Portland Thorns lose NWSL semifinal match

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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Second-half goals from Amy Rodriguez and Lauren Holiday sent FC Kansas City to a 2-0 win over the Portland Thorns on Saturday in the National Women’s Soccer League semifinals.

The result at the University of Missouri-Kansas City sends FCKC to the league championship match, where it will face the winner of Sunday’s semifinal between the Washington Spirit and the Seattle Reign.

Rodriguez scored in the 63rd minute. She made a right-to-left run to free herself behind the Portland defense as a pass from Holiday sent Rodriguez free into the penalty area. Rodriguez moved around charging goalkeeper Nadine Angerer for the finish.

Holiday clinched the victory with a goal in the 87th minute.

The temperature was above 100 degrees throughout the match. Play was stopped once in each half for a cooling break.

Portland, which came from behind to beat Kansas City in the 2013 league semifinals, could not muster a shot on goal in Saturday’s match. The Thorns best scoring chance came in first-half stoppage time when Veronica Boquete maneuvered into the right side of the penalty area and took a shot from a tight angle that caught the right post.

The only other threats for Portland came on counter attacks early in the second half, including a play where Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart just beat a sprinting Alex Morgan to the ball at the top of the penalty area.

The loss ends and up and down season for the Thorns, who had 10 wins, nine losses and six draws including Saturday’s playoff. Portland was winless in its last seven away matches, including three consecutive road losses. Portland won its final four home matches, and squeezed into the playoffs with a 1-0 home win over Seattle last Sunday.

The Thorns beat FC Kansas City twice in the regular season, including a 7-1 thrashing at Providence Park. But the Kansas City defense, led by national team veteran Becky Sauerbrunn, dominated Saturday’s match.