The Thorns played the Orlando Pride to a 0-0 draw in a sluggish, chippy match in Orlando. It was a hotly-anticipated match, as Orlando needed a win today to clinch a playoff berth, and Portland needed a win to keep North Carolina from being able to clinch the Supporters Shield tomorrow.
With Emily Menges back in the lineup after sitting out against Boston following the passing of her brother, the Thorns started her, Emily Sonnett, and Katherine Reynolds in the back. Ashleigh Sykes and Meghan Klingenberg started at wingback, with Allie Long at defensive midfield and Lindsey Horan in a box-to-box role. Christine Sinclair reprised her role as a #10, and Hayley Raso and Nadia Nadim started up top.
For all the talk of this being the game of the season, the game got off to a relatively slow start, with neither team able to maintain possession for more than a few passes. After the first ten or fifteen minutes, though, Orlando started to gain hold of the match, keeping the lion’s share of possession and pushing hard for a goal.
Morgan took a shot from distance in the 12th minute, receiving a long lofted pass from Marta to get up and over Portland’s defense. Franch, who was off her line, dove left and collected the shot.
Long saw yellow in the 18th minute, after a hard foul against Camila. Long had a few more hard fouls in the first half, but fortunately for the Thorns, none of them prompted referee Christopher Spivey to reach for another card.
Orlando saw another chance in the 24th minute, and Franch, as has been her wont lately, earned her keep, coming off to clear a ball away from a charging Morgan on the left edge of the six-yard box.
Portland started to regain a little control around the 25th minute, getting a couple chances and near-chances from balls hit over the top. Nonetheless, they spent most of the half on their back foot, and took only four shots in the first half.
Long, shockingly, had a goal waved off in the 37th minute. After a Klingenberg corner kick, the ball was half-cleared and fell to Nadia Nadim, who served it in to Long, but she was caught offside.
Sykes had perhaps her best look on goal in a Thorns uniform—which also happened to be the best Portland chance of the half—in the 40th minute, dribbling through Orlando’s defense to get one-on-one with Ashlyn Harris, but Harris came off her line to collect the ball from Sykes’s feet.
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first half had, with neither team able to get anything resembling an attack together. In the 50th minute, Orlando made an injury-prevention substitution, putting Jasmyne Spencer on for Steph Catley, who played two full matches for Australia over the international break.
Portland collectively stood and saluted in the 60th minute, as Tobin Heath subbed on for Nadim, to get her first minutes of the 2017 season. At the same time, Amandine Henry came on for Long.
The rest of the half passed in chippy but otherwise unremarkable fashion, with few convincing chances from either side. There were, on the other hand, plenty of fouls—both called and uncalled—to go around. Kristen Edmonds received a yellow for one, a hard tackle on Raso, in the 69th minute.
Defense was the main story for Portland, as Orlando had a handful of almost-chances, mostly going through Morgan. Menges and Sonnett both played well, stopping most of Morgan and Marta’s attempts before they could get anything really dangerous started.
Several times, Heath looked poised to reprise her 2016 role as the Thorns’ primary creator, making a few runs around and through Orlando’s defense, and, near the end of regulation time, playing a neat chip for Sinc over the top. Heath’s efforts ultimately came to naught, though, as the final whistle was blown just two and a half minutes into what was supposed to be three minutes of extra time. Spivey, it seems, was just as sick of this slog of a match as everyone else was.