The Thorns shut out the Washington Spirit 4-0 today, the Thorns’ sixth straight home win and 12th win of the season. The win means that with a Sky Blue loss or draw tomorrow, Portland will clinch a playoff berth.
With Hayley Raso sitting out due to yellow card accumulation, Mark Parsons started Allie Long at striker. Other than that twist, the lineup looked much as it has in recent weeks: AD Franch in goal, a back three consisting of Emily Menges, Emily Sonnett, and Katherine Reynolds, Meghan Klingenberg and Ashleigh Sykes opposite each other at wingback, Amandine Henry and Lindsey Horan in a double pivot, and Nadia Nadim and Christine Sinclair below Long.
Of Long’s start at striker, Parsons said, “She’s great at going forward, at creating and scoring goals. What Amandine has been doing, and Sincy and the back five, it’s really tough to find room... It’s good to see her up there, obviously it’s a completely different look for the opposition to look at.”
After a touch-and-go start that saw some sloppy giveaways and moments of miscommunication, the Thorns were well in control of the game by the 15th minute.
In the 21st minute, Nadim played a through pass to Long as she ran into the penalty area, and Washington keeper DiDi Haracic took Long down as she came off her line to grab the ball. Haracic was issued a yellow, and Nadim stepped up to the penalty spot. Nadim’s initial effort was blocked by Haracic, but she couldn’t keep her hands on the ball, and the Danish forward rushed in to put away the rebound.
Four minutes later, Sinc put the Thorns up 2-0. Nadim megged Caprice Dydasco with a pass from the left side of the penalty area. Sinc got on the end of it, flicked the ball to herself up and over Washington’s back line, and slotted it in behind Haracic at a sharp angle.
In the 36th minute, Reynolds earned a yellow for a foul on Estefania Banini as the Argentine dribbled up Washington’s left wing.
Emily Sonnett got her third goal of the season in the 40th minute off a corner kick service by Kling. Sonnett leapt to head it over Haracic, and Tori Huster stepped in to try to clear it, but the ball was already over the line.
The rest of the half continued in a similarly one-sided fashion, the Thorns firmly in control and getting a handful more chances on goal. The closest chance came in the 45th minute, when Kling hit the crossbar with a hard shot from just outside the penalty area.
To start the second half, Mallory Weber came on for Ashleigh Sykes. On the Washington side, Kassey Kallman subbed in for Shelina Zadorski, and Cali Farquharson came on for Mallory Pugh.
In the 48th minute, Sinc played a through ball to Long, who was whistled offside.
Several minutes later, Estefania Banini and Horan went down in a heap outside Washington’s penalty area—she seemed to push Horan from behind, but no foul was called—but not before Horan got a pass off to Allie Long as she sprinted towards goal. This time, Long was able to sneak around Haracic on the right and put the ball in the back of the net from a sharp angle, only to be whistled offside yet again.
Banini, meanwhile, stayed down as Horan got back on her feet, and limped off the field with a trainer’s assistance. Lindsay Agnew came on for Banini as Washington’s final sub.
In the 61st minute, Nadim dribbled up the left wing and sent a cross in to Long, but Long’s shot was wide.
Nadim found a hole between Dydasco and Whitney Church big enough to drive a truck through in the 75th minute, only to shoot the ball into Haracic and have Dydasco follow up to sweep it out of the penalty area.
In the 81st minute, Long got her head on a corner kick by Kling, sending it into the crossbar. The ball bounced down to the turf, where Sinc controlled it and easily tapped it home to put the Thorns up 4-0.
A small piece of Thorns history was made in the 83rd minute, when Kendall Johnson came on for Menges—the first time since 2015 Portland’s back line has been without her. The change, Parsons said after the match, was an effort at preemptive injury management. Menges “covers more ground in every game” than anyone on the team, and tends to pick up nagging late-season injuries. “If we’d got that fourth goal earlier, she would have come out earlier. If I was thinking of what you just told me [about Menges’s long playing streak], I wouldn’t have brought her out, because it was only eighteen minutes. But think what happens to our back line if you lose Menges.”
At the same time, Savannah Jordan came on for Nadim.
The rest of the match was more of the same, with plenty of truck-sized holes appearing in Washington’s back line, but the Thorns couldn’t make good on any of their remaining chances.