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Sinclair on target as Thorns win Challenge Cup in penalty shootout with Gotham

PORTLAND, Ore. — Canada captain Christine Sinclair added to her legend Saturday, helping the Portland Thorns win the NWSL Challenge Cup tournament in a penalty shootout over Gotham FC.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Canada captain Christine Sinclair added to her legend Saturday, helping the Portland Thorns win the NWSL Challenge Cup tournament in a penalty shootout over Gotham FC.

Sinclair opened the scoring in the eighth minute to became the National Women's Soccer League's active leader with 60 career goals. North Carolina's Lynn Williams has 59.

The Portland skipper picked up the ball after a heavy touch by Carli Lloyd and turned for goal. As defenders backpeddled, she curled a left-footed shot into the corner from just outside the penalty box. 

The goal drew applause from Canada coach Bev Priestman, who tweeted "Yes @sincy12" with a clapping hands emoji.

The 37-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., already holds the record for most career international goals, among men or women, with 186.

Gotham tied the score in the 60th minute on a header from Lloyd.

Sinclair also scored in the penalty shootout, won 6-5 by the Thorns. Fellow Canadian international Evelyne Viens converted her spot kick for Gotham, previously known as Sky Blue FC before an off-season rebrand.

Morgan Weaver buried her penalty kick after Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch stopped Nahomi Kawasumi's attempt to secure the win for the Thorns.

The Thorns did not drop a match in the NWSL preseason tournament. Following the seven-round shootout, the fans at Providence Park chanted “A-D, A-D," Franch's nickname.

“Everybody did what they needed to do to put ourselves in a good position for me to make one save, and then we brought it home,” Franch said. “But it comes way before that. If we don't score a goal in this game, we're not taking PKs, if we don't keep them off the board any more than one, we're not taking PKs.”

Gotham, won a pair of group-stage games, including a 4-3 victory over the North Carolina Courage.

“We weren’t able to possess as we wanted to. Credit to the Thorns for putting us under pressure,” Gotham coach Freya Combe said. “We weren’t quite firing on all cylinders until the second half. So it turned into a bit more of a counter-attacking game. But I think it’s good that we’ve got those tools in our armoury with the pace that we’ve got in our front line, that we can vary up our game a little bit.”

Portland's Lindsey Horan had a free kick from a dangerous spot out in front of the goal in the 39th minute, but it hit the post after going over the wall.

The Thorns had an opportunity in the 72nd minute, but Simone Charley's shot from close range was cleared off the goal line by defender Mandy Freeman. It appeared Charley had a goal some five minutes later, but she was ruled offside and the game went to penalties.

Portland outshot Gotham 26-8 in regulation.

“I did think the game should have been wrapped up way much earlier. And look, we got away with it today because that could have snuck up and gone the wrong way, and that would have been a really harsh lesson for us,” Thorns coach Mark Parsons said. “The goal is not to do that again in the future.”

Franch stretched to make the one-handed save during the shootout and was named the game's MVP. She was sidelined all last season because of injury, and missed Portland's successful fall series.

“Outside of the rehab, everybody struggled with 2020. It was a rough year for everyone. The way this team performed last year, that's what got us here today,” Franch said. “The growth that got us here today started last year.”

The match had an early start at 10 a.m. local time. When the match was finalized last week, it appeared that fans would not be allowed in Providence Park. But Gov. Kate Brown reduced the coronavirus threat level in the county on Tuesday and some 4,000 spectators attended the game.

The league's regular season opens next week.

-- With files from The Associated Press.

The Canadian Press