Thorns-Reign sellout sets NWSL record
ANNE M. PETERSON
Jul. 23, 2015
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Thorns played the rival Seattle Reign on Wednesday night before a National Women's Soccer League record crowd of 21,144.
It was the first sellout at Providence Park for the Thorns. Portland also held the previous NWSL attendance record of 19,123, set Aug. 3, 2014, for a match against the Houston Dash.
The Reign won 1-0 on Kim Little's goal in the 57th minute.
The Thorns lead the league in attendance by a wide margin, averaging 13,769 fans a game this season. Wednesday night's match will mark the fourth time the crowd has gone over 16,000 at the downtown stadium, which is also home to Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers.
The record for a professional women's soccer match in the United States was set in 2001, when 34,148 watched the Washington Freedom beat the Bay Area CyberRays 1-0 at RFK Stadium. Mia Hamm starred for the Freedom, and Brandi Chastain led the CyberRays.
The NWSL has benefited from the U.S. women's national team victory at this year's Women's World Cup. The Americans beat Japan 5-2 in the final for the team's third overall World Cup title.
Members of the U.S. team — and other national teams — are spread across the NWSL. The Thorns' roster includes forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Tobin Heath. Other World Cup players in Portland include Canada's Christine Sinclair and Germany's Nadine Angerer.
Morgan was unavailable for the match after minor surgery on her right knee. She is expected to be out for three to four weeks, but U.S. Soccer said she could return for the first of a 10-match victory tour on Aug. 16 against Costa Rica in Pittsburgh.
The Reign's roster includes U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Solo was also sitting out because of a knee injury that the Reign said she sustained during the World Cup. She is considered day-to-day.
"My focus right now is to get healthy so that I can return to the field for Reign FC," Solo said in a statement released by the team. "I am looking forward to rejoining my teammates and helping them push for an NWSL championship in this second half of the season."
Earlier Tuesday, the Reign signed goalkeeper Caroline Stanley, who was an amateur call-up for Seattle while Solo was at the World Cup.
Before the match, the World Cup players from both teams were honored onfield by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
"I'm just so proud to say that we have the best fans in the world for club and country," Morgan said.
Heath said the Thorns would have liked to give the hometown fans a win for their overwhelming support.
"Tonight was hard," she said, "it was really hard."