The Portland Thorns (2-0-2, 8pts.) extended their unbeaten streak to four matches to open the 2014 campaign, drawing the Western New York Flash (1-1-1, 4pts.) in front of 3,674 at Shalen's Stadium in Rochester, New York in a rematch of last season's finale.
For both sides, it was a familiar result in the regular season, as neither side has been able to come away with all three points in any of their three regular season meeting.
The Thorns came out of the gate pressing, as Jessica McDonald put in a long throw in into the box, which was headed over to Allie Long waiting just near the penalty spot, who fired a shot on goal, forcing new Flash goalkeeper Lydia Williams to make a diving save in the 1st minute.
Both teams had spells of possession over the next few minutes, as they continued to feel each other out in the early moments of the match, and the Flash countered with a chance of their own in the 6th minute, as Abby Wambach headed a cross on goal, but Nadine Angerer had no problem making the save.
The match was halted in the 8th minute, as referee Matthew Franz spotted a lighting strike, forcing the teams into the locker rooms for 38 minutes as the storm passed through the region.
Once the match resumed, the Flash came out quickly, as Spanish newcomers Vicky Losada and Sonia Bermudez connected on a deep cross, but Bermudez miss-hit the ball wide.
For the next several minutes, both sides had forays into each other's half of the field, but to no avail as the defenses held tough.
The Flash found themselves with a couple of opportunities in the 28th minute, as a cross was sent in from 40 yards out and was headed away, but the ball found its way to Bermudez, who passed it to McCall Zerboni at the top of the 18 yard box, but her shot sliced wide right. They had another opportunity less than a minute later, as Wambach unleashed a shot from the top of the box that hit the post.
Christine Sinclair gave the Thorns their first chance in several minutes in the 38th minute, launching a shot from 40 yards out, but Williams was able to control it.
On the ensuing run down the field, Bermudez was fouled just beyond the arch of the penalty box and on the resulting free kick, she shot the ball just inside the crossbar and in, just beyond a leaping and reaching Angerer, giving the Flash the lead and Bermudez a goal in her first match with her new squad.
The Flash lead would be short-lived.
Just 4 minutes later, Sarah Huffman took a deep shot on goal, that went straight to Williams, but she slipped and bobbled the ball, which fell to a waiting McDonald, who easily tapped home her 3rd goal of the season and 3rd in the last two matches.
The Flash had one change just before the halftime whistle, as the Flash found Wambach in front of goal, but she slipped on the wet pitch before she could get her head on it.
For both sides, it was reminiscent of last season's meeting in Portland, when Wambach put in a goal in the 38th minute, only to have Mana Shim respond with a goal of her own a minute later.
Statically, the match was even for much of the first half, with the Flash's 6 total shots to the Thorns 4 being the only offensive category where either side had an advantage, as shots on goal (3-3), saves (2-2), and corner kicks (2-2) were even.
The second half began much like the first, with both sides sending probing balls deep into the attack, and the Thorns nearly struck first, as Amber Brooks sent a through ball that found McDonald open on front of goal, but she hit the ball over the net in the 48th minute.
The Flash came back with chances of their own after a series of long balls from both sides, as Brittany Taylor found Wambach guarded alone by Nikki Marshall, but she held off for a rushing Kat Reynolds on the right, who crossed it to Bermudez, but her one-timer went wide in the 52nd minute.
After the balled moved up and down the field for the next few minutes, Angerer was forced to show her field skills, kicking the ball away from a rushing Sam Kerr. Kerr found herself with another chance a few minutes later as she was on the end of cross from Zerboni inside the 18 and behind the defense, but her shot went wide left.
The Thorns countered with a spell of possession, earning corner kicks to successive attacks around the 60th minute, but the ball was cleared from danger on both chances.
Angie Kerr gave the Thorns another chance in the 62nd minute, as she intercepted a pass and launched a shot from 30 yards out, but it was right to Williams who easily took care of it.
Angerer was once again forced to play the ball with her feet in the 65th minute, as Sam Kerr found her with a through ball from Losada, but the Thorns' keeper easily cleared it away.
Long made her presence known in the 70th minute, after Sinclair dropped the ball to her wide of the 18, she dribbled the ball center and looked to take a shot, but it appeared to be deflected wide, though the Flash were awarded a goal kick.
The ball stayed in the middle third for the next several minutes, with both sides looking for a weakness, but to without much success.
Portland found themselves with another solid opportunity in the 79th minute, as Long played the ball from beyond midfield into McDonald, who laid it off to Shim, but her shot went right to Williams, who controlled it after a short rebound before Shim could pounce on the ball.
The Thorns kept up their pressure over the next several minutes, as the ball remained in the Flash half, with Sinclair finding herself on the end of a deep passes on more than once occasion down the left side, connecting with Sinead Farrelly in front of goal, but her header was blocked away by Kristen Edmonds. On the ensuing corner kick, Nikki Marshall nearly hit the ball inside the right post, but Williams made the save and then pounced on the rebound before a Thorns attacker could touch it.
As the match entered extra time, the Thorns continued their pressure after a brief attack by the Flash, earning corner kicks from both sides of the field, after controlling the ball around the penalty area, but neither resulted in a change at goal.
After one last chance by Shim, which was blocked away, the final whistle blew, ending the match in a 1-1 draw.
The match was very much a tale of two halves, as the Thorns were much more dominant in the second half, registering 3 shots on goal on 4 shots, while the Flash did not register a shot on goal and only had two shots, while the Thorns also earned 5 corner kicks to 2 for the Flash.
The Thorns will return to Providence Park as they host the undefeated Seattle Reign next Saturday, May 10, at 7:00pm PDT.
- The Thorns are undefeated in their last 8 matches overall and their last 7 matches on the road, including playoffs.
- The overall series with Western New York is 1-0-3, including 3 draws in regular season meetings.
- Sarah Huffman made her first start, recording an assist.
- Jessica McDonald is now tied for the team lead in goals at 3 with Allie Long.
- Long's goal scoring streak ended at 3 matches.
- Long and Nikki Marshall have played in 26 consecutive regular season matches.
- Long (USA), Marshall (USA), and Christine Sinclair (CAN) will join their respective national teams this week before playing a friendly on Thursday. All players will be available for next weekend's match against Seattle.