This past weekend, the Portland Thorns took on Gotham FC in the NWSL 2021 Challenge Cup Championship. Starting for Portland was none other than former Cardinal, Sophia Smith ’22.
Smith started the game in her usual position, high up on the pitch, and quickly got the offense moving. In just the eighth minute, Canadian international Christine Sinclair put the Thorns up 1-0. Smith fired off a shot from her right foot in the 25th minute. Unfortunately for the Thorns, the shot went well wide, leading to a goal kick.
In the first half, the Thorns still dominated the match, keeping the ball in their attacking third. Smith had another shot attempt in the 33rd minute, hoping to put her team up by two. In the 39th minute, Lindsay Horan nearly put the game away for Portland with a free kick. The kick, placed dead center and about 25 yards out, bounced off the woodwork. Horan had made a similar goal just a week prior.
Thorns went into the half leading 1-0 and having taken a total of 11 shots, many of which came from Smith and Sinclair. Gotham was only allowed two.
Gotham came out of the break ready to play as star Carli Lloyd scored an equalizer in the 61st minute. Smith attempted to put her team back up with two shots in the 69th and 71st minutes. Unfortunately, Smith still struggled to hit her target as the shots flew high and wide respectively.
Smith had one last shot attempt, taking on Gotham’s keeper one on one, but ultimately slicing the ball outside the goal. In the 79th minute, Simone Charley put the ball in the back of the net for the Thorns, but was ruled offsides. Portland outshot Gotham 26-8 during regular time.
The game would go to penalty kicks with no overtime play.
After five penalties each, the score remained level. In the sixth round, both teams scored their sixth PK of the night to advance through the first sudden-death round. In the seventh round, Japanese international Nahomi Kawasumi stepped up the line to take her shot. Portland’s keeper AD Franch saved the shot, and Morgan Weaver put away the last PK, winning the Challenge Cup for the Thorns.
Smith drinks Pedialyte, too young for celebratory Budweiser
Smith was seen post-game celebrating with a grape Pedialyte hydration drink while the rest of her team drank Budweiser from the Challenge Cup. Smith, who will not be 21 until August, was unable to drink with the rest of her team Saturday afternoon. The Thorns joked about the situation, tagging Smith in a tweet that reads, “When you’re not 21 yet, this is how you celebrate.”
USWNT star Megan Rapinoe replied to the tweet, writing “#vodkalyte”.
Olivia Moultrie sues NWSL over age rules
Another young Thorns player, Olivia Moultrie, is currently suing the NWSL over their age restriction rules. Moultrie, a 15-year-old soccer star, filed a suit last week on antitrust grounds as they refuse to let her play.
Moultrie is described as a Thorns player every day but game day. It is said that she practices and trains with the full team, but is unable to play at the professional level. The NWSL has a strict 18-year age qualification; however, this qualification was not negotiated by a collective bargaining agreement. Thus, Moultrie hopes to get the rule omitted on antitrust grounds.
The full story can be found here.
Where will Christen Press go?
After the conclusion of the FA WSL, players such as former Cardinal Christen Press ’11 are left with a few months before they make a bid for the Olympics. The questions all fans are asking is if and where they will play until June. After the most recent expansion draft, Press’ rights in the NWSL currently belong to Racing Louisville. However, the international star has shown no real interest in playing for Louisville. Upon being drafted to the organization, both Press and teammate Tobin Heath had little to say on the matter. Fans now wonder if either player will use Louisville as an opportunity to stay 90-minute-fit before the Olympics.
Kiki Pickett heads to first day of KC training
Kiki Pickett ’21 made her NWSL training debut, joining Kansas City this past Tuesday. Team owner Chris Long welcomed her to the organization, tweeting, “Congrats on an amazing career. Excited for this KC community to have a front row seat as you begin your professional journey and crush it in the NWSL.”
KC also hyped up the star on social media with a first day video. With their first regular season matches coming up quickly, Stanford fans will be waiting for Pickett to see her first minutes in a new color.
NWSL regular season starts Saturday, May 15
The NWSL 120-game regular season starts this weekend with matches between Louisville and KC, Gotham and Houston, Seattle and North Carolina, Orlando and Washington, and Portland and Chicago. The full schedule can be found here, and most matches can be streamed on Paramount+, Twitch or CBSSN.