Ah, faith! You cannot escape from it, nor run. You can try to avoid it but it will always find you.
The history between OL Reign and the Portland Thorns is well known. Same with the occasional rivalry North Carolina and the Thorns have enjoyed for years. That has also been well documented.
But what can we say about the upcoming final between Kansas City and The Rose City?
Kansas City (specifically women’s soccer franchises located in Kansas City) and Portland crossed roads since the beginning of the league in 2013. Both clubs enjoyed the presence of big stars in their rosters and competed for the NWSL Championship since the inaugural season.
So let’s take a short trip down memory lane to see how these clubs have been intertwined since the inception of the NWSL.
Since the very beginning, the matchup between the two clubs was something worth watching. As a matter of fact, the very first game Portland played in the league was against FC Kansas City, a match that ended up in a draw. That day captain Christine Sinclair scored her first goal in the NWSL and the first official goal ever for the Thorns.
June brought another game between these two, and this time Portland got the three points in a thrilling 4-3 win. At the end of the same month, KC took revenge and got a 2-0 win and then did it again in August when they won 3-2 in another exciting game.
After four matches during the regular season, both would play each other once more, this time to clinch a spot in the Championship final.
The semifinal was played at then Verizon Wireless field in Overland Park, Kansas. There were some very well-known faces on both sides: Vlatko Andonovski was the coach for KC, while Becky Sauerbrunn was one of his players. And Canadian defender Desiree Scott was also there, as she is now with the new Kansas City Current.
What about the Thorns? Former Canadian international and now Thorns’ GM Karina LeBlanc was in goal and Christine Sinclair was of course also there.
Lauren Holliday got to the semifinal with a hot boot, having scored 12 goals and registered 9 assists for Kansas City. Besides that, KC finished second on the table and was playing at home. It was clear who the favorites were.
And just like they did during the entire year, both clubs gifted the fans with another thrilling match, with Kansas City scoring two goals in the first thirty minutes and Tobin Heath pulling one back some minutes later. Portland caught KC off guard at the beginning of the second half and scored the equalizer. The last minutes of regulation were exciting to watch but the game went to extra time, where the Thorns scored the winning goal that was worth a ticket to the final and, as it is now known, to the first Championship of their history.
One year later, history repeated itself. It was the semifinals of the playoffs and the Thorns had to face FC Kansas City on the road once again. But unlike in 2013, Kansas made sure not to fail again — especially in front of their own fans. On a hot afternoon, with the temperature above 100 F, both teams balled but this time Vlatko Andonovski’s team finished victorious with a 2-0 win.
Despite the loss, earlier that year the Thorns established a new club record when they scored seven goals against KC in July.
After 2014, these clubs didn’t meet in playoffs again. In 2015, Portland didn’t qualify for the postseason while Kansas City went all the way to the finals where they beat Seattle and won their first championship.
In 2016, it was Portland who qualified for the playoffs while Kansas City fell short. But in both years the Thorns couldn’t win against KC in the regular season, reaping only 2 draws and 2 losses.
2017 marked FC Kansas City's demise when the team folded.
As we know, Kansas City’s modern history started last year when the team we now know as the Kansas City Current was born. 2021 wasn’t an easy year for them when they finished last in the table.
But with promising signings at the end of last season things started to look promising again. And even though two of their big signings — Lynn Williams and Samantha Mewis — couldn’t play this year, the club managed to go back to the winning ways of the original Kansas City team.
On the tenth anniversary of the league, these teams will meet again on Saturday — not in a semifinal but in a final. The scenario will be totally different. While in 2013 and 2014 some teams were still playing on college or high school fields, in the last couple of years the league has been demanding that the Championship venues met certain requirements, and Audi Field certainly fits the bill in 2022. The stadium has a capacity for 20,000 people and commissioner Jessica Berman has said that they’re only 1,000 tickets shy from a sell-out.
LET'S FILL AUDI FIELD IN DC.#NWSLChampionship ️: https://t.co/76r2csMJtc— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) October 25, 2022
The atmosphere will be totally different from the one these teams experienced when they crossed paths in the semifinals nine and ten years ago.
Portland and Kansas have met in playoffs twice, both in SF.— Melina Melinae (@melinae07) October 28, 2022
In 2013 at Shawnee Mission District Stadium, Kansas. Attendance: 4,016
In 2014 at Durwood Soccer Stadium, Missouri. Attendance: 2,997
2022: Audi Field, with an expected attendance of at least 19,000 people#BAONPDX #NWSL pic.twitter.com/0qmBV6tQxM
Oh, and let’s not forget one little detail: AD Franch was the goalkeeper when the Thorns won their first championship in 2013. She was in goal for the New York Flash. Then, she was in goal when the Thorns won their second championship, that time playing for Portland. She also was in the net in Portland’s most recent appearance in 2018.
And now, she will be on the other side once again. Will AD be the key in tomorrow’s game?
Only one way to find out: tune in on Saturday at 5 p.m. Pacific when the Thorns battle against Kansas city once again. The game will be broadcast on CBS.