The Portland Thorns lost to their rivals from the north today in a wild nail-biter of a game that saw the Thorns dominate the run of play, but ultimately fall short thanks to a penalty kick and a first-half set-piece goal. The loss was extra painful, as the game was a homecoming for three former Thorns players: Jodie Taylor, Michelle Betos, and, worst of all, Allie Long.
The Thorns started the same lineup as last week, with Britt Eckerstrom in goal, Kelli Hubly, Emily Sonnett, and Katherine Reynolds at center back, Midge Purce and Meghan Klingenberg at wingback, Celeste Boureille, Lindsey Horan, and Christine Sinclair in the central midfield, and Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic and Mallory Weber at forward.
Portland got their first chance off a ninth-minute corner kick. The ball bounced around in the 18 before falling to Lindsey Horan, who took a shot from distance, but Michelle Betos easily saved. They had another near-chance not long after, when Christine Sinclair threaded a pinpoint pass between two Seattle defenders to Weber, but she was called offside.
Weber had a quintessential Weber moment in the 18th minute, when she beat several Reign players to get one-on-one against Betos, but she sent her shot high and could only find the crossbar.
Allie Long was awarded a yellow card for a handball outside the box in the 25th minute; Horan stepped up to take the free kick and sent it sailing lazily over the crossbar.
Moments later, Portland had another chance when Megan Oyster made a poor back pass—the kind the Thorns have been able to capitalize on already this season—sending a ball intended for Betos into open space in the penalty area. Crnogorcevic pounced on the loose ball, but her shot went to the right of goal.
In the 32nd minute, wayward Thorn Allie Long was issued a yellow card for a studs-up tackle on Boureille that caught all Boureille and no ball. Long nearly made up for the card two minutes later, when she got her head on the end of a high lofted ball into the 6-yard box, but Eckerstrom was just able to get a glove on it and tip the shot over the bar.
The Reign opened the scoring in the 36th minute. Bev Yanez beat Horan to get her head on the end of a Nahomi Kawasumi corner kick and sent a point-blank shot past Eckerstrom. Long nearly made it two in the 41st minute as she scrambled around Reynolds to find a service from Yanez, but her volley went just high.
Reynolds popped a ball over the Reign back line to Crnogorcevic in the 44th minute; Crnogorcevic aimed her header well, but Betos was there. The half ended 1-0 in Seattle’s favor. Overall, although the Reign beat the Thorns out in possession, with 53% to Portland’s 46%, the Thorns had the better of the half. They were mostly able to squeeze Seattle out of the central midfield and force them out to the wings, where players like Hubly, Purce, and Kling did well to block any dangerous service, for the most part. Boureille had an excellent half matched up against Jess Fishlock, handily winning most of her duels against the Welshwoman.
To start the half, Tobin Heath and Andressinha came on for Mallory Weber and Celeste Boureille. Portland had their first chance of the half in the 51st minute, when Heath was open on the left-hand side of the 18 to receive a nice lofted ball that Purce sent across the area, but her left-footed shot went well wide.
Portland came painfully close to equalizing in the 55th minute, when Horan collected a cross by Andressinha and fired off a rocket that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced off. She picked up the loose ball and tapped it past a diving Betos to Crnogorcevic, but the former Thorn blocked her follow-up shot, and Seattle was able to clear the ball.
Crnogorcevic came close again in the 59th minute. Kling sent a pass up the wing for Heath, who sprinted past Yanez and Kawasumi to hit a sideways pass across the penalty area to Crnogorcevic on the right. The Swiss forward took a hair too long in getting a shot off, and Betos was able to block it.
Portland finally broke through and equalized soon after. Heath sent a corner kick to the center of the six-yard box, where a frantic scramble resulted in Sonnett spinning around and somehow finding the side netting.
Seattle went back up minutes later, when Fishlock earned a penalty kick on a supposed foul in the box by Crnogorcevic. Jodie Taylor, the least-remembered former Thorn on this Reign team, stepped up to take the spot and sent her kick to the left while Eckerstrom dove the wrong way.
Christine Sinclair found the back of the net in the 67th minute with a header off a ball over the top from Kling, but it was waved offside.
The Thorns finally found a second equalizer in the 70th minute, when Meghan Klingenberg sent a cross in to Horan, whose angled shot from the right side of the 6-yard box sailed almost lazily inside the far post.
As if compensating for Weber’s howler in the first half, Taylor got on the end of a breakaway in the 74th minute to get one-on-one with Eckerstrom, only to send a poor shot straight to the Portland keeper.
Seattle found another goal in the 76th minute. Rumi Utsugi took a hard crack from outside the 18 that flew tidily between Eckerstrom and the post to make it 2-3.
Seattle made their second substitution in the 77th minute, bringing Fishlock off for Morgan Andrews. Fishlock, embracing her role as Portland’s favorite villain, applauded as Providence Park erupted in boos.
Alyssa Kleiner earned a yellow card in the 88th minute for time-wasting on a throw-in. Soon after, the Thorns had two more near misses on weird goal-mouth scrambles, one a close-range attempt by Heath and another a well-struck shot by Horan; Betos saved both.
The second half, especially late, was pure insanity. The Thorns spent the majority of the last ten minutes of the game in Seattle’s defensive third, a good chunk of it in their penalty box. Purce and Kling both got past Seattle’s outside defenders repeatedly to send crosses in to Horan and Crnogorcevic, but Betos was playing out of her mind late in the game and denied Portland every time. The Thorns had a ridiculous 21 shots from inside the box over the course of the match, 16 of them in the second half.
Overall, it was a frustrating loss for the Thorns, who outplayed Seattle handily for most of the game, only to concede on a few momentary mistakes.