Allie Long once again played the hero for the Portland Thorns (1-0-1, 4pts.), as they drew Sky Blue FC (0-0-2, 2pts.) 1-1 in front of 2,983 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, New Jersey.
For the first time this season, the Thorns found themselves down a goal, as the ageless Christie Rampone found herself at the right place at the right time, scoring her first professional goal in the 26th minute, while Long brought the Thorns level after a penalty kick in the 75th minute.
The Thorns looked vastly improved and dangerous from the onset, challenging a vaunted Sky Blue defense early and often, after brief initial possession by Sky Blue, with Long finding herself in front of goal, only to have her shot deflected away.
Showing more patience and allowing the play the build-up, the Thorns put near-constant pressure on the defense, only to find themselves victim to the offside flag or a missed final touch on the ball.
After the initial 10 minutes, Sky Blue began to assert themselves, gaining more possession of the ball and keeping the ball into the middle third of the field, but they were unable to put any significant pressure on goalkeeper Nadine Angerer and the Thorns defense.
Jessica McDonald gave the Thorns their first open field scoring chance in the 15th minute, finding herself alone with Sky Blue goalkeeper Jill Loyden, after a through ball from Rebecca Moros, but Loyden rushed McDonald, cutting off any real threat and pushing aside the shot.
Sky Blue would return with a chance of their own in the 18th minute, as the speedy Caitlin Foord found herself alone and sent the ball in to the onrushing Maya Hayes, but Angerer was there to meet them, though she was injured on the play and stayed down for a few minutes, but was able to stay in the match.
As play resumed, the teams continued to kick the ball around the midfield, looking for an opening, but none would come until the 25th minute, when Sophie Schmidt found herself on the end of a pass by Nanase Kiryu, which Angerer pushed aside.
On the ensuing corner kick, Schmidt headed the ball off the frame and Rampone pounced on the ball, sending the ball just inside the unmarked far post and scoring the first goal of her long professional career.
The Thorns immediately came back pressing, but they still found themselves unable to connect on that final pass, while still showing more patience on the ball.
Sinclair found herself with her first chance on goal in the 35th minute after a Kendall Johnson turnover and shot from just inside the 18, but Loyden had no problem making the save. The Thorns would challenge again just over a minute later, but Long was called offside.
Sky Blue would challenge once again, as Foord found Schmidt inside the 18, but her shot was hit well wide of the goal.
McDonald would provide another threat for the Thorns in the 42nd minute, as she nutmegged Kelley O'Hara along the endline and found Sinead Farrelly on a diving header, but the ball went wide.
Sky Blue found themselves with a chance at the match headed to extra time, with the ball pinging around the 6 yard box off a corner kick, but the Thorns' defense was eventually able to clear it out of danger.
Long gave the Thorns one last chance to close out the first half, heading the ball near the 6, but shot went just wide.
As the second half opened, the Thorns came out immediately looking for the equalizer, with a McDonald cross nearly finding Sinclair, but a defender stepped up and intercepted it. A few minutes later, Sinclair found herself deep in Sky Blue territory and crossed the ball in, but once again a defender was there to meet it.
In the 54th minute, McDonald found herself on the end of a through ball near the corner, but her cross curled past two teammates and out of danger, where Long took recovered and found Brooks, who shot it high from 40 yards out. She found herself on the end of another cross in the 62nd minute, as Brooks found Courtney Niemiec near the endline and crossed it into the 6, but her shot went high.
Sinclair would once again find herself open in front of goal off a through ball that got her behind the Sky Blue backline, but her shot once again failed her as the shot went high. Immediately afterwards, Long hit a low ball off a corner kick than Loyden gathered off the endline and Long had another chance off the ensuing restart, but her shot went high.
The Thorns would finally get their equalizer off a penalty kick in the 75th minute as O'Hara was called for a handball as she tried to track back, and Long calmly put the ball past Loyden, who guessed the wrong direction.
Sky Blue got off their heels after the goal, finally regaining some possession in their attacking third, earning a corner kick that found Katy Freels from distance, but her shot went right to a waiting Angerer, and had a few other opportunities, but did not generate a threat off those chances, with their best chance coming off a 83rd minute free kick that Angerer jumped to recover off a deflection.
The Thorns pushed back with a couple of chances of their own, but they were whistled offside on consecutive chances in the 84th and 85th minutes.
O'Hara gave Sky Blue another chance in the 87th minute, but her shot from distance was easily picked up by Angerer. The Thorns went back on the attack off the ensuing punt, earning a couple of corners, but never putting the ball in any danger.
Sky Blue got one final chance to win the game as Nikki Marshall was called for a handball in the box off a corner kick, but O'Hara hit the ball wide left.
The final whistle blew shortly afterward, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw, giving the Thorns 4 points on their two game road trip to start the season.
The Thorns were in control of the match for much of the second half, only allowing 4 shots (3 on goal), while taking 10 of their own, but with only 2 on goal. For the game, the Thorns out shot Sky Blue 18-10, but only had 4 total attempts on goal to the opponent's 3.
The Thorns return to Portland this weekend for the home opener at Providence Park against FC Kansas City on Saturday, April 26 at 7:00pm PDT.
- The series with Sky Blue now stands even at 1-1-2 for both sides.
- Long scored her second goal of the season, becoming the fifth Thorn to score in consecutive matches.
- Long led the Thorns with 6 shots, 2 on goal.
- The Thorns are undefeated in their last six matches, going 4-0-2, dating back to last season.
- Allie Long and Nikki Marshall each started their 24th straight match against Sky Blue.
- The Thorns were flagged offside 9 times in the match. Last week against Houston, they were not called offside the entire match.