Thorns take another shot at title match

Portland hosts Western N.Y. in NWSL semifinal

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

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The Portland Thorns host a National Women’s Soccer League semifinal match at 2 p.m. today when the Western New York Flash visit Providence Park. The match will be shown live on Fox Sports 1.

Despite leading the league in attendance by a wide margin, this is the first time the Thorns have hosted a playoff match in their four seasons. The winner advances to face Washington in the NWSL championship match on Oct. 9 in Houston.

The Thorns finished first in the regular season with 12 wins, three losses and five draws. The Flash (9-6-5) are the No. 4 seed. But Western New York and Portland were the top two teams in goal differential. The Thorns were a plus-16, scoring 35 and allowing 19. The Flash scored a league-high 40 goals and allowed 26.

Portland won both matches between the teams, but had to hold off a Western New York rally in a 3-2 win on Sept. 11 — the last regular-season home match for the Thorns.

The Flash attack is led by Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald. Williams tied with Houston’s Kealia Ohai for the league lead with 11 goals in the regular season and McDonald was one back with 10 goals.

Nadia Nadim led Portland with nine goals, fourth in the league. Tobin Heath led the league in assists with 10.

Paul Riley, who coached the Thorns the previous two seasons, is the Flash head coach. Mark Parsons was hired to replace Riley after the Thorns missed the 2015 NWSL playoffs.

The Thorns won the first NWSL championship in 2013, winning the championship at Western New York. They reached that championship match with an overtime win at FC Kansas City in the semifinals. In 2014, Portland lost at Kansas City in the semifinals.