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Thorns Fall 4-3 to Flash in NWSL Playoff Semifinal

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Tobin Heath is upended by Flash defender Abby Erceg during the NWSL Semifinal on October 2, 2016
Tobin Heath is upended by Flash defender Abby Erceg during the NWSL Semifinal on October 2, 2016
Roscoe Myrick

The 2016 NWSL Shield-winning Portland Thorns saw their season end Sunday, as they fell to the Western New York Flash 4-3 in front of a NWSL Playoff record crowd of 20,086 at Providence Park.

The match was an entertaining affair from the start, with the Thorns pinning the Flash deep in their half of the pitch for much of the first 15 minutes, but it was the Flash who found the back of the net first, as Sam Mewis ripped a one-time shot from the top of the box to give the Flash the first goal of the match.

Despite giving up the first goal, the Thorns continued to press, looking for their own breakthrough, but were met with some excellent goalkeeping the the Flash's Sabrina D'Angelo, who made 9 saves on the night.

As the match settled down, the Flash began to assert themselves more into the match, pressing the Thorns defense into action, which led to some nervy moments, as Lynn Williams hit the crossbar in the 36th minute, and just two minutes later, Makenzy Doniak took advantage of defensive lapse to give the Flash their second goal of the night.

Thorns captain Christine Sinclair made sure this didn't last long, as just off the restart, she was found by Kat Reynolds and ripped a shot past D'Angelo to bring the Thorns back one.

As the smoke was lofting into the North End above the Rose City Riveters, some fireworks were happening in the Flash's coaches box, as Flash head coach Paul Riley was sent off following Sinclair's goal.  Riley would have no comment on this incident after the match.

As the teams went into the locker room, it felt as though the momentum had swung toward the Thorns, but it was the Flash who would come out pressing early in the second half, with Michelle Betos pressed into action early and often coming out of the break.

The Thorns would again begin to assert themselves into the match, slowing getting more chances as the half wore on, but it wouldn't be until the 78th minute, when Emily Sonnett found herself in the right position to send a rebound into the back of the net, leveling the match for the Thorns and scoring her first professional goal.

While the Thorns would press for the lead late in regulation, the Flash seemed content to bunker and play for added time, and though the Thorns had their chances, the match would remain tied 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes.

The first part of the first extra time period would be a continuation of the end of regulation, as the Thorns pressed to take the lead, but it was NWSL Golden Boot-winner Lynn Williams who broke things open for the Flash, slotting a bouncing ball past the outstretched Betos to give the Flash the lead at 3-2, only to do it again 6 minutes later for the eventual game-winner.

The Thorns would not give up though, as Lindsey Horan, who had found herself in dangerous positions all afternoon, putting the Thorns within a goal as the first extra time period came to a close.

As the second extra time period began, the Thorns pressed to get an equalizer, moving to three defenders in the back and pushing the recently subbed-on Hayley Raso to right midfield, giving the Thorns more attacking options as their season was on the line.

While the Thorns put as much into their attack as they could, it was clear that tired legs were catching up to them, as they began to complete fewer passes into the box, though they had a wonderful opportunity to level late in the period as D'Angelo was out of position, only to see the ball cleared off the line.

As the final whistle blew, the Thorns collapsed on the field as the Flash celebrated in midfield, seeing the visitors going onto the NWSL Championship in Houston, while the Thorns are left to wonder what could have been as they enter the offseason.

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