The Wave couldn’t clear a corner kick, and the rebound fell to Rodriguez at the edge of the box. She collected it with one touch, and then off the half-volley ahem rocketed it into the top bins to level the match.
22’ Kornieck almost answered with her second goal as she got on the end of a cross from Morgan, but her shot was off balance just enough for it to lose some power and Bixby collected.
26’ A poor giveaway from the Wave led to Weaver latching on the end of a ball behind, ans squaring for Smith. In a chance that 9.5 times out of ten you expect to see in the back of the net, Smith got the ball caught in her feet and couldn’t get a clean shot away, and Sheridan came out to collect.
34’ Bella Bixby was down temporarily as she received attention after getting clattered into on a Wave corner kick.
40’ Yazmeen Ryan was next to go into the book, as she was shown a yellow card for a hard tackle.
45’ + 1 Bixby made an absolutely stellar point-blank save through traffic to push away a shot from Kornieck inside the box, and keep things level going into the break.
The whistle blew after a breathless first half in which both teams were unafraid to venture forward, and attacking chances came hard and fast for both sides.
55’ The first real offensive chance of the game came when Yazmeen Ryan pounced on a turnover, and drove into the box to send a low cross in. It was deflected out by the foot of Sheridan.
58’ Rocky tried to run back the replay, and sent a side-volley towards the goal. Her attempt was always rising however, and sailed into the North End.
62’ The Thorns made their first sub of the match, as Crystal Dunn came on for Rodriguez
65’ Dunn announced her presence on the speech by picking up a pass from Hina Sugita and taking a low shot from distance. It was low-power, and Sheridan collected.
70’ Alex Morgan was suffering a lot of contact from Thorns defenders on the afternoon, and now Kelli Hubly was the latest to get in Morgan’s way — and be shown a yellow card for it.
75’ Bixby was down again and needed attention from the trainers, and appeared to be gesturing to her eyes and face area. Regardless of whether it was related to her earlier collision or a different incident she continued.
78’ Janine Beckie entered the fray, as she replaced Yazmeen Ryan for Portland.
79’ A beauty of a diagonal ball from Smith sprung Weaver in behind on the left side, but Weaver’s shot was right at Sheridan.
85’ Weaver got on the end of the ball in the box on the left side, and she laid it off on a platter for Smith. She couldn’t find the power with her shot from the middle of the box however, and Sheridan fell to her right to just save the ball.
88’ Natalia Kuikka let loose a shot from distance, but it rose well over the bar.
89’ Weaver got her head to a great cross into the box, but she couldn’t get her header down and the ball flew high.
90’ Suguta ghosted into the box and nearly got on the end of a Weaver cross, but the Wave defense held up once more
90’+3 GOAL THORNS! 2-1 The Thorns had a late corner kick, which was initially cleared. It. was only cleared as far as the top of the box, and Crystal Dunn was the first to get to it. And what did Dunn do? She called game, and blasted the ball off the volley into the top corner of the net.
The final whistle blew minutes later, and the already ecstatic Providence Park was sent into more jubilations as the Thorns punched their ticket to the NWSL Championship.
The Thorns will play for the Championship on Saturday, October 29 at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. The match kicks off 5 p.m. Pacific on CBS.