Ah, faith! You can’t escape it or run away. You can try to avoid it, but it will always find you.
The history between the OL Reign and the Portland Thorns is well known. Same with the occasional rivalry that North Carolina and the Thorns have enjoyed for years. This has also been well documented.
But what about the upcoming final between Kansas City and The Rose City?
Kansas City (specifically the Kansas City-based women’s soccer franchise) and Portland have crossed paths since the league’s inception in 2013. Both clubs have enjoyed the presence of big stars on their rosters and have competed for the NWSL championship since their inaugural season.
So let’s take a short trip down memory lane to see how these clubs have been linked since the inception of the NWSL.
The match between the two clubs was something worth watching right from the start. In fact, the very first game Portland played in the league was against FC Kansas City, a game that ended in a draw. That day, captain Christine Sinclair scored her first NWSL goal and first ever official goal for the Thorns.
June brought another match between the two and this time Portland took the three points in a thrilling 4-3 win. At the end of that month, KC got their revenge, winning 2-0, and then did it again in August, winning 3-2 in another thrilling game.
After four games in the regular season, the two will meet once more, this time to secure a place in the championship final.
The semifinals were played at what was then Verizon Wireless Field in Overland Park, Kansas. There were some very familiar faces on both sides: Vlatko Andonovski was KC’s coach, while Becky Sauerbrunn was one of his players. And Canadian defenseman Desiree Scott was also there, just like now with the new Kansas City Current.
What about Thorns? In goal was former Canadian international and now Thorns CEO Karina LeBlanc and of course Christine Sinclair.
Lauren Holliday entered the semifinals on the hot shoe as she scored 12 goals and had 9 assists for Kansas City. In addition, KC finished second in the table and played at home. It was clear who the favorites were.
And as they have done all year, the two clubs treated the fans to another thrilling game, with Kansas City scoring two goals in the first thirty minutes and Tobin Heath pulling one back a few minutes later. Portland caught KC off guard early in the second half and scored the equalizer. The final minutes of regulation were tight, but the game went to overtime, where the Thorns scored the winning goal that sealed a ticket to the finals and, as it is now known, the first championship in their history.
A year later, history repeated itself. It was the semifinals of the playoffs and the Thorns had to face FC Kansas City one more time on the road. But unlike in 2013, Kansas made sure not to disappoint again — especially in front of its own fans. On a hot afternoon with temperatures over 100 F, both teams rolled, but this time Vlatko Andonovský’s team prevailed with a 2-0 win.
Despite the loss, the Thorns set a new club record earlier that year when they scored seven goals against KC in July.
After 2014, these clubs did not meet again in the playoffs. In 2015, Portland did not qualify for the postseason, while Kansas City went all the way to the finals, defeating Seattle to win its first championship.
In 2016, it was Portland that qualified for the playoffs while Kansas City fell short. But in both years, the Thorns failed to win against KC in the regular season, collecting only 2 draws and 2 losses.
2017 marked the demise of FC Kansas City as the team disbanded.
As we know, Kansas City’s modern history began last year when the team we now know as the Kansas City Current was born. 2021 was not an easy year for them as they finished last in the table.
But with promising signings at the end of last season, things started to look promising again. And while two of their big signings — Lynn Williams and Samantha Mewis — were unable to play this year, the club managed to return to the winning ways of the original Kansas City team.
On the tenth anniversary of the league, these teams will meet again on Saturday — not in the semifinals, but in the final. The scenario will be completely different. While some teams still played on college or high school fields in 2013 and 2014, the last few years the league has required championship venues to meet certain requirements, and Audi Field certainly fits the bill in 2022. capacity for 20,000 people, and commissioner Jessica Berman said there are only 1,000 tickets left before they sell out.
The atmosphere will be completely different to what these teams experienced when they crossed paths in the semi-finals nine and 10 years ago.
Portland and Kansas have met in the playoffs twice, both in SF.
In 2013 at Shawnee Mission District Stadium, Kansas. Viewers: 4,016
In 2014 at Durwood Soccer Stadium, Missouri. Viewers: 2,997
2022: Audi Field, with an expected attendance of at least 19,000 people#BAONPDX #NWSL pic.twitter.com/0qmBV6tQxM
— Melina Melinae (@melinae07) October 28, 2022
Oh, and let’s not forget one small detail: AD Franch was the goaltender when the Thorns won their first championship in 2013. She was in goal for the New York Flash. She was then in goal when the Thorns won their second championship, then playing for Portland. She was also in net in Portland’s final appearance of 2018.
And now he will be on the other side again. Will AD be key in tomorrow’s game?
The only way to find out: tune in Saturday at 5pm Pacific when the Thorns take on Kansas again. The game will be televised on CBS.