The Portland Thorns took care of business at Providence yesterday, defeating the Chicago Red Stars 3-1. For the Thorns, who would not have dropped in the standings regardless of the result, nothing was actually on the line. Third-place Chicago, meanwhile, came into the match with no possibility of moving up in the table. It was a scenario that led to an uneven matchup, as Chicago coach Rory Dames opted to rest almost his entire starting lineup.
The Thorns scored two early tallies, with Haley Raso opening the scoring in the second minute, once again profiting off her high-pressure defending as she picked off a pass deep in the Red Stars’ end and chipped home a shot past keeper Michele Dalton. Sykes followed that up in the 14th minute, pouncing on a botched Chicago clearance and putting the ball away to give the Thorns a 2-0 lead.
The Red Stars hung on gamely and almost made a match of it in the 71st minute, when recent USWNT call up Sofia Huerta won a ball outside the Thorns box and uncorked a long range strike that dipped down under the bar of Adrianna Franch, pulling the Red Stars to within one.
The wonder-strike from Huerta was not enough, however, and the Thorns slammed the door on Chicago with an 82nd minute penalty kick. After Allie Long was fouled in the Chicago box, Nadia Nadim stepped up to the spot and buried her penalty past Dalton, sending the Red Stars keeper the wrong way as she powered the ball home.
Following Orlando’s 3-2 win over North Carolina later in the day, the semifinal matchups are set, and Portland will face off against the Pride at home October 7.