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WoSo wows: The 6 wildest games in NWSL history

ISI Photos-Stephen Brashear
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3. Goalkeeper Header for the Win: Thorns vs. FCKC, June 19, 2015

During the lull between the end of the 2015 World Cup group stage and start of the knockout round, the Thorns, riding a six-game winless streak and well on their way to their worst season in club history, hosted the reigning NWSL champion, FC Kansas City.

The opening goal of the match wasn’t scored until the 50th minute when goalkeeper Michelle Betos collided with defender Rachel van Hollebeke, sendingthe pair to the turf as FCKC forward Sarah Hagen headed a Jen Buczkowski free kick into the newly-vacated net. Twenty minutes later, the Thorns went down a player after McCall Zerboni was issued a red card for stepping on Shea Groom, who was lying prostrate on the ground after a hard challenge on Sinead Farrelly.

With only 10 players left on the pitch and deep into stoppage time, the Thorns earned a corner kick, which brought Betos forward into FCKC’s 18-yard box. The first corner kick attempt bounced off of FCKC for a second corner and another last-ditch effort for an equalizer.

Betos threw her body headfirst at Allie Long’s service, heading the ball past Barnhart’s outstretched glove and into the chest of Frances Silva. The ball dropped to the ground just inside the goal before being kicked out, but it was too late. Betos’ header had crossed the line, and the goalkeeper was credited with the equalizing goal, the one and only of her NWSL career.

Full time: Thorns 1, FC Kansas City 1

2. The “Don’t Call It a Comeback” Game: Seattle Reign FC vs. Sky Blue, July 22, 2017

In a game few will forget, Megan Rapinoe led the Seattle Reign to a 4-0 lead over Sky Blue FC before completing a hat trick in the 87th minute, one that cancelled out a four-goal comeback by the visiting side. With one first-half goal, the game was no way on pace to end with nine total goals. But, thanks to the highest-scoring half in NWSL history, it did.

Rapinoe extended the Reign’s lead after Beverly Yanez drew a foul inside the box, resulting in a penalty kick. Rapinoe converted, and Yanez followed with a goal of her own just minutes later. Erica Skroski’s own goal gave the Reign its seemingly insurmountable four-goal lead.

O’Hara, however, was the first to pull a goal back, puting Sky Blue on the board at the hour mark with a penalty kick. O’Hara soon followed that up with another shot on goal, which Haley Kopmeyer got her body in front of to block, but Leah Galton was there to knock the rebound in to put Sky Blue within two. Daphne Corboz then scored the first goal of her NWSL career in the 72nd minute before assisting Sam Kerr’s equalizer in the 76th.

This time, the late, game-winning goal would not be in Sky Blue’s favor. In the final minutes of regulation, Rapinoe, on the finishing end of a 1-2 combination with  Katie Johnson, launched a left-footed shot past Kailen Sheridan to finish off the hat trick and prevent the Reign from blowing a four-goal lead.

Full time: Reign 5, Sky Blue 4

1. The Semifinal Upset: Portland Thorns vs. Western New York Flash, Oct. 2, 2016

In 2016, the Western New York Flash was the NWSL’s Cinderella story. Picked by many to finish last, the underdog shocked fans and opponents alike, clawing its way into playoff contention, losing only six (or 20) games all season.

The team’s last loss of the season came in the next-to-last week in Portland, so when the final standings showed the Flash would be returning to Providence Park in the semifinals, many fans wrote off Western New York. But the Flash returned to Portland with a doggedness that seemed to catch the Thorns off guard, with Paul Riley’s team scoring not one but two goals off Jessica McDonald’s trademark long throw-ins.

Christine Sinclair immediately answered, beating Alanna Kennedy to a long ball from Katherine Reynolds and one-touching it past a diving Sabrina D’Angelo. Riley confronted the fourth official about a perceived foul by Sinclair and, making contact with the official, was ejected from the game.

Portland defender Emily Sonnett soon collected a Tobin Heath free kick and finished it off with her left foot, leveling the score at two. Her celebration whipped Providence Park into a frenzy, but the extra energy couldn’t help either team break the deadlock before the end of regulation time.

The Flash didn’t waste much of the extra 30 minutes, retaking the lead in the 98th minute when Lynn Williams scored on a play originating with another McDonald long throw-in. Western New York then once again extended its lead to two when Sam Mewis set up Williams for the 2016 MVP’s second goal of the match..

The Thorns again answered, with Klingenberg delivering a cross that Lindsey Horan bounced past D’Angelo. In stoppage time of the second extra period, Sonnett sent in a long ball from midfield that D’Angelo came charging off her line to punch clear, but Horan’s head got to the ball first, sending it toward net.  Luckily for Western New York, center back Abby Dahlkemper beat a chasing Thorns player to the ball, heading it off the line to send the Flash to the NWSL Championship.

It was a brutally exciting game that took over 120 minutes and saw seven goals, six yellow cards, and one coach ejection, making it by far the most exciting NWSL game in history. The Flash would beat the Washington Spirit in a penalty-kick shootout a week later to win the title.

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