Canada's Christine Sinclair helps Portland to Challenge Cup title in penalties

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Canada's Christine Sinclair, left, celebrates her 60th goal in all NWSL competitions on Saturday. She scored another after the match headed to penalty kicks to help the Portland Thorns defeat Gotham FC in the Challenge Cup final in Portland, Ore. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images - image credit)
Canada's Christine Sinclair, left, celebrates her 60th goal in all NWSL competitions on Saturday. She scored another after the match headed to penalty kicks to help the Portland Thorns defeat Gotham FC in the Challenge Cup final in Portland, Ore. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images - image credit)

Canadians Christine Sinclair and Évelyne Viens figured prominently in Saturday's NWSL Challenge Cup final, with Sinclair and her Portland teammates capturing the second annual tournament.

Morgan Weaver scored the decisive goal on a penalty kick in Round 7 of sudden death for a 2-1 Thorns victory over Gotham FC before nearly 4,000 fans in Oregon.

"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 head coach Mark Parsons said. "The goal is not to do that again in the future."

Sinclair, the Thorns' 37-year-old captain, opened the scoring in the eighth minute on a left foot effort for her second goal of the tournament and 60th of her National Women's Soccer League career to surpass North Carolina's Lynn Williams.

Sinclair holds the record for most career international goals, among men or women, with 186.

WATCH | Canada's Christine Sinclair scores Challenge Cup final opener:

While playing for Canada in early April, she was injured during a friendly against Wales but returned later in the month to help Portland clinch a spot in the pre-season Challenge Cup final.

Sinclair had also missed the SheBelieves Cup in February with an undisclosed injury.

After each team converted four of five penalty kicks, Viens scored in Round 6, only to have Portland's Becky Sauerbrunn even matters after her shot eluded keeper Dijana Horacic, who got her left hand on the ball.

Thorns keeper Adrianna Franch then made a stellar left-handed stop against Nahomi Kawasumi to give Weaver a chance to bring home the championship.

Everybody struggled with 2020. It was a rough year for everyone. ... The growth that got us here today started last year. — Portland Thorns keeper Adrianna Franch

Following the seven-round shootout, the fans at a sun-drenched 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."

Franch, who was named the game's most valuable player, sat out 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."

WATCH | Thorns defeat Gotham in penalties to win NWSL Challenge Cup:

Carli Lloyd tied the match 1-1 in the 61st minute for Gotham FC, formerly Sky Blue before an off-season rebrand.

"We weren't able to possess as we wanted to. Credit to the Thorns for putting us under pressure," Gotham head 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 on Saturday, but it hit the post after going over the wall.

Thorns, who went defeated in the Challenge Cup, outshot Gotham 26-8 in regulation.

Fans were allowed after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown earlier in the week announced she was lifting coronavirus restrictions in the state because the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 had dropped.

The Challenge Cup was a precursor to the NWSL regular season, which runs mid-May to October.

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