Portland Thorns Win Their Third NWSL Championship

‘This is a product of our joy.’

By Margaret Seiler October 30, 2022

Woman with an expression of joy holds a 2022 soccer trophy over her head, with other players and media members surrounding her

Winning goalkeeper (and Rex Putnam High grad) Bella Bixby hoists the NWSL Championship trophy at Audi Field in Washington, DC, after the Portland Thorns 2–0 win over the Kansas City Current.

The Portland Thorns won the National Women’s Soccer League Championship with a 2–0 win over the Kansas City Current on Saturday, October 29, at Audi Field in Washington, DC. It’s the Thorns’ third title in their 10 years of existence; no other team has won more than twice.

Woman in black Thorns kit smiling and holding up one finger as she runs away from the goal, with a woman in a pink goalie jersey behind her facing away

Sophia Smith got one past Kansas City keeper (and former Thorn) Adrianna Franch in the opening minutes.

A goal in the fourth minute from Sophia Smith, who had been named the season’s league MVP on Thursday and would be named MVP of the championship game after the final whistle, gave the Thorns a lead they never relinquished. An own goal from Kansas City doubled the lead in the second half, and the Thorns’ defensive line of Kelli Hubly, Meghan Klingenberg, Natalia Kuikka, and Becky Sauerbrunn left the Current with almost no chances to rattle goalkeeper Bella Bixby, let alone to score.

Captain and OG Thorn Christine Sinclair called over another 10-year league veteran, Becky Sauerbrunn (in her third year with Portland) and the second-longest-tenured Thorn, Emily Menges (who joined the team in its second year, 2014) to help carry the trophy before an all-team hoisting under an explosion of confetti. More than an hour later, Smith and Bixby left a DMX-soundtracked locker room celebration to appear at the postgame press conference.

A team selfie in a locker room prepped for sloshing

“This is a product of our joy,” said Bixby when asked how they wanted the championship to be received in Portland, especially amid the challenges since the revelation last fall of long-covered-up abuses in the league and the release this fall of the Yates report on the matter.

“We’ve gone through a lot of stuff that isn’t in the job description,” Smith said. She also called it “bullshit” that first-year coach Rhian Wilkinson wasn’t a finalist for NWSL Coach of the Year: “To come in to a team like this, a club with this reputation, is hard in itself. To come in with all of this happening, all of these distractions going on … and implement her style but also take on what we’d already built with this club is a really hard thing to do, and I don’t think people give her enough credit for that.”

“I think it’s easy to overlook because historically this is a successful club … like, oh, she inherited a successful team, but it’s not easy to come in and implement your style of play, how you want your players to play, get player buy-in from the start,” added Bixby. 

Fans in Oregon are invited to welcome the team home at Portland International Airport Sunday, October 30, starting at 12:45 p.m., gathering at the south end of the upper roadway (the departures level). There’s an official rally planned for Providence Park at 6 p.m. Tuesday, November 1. The scene will be different from the party that graced the North End the night after the Thorns defeated the North Carolina Courage for the title in 2017, as some of the team executives mingling with the players on the stage that night have been fired or have stepped away from leadership roles in the aftermath of the Yates report. 

The Thorns have won all three of their championships in the Eastern time zone: in Rochester, New York, in 2013, in Orlando in 2017, and in Washington in 2022. The NWSL switched to a predetermined location for its final in 2015, instead of having the higher-seeded team host.


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