Thorns prep for their first NWSL playoffs

PORTLAND — Will she or won't she?

Star striker Alex Morgan's status is the biggest question for the Portland Thorns heading into today's semifinal NWSL playoff match against FC Kansas City.

Morgan, a U.S. national team standout, has missed the Thorns' last two games with a sprained left knee. She was injured in a 2-1 loss at Boston on Aug. 7.

She'll make the trip to Kansas City, but her status is officially a game-time decision.

The Thorns finished the season 11-6 -5 to advance to the league's inaugural post season. Morgan led the team in points with eight goals and five assists. Christine Sinclair, a star on the Canadian national team and a local favorite from her days playing at the University of Portland, had eight goals and two assists.

Sinclair had a pair of goals in Portland's regular season finale, a 2-1 victory over the rival Seattle Reign.

The Thorns face a considerable challenge in FC Kansas City. The Blues claimed the regular season series against Portland 2-1-1.

Kansas City is loaded with talent, including Becky Sauerbrunn, the NWSL defender of the year, Nicole Barnhart, goalkeeper of the year, Erika Tymrak, rookie of the year, and Lauren Holiday, the league's Golden Boot award winner.

Holiday, also a U.S. national team standout, had 12 goals in 18 games for FC Kansas City. Five of her goals came against Portland. Formerly known by her maiden name, Cheney, she married New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday in July.

Kansas City lost its last two matches after going undefeated in 10 straight.

The Thorns finished with a league-best 6-2-3 road record, outscoring opponents 13-8.

The Western New York Flash (10-4-8), with stars Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd, will host to Sky Blue FC (10-6-6, 36) in today's other semifinal. If the Thorns and Sky Blue win, Portland will host the championship at Jeld-Wen Field. Sky Blur's roster includes Sophie Schmidt and Christie Rampone.

The eight-team National Women's Soccer League, in its first season, is a pro league involving the United States, Canadian and Mexican soccer federations.

The Thorns were the league's biggest hit attendance-wise, with an average of more than 13,300 fans per match. Portland's attendance skewed the average attendance for the league, but the median attendance was just over 3,000 fans a game.

While Portland's goal was to make the playoffs, Parlow Cone says she wished the match could have been at Jeld-Wen Field.

"We did our best to reward our amazing fans in Portland with a home playoff game, but unfortunately we fell a point short," she said.

There were two other prior attempts at a women's pro league in the United States, but both failed after just two seasons: The Women's United Soccer Association was founded in 2000, hoping to capitalize on the U.S. national team's victory in the 1999 World Cup, but the league folded in 2003. Another league, Women's Professional Soccer, played from 2010-2012 but had insurmountable internal organization and financial issues.

The NWSL believes it is better positioned to succeed because of its association with the North American soccer federations, which pay the salaries of their national team players to help keep costs down.

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