NWSL contest turns chippy between Thorns, K.C. late in Challenge Cup match

Rocky Rodriquez and Tyler Lussi scored and the Portland Thorns welcomed their fans to Providence Park for the the first time in 545 days with a 2-1 victory over Kansas City on Friday night.

3 players, coach shown red cards in Portland, where fans return in pandemic

Thorns, minus Canadian national team captain Christine Sinclair, celebrate their 2-1 win over Kansas City on Friday night at the NWSL's Challenge Cup. (Twitter/@NWSL)

Rocky Rodriquez and Tyler Lussi scored and the Portland Thorns welcomed their fans to Providence Park for the the first time in 545 days with a 2-1 victory over Kansas City on Friday night.

It was the first professional sporting event in Oregon to have fans in attendance since the Portland Trail Blazers on March 10 last year. State officials are allowing outdoor venues to host events at 25 per cent capacity, but fans are still not allowed at indoor arenas.

The game was part of the National Women's Soccer League pre-season Challenge Cup tournament, which opened Friday. In the earlier match Friday, the Houston Dash played at home to a scoreless draw with the Chicago Red Stars.

The game turned chippy in the final moments. Portland's Simone Charley, Morgan Weaver and coach Mark Parsons all got sent off with red cards, as did KC's Kristen Edmunds.

Thorns were minus Canadian national team captain and all-time international goals leader Christine Sinclair, who played less than half of Canada's 3-0 win over Wales in a Friday friendly after getting tangled with an opposing player.

Two K.C. players are also on national duty – Desiree Scott and Jordyn Listro – with the Canadian squad, which will learn its path to another Olympic podium when the draw to assign teams their opponents for the group stage at the Tokyo Games this summer is announced on April 21.

Regular season begins May 15

KC NWSL was founded in the off-season after the Utah Royals disbanded. Utah's players were moved to the new team.

Rodriguez scored in the eighth minute to give Thorns the early lead before Lussi's goal in the 58th. Veteran Amy Rodriguez scored the first goal for KC in the 60th.

The Challenge Cup runs through May 8 and will be followed by a 24-match (for each team) regular season from May 15-Oct. 30. The NWSL playoffs open Nov. 6 and culminate with the Nov. 20 championship game.

Last summer the NWSL, entering its ninth season with 10 teams, became the first professional sports league to restart in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic with the inaugural Challenge Cup tournament, held in a bubble in Utah.

A few things are different about this year's Challenge Cup:

  • It won't be played in a bubble, like last year's in Salt Lake City. Matches will take place in teams' home stadiums, with some fans in attendance where allowed.
  • There are 10 teams this time, not eight. The Orlando Pride are back after missing the 2020 tournament because of an outbreak, while Racing Louisville FC joins as an expansion team. Also, New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC was rebranded as NJ/NY Gotham FC.

More than a dozen Canadians play in the NWSL, including four on the defending Challenge Cup champion Dash. 

WATCH | CBC Sports' Signa Butler previews Canada's upcoming U.K. friendlies:

Women’s National Soccer Team preparing for Tokyo with two U.K. friendlies

6 months ago
Head coach Bev Priestman has a chance to determine her strongest 18-player roster as Canada come up against Wales and 6th-ranked England in back to back friendlies this month. 9:02

With files from CBC Sports

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