The Portland Thorns didn’t start Wednesday’s Women’s ICC Tournament semifinal looking like best team in the NWSL, but by the end of a dramatic comeback, the Thorns showed their championship swagger.
The Thorns advanced to their first-ever WICC final after a thrilling penalty shootout victory on Wednesday night in Portland.
Goalkeeper Shelby Hogan came up big in her professional debut by making three penalty saves to secure a place in the Women’s ICC final, and send the raucous Providence Park crowd home happy.
Teenage star Oliva Moultrie was the other star of the show, and contributed the second penalty to put a cap on a hallmark evening where she played her first 90-minute shift.
Before the penalty dramatics, Moultrie had the biggest moment in her career to date. In the 58th minute, the 15-year-old nailed a direct set-piece to even things up at the 2-2 margin that lasted through regulation. The big strike was her first-ever professional goal, and could not have come at a better time.
The Thorns clawed back from an early deficit that looked to have them doomed in the first half. Midfielder Natalia Kuikka opened the door for the comeback in the 51st minute after cleaning up a corner that was originally sent in by Moultrie.
Shea Groom notched a brace in the first half to get Houston off and running, and head coach Mark Parsons was set up to be rewarded for deploying the more experienced squad between the two.
Whether it was the home-field atmosphere or the Dash taking their feet off the gas, the comeback win was undeniable when penalties started.
Hogan denied Dash veteran Christine Narin and Canadian gold medalist Sophie Schmidt to kick things off, and there really was no way back for Houston.
A Portland trio of Meghan Klingenberg, Simone Charley, and Moultrie slammed the door shut to see their side live to battle Olympique Lyonnais on Saturday with a trophy on the line.