The Red Stars went up 1-0 just eight minutes into the match when Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr hit a right-footed shot on a breakaway past Franch, whose left foot slipped as she tried to dive to her right to stop the shot.
Franch made her two saves in the second half on Kerr’s header in the 47th minute, Vanessa Di Bernardo’s shot from the right side of the box in the 80th and another Kerr shot in the 92nd.
With the win, the Red Stars advance to the NWSL championship for the first time in franchise history after falling in the semifinal in four previous years. Chicago will visit the reigning champion and top-seeded North Carolina Courage next Sunday in Cary, North Carolina.
Franch, the two-time reigning NWSL goalkeeper of the year, posted five clean sheets in 14 regular-season games this season. The 29-year-old’s season missed some Portland games this summer while she was on international duty for the United States women’s national soccer team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Salina, Kansas native was the third string keeper and did not play as the USWNT won their fourth overall title.
During her time at OSU, the Cowgirls won the Big 12 tournament in 2010 and 2011, and Franch earned All-American honors twice. She also set the school record for shutouts at 38, which is the sixth-most in NCAA history.