The NWSL's Portland Timbers clinched their second consecutive trophy on Saturday, winning the 2021 Challenge Cup final in thrilling fashion. After finishing regulation tied at one goal apiece with New Jersey/New York FC, the Thorns prevailed 6-5 on penalties.
The victorious start to the 2021 season comes off the heels of a winning end to the 2020 campaign. Following a semifinal loss in the inaugural Challenge Cup in the summer of 2020, the Thorns won the 2020 NWSL Fall Series by going unbeaten across four matches (three wins and one draw). The Fall Series replaced the 2020 regular season, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Thorns earned the 2020 Community Shield with the win.
Former Vanderbilt forward Simone Charley continues to be a key contributor for the trophy-wilding Thorns. Of the nine games played between the two championship competitions, Charley started seven and appeared in eight, only missing one match due to a red-card suspension after her double-booking versus Kansas City NWSL.
In the 2020 Fall Series, Charley scored in a 3-0 win vs the Utah Royals and tallied an assist in a 4-1 win against the OL Reign, both of which came in the home stadium of Providence Park.
During the Thorns' run to the 2021 Challenge Cup title, Charley turned in her best performance as a pro yet. In her first match after the red card suspension, the Hoover, Alabama native notched a goal in Portland's 2-0 win over the OL Reign, clinching their spot in the championship battle. Charley took nine shots, including six on goal, both franchise highs dating back to the 2019 season.
In total, Charley has notched three goals and an assist for seven points across 15 matches in a year's worth of pandemic-affected competitions. Extrapolated out over the length of a normal NWSL season (around 25 games), Charley would be in the double-digit scorer territory - a surprising category to be in for the undrafted third-year forward.
On the most recent episode of the Portland Thorns podcast, Charley told club analyst Ross Smith, who worked with Charley in Nashville this offseason at local training facility Bolta Soccer, that her time back in the Music City was vital to her performance so far this season.
With a full regular season, the first since 2019, set to kick off this weekend, Charley could be in the position to earn a permanent starting gig with the two-time cup champions as they look to win a third competition in a row.
Charley and the Thorns will begin the 2021 regular season on Sunday at 6 p.m. in Providence Park. The match will be streamed on the official NWSL Twitch channel.