On the night they clinched a playoff berth, Portland Thorns FC put in an overwhelming display to down the Houston Dash 3-0 in front of 13,752 fans at Providence Park. Two goals from Allie Long were complemented by a late Christine Sinclair goal to secure all three points.
A high-energy affair from the opening whistle, Portland (10-5-3, 35pts) opened the scoring in the 26th minute. A deep free kick from Tobin Heath found a wide-open Long in the box who smartly lobbed a header over the stranded Lydia Williams and into the net for her second goal in as many games. Heath and Long then connected again in the 71st minute, as Heath played a low ball into the feet of Long in the box. A quick reverse flick gave Long all the time she needed to calmly slot the ball into the lower right corner for a 2-0 lead. Sinclair then rounded out the night, pouncing on a Williams gaff to stab the ball home after the goalkeeper came for a cross and missed, leaving a wide open net for a comfortable 3-0 win. With their goals, Long and Sinclair have now scored in consecutive matches.
This. This is how you draw up a set piece. #BAONPDX #PORvHOU pic.twitter.com/IH4k19zTux— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) September 8, 2016
While the result would have secured a playoff berth regardless, with Seattle Reign FC losing 2-1 to the Washington Spirit earlier in the night, Portland is guaranteed a playoff game with two games left in the regular season. However, Thorns FC will still be gunning for their first home playoff game in club history and need just a point from their final two games to lock in a postseason contest at Providence Park. Houston (5-4-9, 19pts) was eliminated due to results from other matches earlier in the night.
Sinclair was twice denied inches from a goal, first in the 32nd minute when her initial shot was saved just to see her own rebound bounce off the post. Then in the 67th minute, Heath found Sinclair at the far post, but her goal-bound effort was blocked on the line.
The Thorns controlled possession for long periods of the game, passing the ball fluidly in between the Dash bank of eight players sitting defensively. Midfielders Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian, as well as in-form forward Khalia Ohai struggled to get meaningful touches on the ball and couldn’t put their marks on the game.
Portland out shot the Dash 21-10, forcing Williams to make 6 saves. Goalkeeper Michelle Betos, who recorded her fourth clean sheet of the season, made two saves.
The Thorns finish their three-game home stand Sunday, September 11th against the third-place Western New York Flash before traveling to close out the NWSL regular season against Sky Blue on Sunday, September 25th.
Updates to follow...