Thorns down KC 2-1 as fans return to the stands in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. — 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% capacity, but fans are still not allowed at indoor arenas.

The game was part of the National Women’s Soccer League preseason 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.

KC NWSL was founded in the offseason after the Utah Royals disbanded. Utah’s players were moved to the new team.

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

The game got 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.

The NWSL is entering its ninth season with 10 teams. The Challenge Cup championship game is slated for May 8, with the regular season set to start on May 15.

Last summer the NWSL 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. This year’s event is being played in home markets.

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