Portland Thorns FC 2014 NWSL roster

Portland Thorns FC Win 2016 NWSL Shield

Portland Thorns FC claimed the NWSL Shield on Sunday night with a 3-1 victory over Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J. The NWSL Shield is awarded to the team with the best regular-season record.

The Thorns fell behind to a goal by Sky Blue FC forward Tasha Kai after just six minutes, but Portland rallied for the win with midfielder Allie Long scoring twice and forward Lindsey Horan adding a what proved to be the game-winning goal to power the Thorns to their fourth comeback victory of the season (most in the league) and the NWSL Shield.

It is the first time Portland has finished with the league’s best regular-season record (12-3-5, 41 points) as well as the first time to have earned a home postseason match. The Thorns previously won the 2013 NWSL Championship as the No. 3 seed in the playoffs that year.

Portland joins the 2013 Western New York Flash as the only teams to clinch the NWSL Shield on the final day of the regular season. The Flash beat the Boston Breakers on Saturday of the final weekend of the 2013 season and then watched Sunday as FC Kansas City lost to the Chicago Red Stars – handing Western New York the regular-season trophy.

But while the Flash spent just the final two days of the 2013 season in first place when they won the NWSL Shield, the Thorns have topped the standings 60 days this year – although not for the 38 days prior to Sunday.

Portland’s 2016 campaign will be remembered for the 12-game unbeaten run the Thorns put together to start the season – the second-longest streak in NWSL history behind Seattle Reign FC’s 16 consecutive matches without a loss in 2014.

Portland finished the year with four straight wins – which matched the four consecutive victories they reeled off from June 17 to July 2 as the longest such streak in the league this season.

The Thorns finished the 2016 season with the top home record in the NWSL and tied with FC Kansas City and the Washington Spirit for the best performance on the road as all three teams ended the year with 16 points on their travels. Portland was 8-1-1 with a league-best plus-15 goal difference at home, while they went 4-2-4 on their travels.

The 41 points this season are the most in club history – eclipsing the previous record of 38 points achieved in 2013 – as coach Mark Parsons guided his players to the top of the standings in his first season with the club after joining the Thorns from Washington during the offseason.

The achievement comes just a year after Portland finished sixth and missed out on the playoffs for the first time with a club low 23 points from 20 games in 2015 – 20 points behind league leaders Seattle.

Forwards Nadia Nadim (9 goals, 3 assists), Christine Sinclair (6 goals, 2 assists) and Linsey Horan (5 goals) as well as midfielders Tobin Heath (1 goal, 10 assists), Allie Long (6 goals, 2 assists) and Dagny Brynjarsdottir (5 goals, 1 assist) paced an offense that ranked No. 2 in the league this year with 35 goals. Midfielder and France international Amandine Henry also made telling contributions for Portland after joining them midway through the season.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Michelle Betos and her back line of Meghan Klingenberg, Katherine Reynolds, Emily Sonnett and Emily Menges enjoyed one of the best defensives seasons in NWSL history with a 0.95 goals against average as they became just the third team in the history of the league to allow less than one goal per game (joining the 2013 Flash and 2014 Reign).

As a whole, the Thorns were particularly impressive in the second half of games this year – outscoring their opponents 21-12 and improving their results by a full 13 points over what they would have been based solely on the first half of their matches.

Portland will now attempt to become the first NWSL Shield winners to go on to also claim the NWSL Championship. The Thorns face the Western New York Flash at Providence Park in Portland, Ore. in an NWSL semifinal on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. ET broadcast live on FOX Sports 1.

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