Sinclair captained the Portland Trail Blazers to a third NWSL championship

Sinclair captained the Portland Trail Blazers to a third NWSL championship

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sophia Smith, the season’s Most Valuable Player, scored early and the Portland Thorns won their third National Women’s Soccer League championship with a 2-0 victory over Kansas City Current on Saturday night.

The Thorns also won the NWSL Championship in 2013, the league’s inaugural season, and again in 2017. Those three titles are the most for any team in the league.

Canadian captain Christian Sinclair led Portland to his third championship, all with the Thorns, setting a league record for playoff minutes played in the process. She was eliminated in the 73rd minute.

Fellow Canadian Janine Beckie came on in the 63rd minute for the Thorns, whose head coach is former Canadian international Ryan Wilkinson, in his first year at the Portland helm. Portland’s GM is former Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.

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Currant had a costly turnover before Smith burst onto the pitch, maneuvered around goalkeeper Adriana French and scored a stunning fourth-minute goal.

Smith almost had another goal in the 27th minute, but her shot was just wide. Smith is the second MVP recipient to score in the championship game, joining Lynn Williams in 2016 for North Carolina. At 22, he is also the youngest player to score in a league final.

Smith was honored as MVP earlier this week after scoring a club-record 14 goals during the regular season.

In the 56th minute, Kansas City’s Addison Merrick doubled Portland’s lead. Moments later, Morgan Weaver had a shot from distance but Franch hit the crossbar before Carrom cleared.

Canadian international Desiree Scott started for Kansas City.

Audi Field was nearly sold out for the game, which aired on prime time on network television.

The NWSL was rocked this month by an investigation that revealed systemic abuse and misconduct, spanning multiple teams, coaches and victims.

The investigation, led by former acting U.S. Attorney Sally Yates, began last year after two former players came forward with allegations of harassment and sexual assault against North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley a decade ago.

Riley, who has since been fired, denies the allegations. He was one of five coaches in the league fired or fired last year amid allegations of misconduct.

Yates’ report details how the Thorns mishandled complaints about Riley when he coached the team in 2014-15. As a result of the report, Torrance fired two team employees. But some fans have called on owner Merritt Paulson to sell both the Cubs and the Portland Timbers to Major League Soccer.

Some fans at Audi Field held a sign that read: “Support the players.”

The Thorns advanced to the championship game last Sunday with a 2-1 win over the San Diego Wave. Crystal Dunn scored in stoppage time.

The current secured their place with a 2-0 win over OL Reinen, who stunned this season’s Supporters’ Shield winners.

The current began play as a development team in 2021, with most of its players coming from the defunct Utah Royals. Last season they finished last in the league.

The Washington Spirit won the NWSL championship last year.

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