PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Crystal Dunn scored on a laser shot late in stoppage time to lift the Portland Thorns to a 2-1 victory over San Diego Wave FC, sending them to the NWSL title game next Saturday in Washington DC.

Both teams scored relatively early in the first half and then the scoring stopped. That is until Dunn fired a shot past the Wave goaltender in the 93rd minute to send Portland to victory.

Crystal Dunn at a post-game press conference after her laser strike in the 93rd minute lifted the Portland Thorns over the San Diego Wave and into the NWSL title game, October 23, 2022 (KOIN)
Crystal Dunn at a post-game press conference after her laser strike in the 93rd minute lifted the Portland Thorns over the San Diego Wave and into the NWSL title game, October 23, 2022 (KOIN)

Dunn, who also plays for the U.S. national team, has been easing her way back after giving birth to a son five months ago. Her goal from out front came off a corner about three minutes into stoppage time.

“Really hard for me to process that just 5 months ago I gave birth and worked my way back to be available for these games, these last couple of games,” Dunn said at a post-game press conference. “I wanted to show my support to my teammates who allowed me to be part of the journey even if it meant I was out for a little bit recovering from delivery. But this moment today was just special.”

After the game, Head Coach Rhian Wilkinson shared her thoughts on the late game heroics and the challenges this team has overcome.

“To be going to the final now, to be getting an opportunity for this team to be highlighted for not just their incredible play, but what they have been handling for this whole season and especially last few weeks is incredible,” Wilkinson said. “And I know people talk about it, but I don’t think you fully understand what they’ve had to take on. And to be on the sidelines and to stand with them is, yeah, it’s something I’m very proud of.”

The Thorns are in the playoffs for the 6th consecutive season and earned the overall Number 2 seed in the playoffs on the basis of their 10-3-9 regular season record.

This is the first time the Thorns and San Diego faced each other in the playoffs. The Thorns now head to DC for the NWSL Championship on October 29 and will face the Kansas City Current in the league championship game. That 5 p.m. match will also be nationally televised on CBS/KOIN 6.

The Thorns have won two NWSL championships, in 2013 and 2017. The Wave are new to the 12-team league this season.

  • Crystal Dunn of the Portland Thorns scores the game winner (ball circled) late in their semifinal match against San Diego Wave FC to move to the title game, October 23, 2022 (KOIN)
  • Providence Park in Portland before a NWSL semifinal match between the Thorns and San Diego Wave FC, October 23, 2022 (KOIN)
  • Thorns fans gather outside Providence Park before their NWSL semifinal match against San Diego Wave FC, October 23, 2022 (KOIN)
  • Thorns fans gather outside Providence Park before their NWSL semifinal match against San Diego Wave FC, October 23, 2022 (KOIN)
  • Thorns fans gather outside Providence Park before their NWSL semifinal match against San Diego Wave FC, October 23, 2022 (KOIN)
  • The Portland Thorns hosted the San Diego Wave FC at Providence Park in the NWSL semifinals, October 23, 2022 (KOIN)

Teams for sale?

This was the first Thorns home game since the bombshell investigative report rocked the National Women’s Soccer League and the Thorns and Timbers in particular.

The 319-page Yates report claims owner Merrit Paulson and other top Thorns executives knew about sexual abuse committed by former head coach Paul Riley.

At Providence Park, Thorns supporters were seen holding red “For Sale” signs before kickoff between the Thorns and Wave.

As fans flooded into Providence Park for the semifinal match, season ticket holder Nick Garner, the co-organizer of the Onward Rose City Project, told KOIN 6 News a lot of people were on the fence about whether to go to this game.

“I gave up my season tickets because I’m upset with how the front office has handled these things over the last many years,” Garner said. “So I hope to become a season ticket holder again as soon as Merritt Paulson announces he’s selling the teams.”

The stated purpose of the Onward Rose City Project is “one simple and audacious goal: Make the Timbers and Thorns supporter-owned teams. “

Head Coach Rhian Wilkinson said before the game they gave the players time, space and support, “and then we gave them what they really wanted — which was to get back on the field.”

At this time, Paulson has not given any indication he intends to sell the teams. He has, however, stepped down as CEO of both teams.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.