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Portland Thorns Draw 1-1 With Houston Dash

Midge Purce, the ball just escaping her, against Houston.
Anya Button

The Portland Thorns, starting close to their preferred XI in attack for the first time this season, were held to a draw by the Houston Dash on Wednesday night with just four days of rest after an exhausting derby game against the Seattle Reign.

The Thorns came out of the blocks dominating the ball without looking particularly dangerous. Heath and Andressinha both got their first starts of the season and both looked like they were still getting comfortable with playing in the team. They had 70% possession over the first half but managed only 4 shots. The Dash did a decent job of preventing the Thorns from completing their attacks, and they looked dangerous on the counter, especially when winning balls deep. Horan gave away a ball to Kyah Simon in the 11th minute and it took Eckerstrom charging well outside of her box and Kelli Hubly making a lung-busting recovery run to make a tackle to prevent the Nichelle Prince from getting a good opportunity.

Portland went up first in the 25th minute with Crnogorcevic notching her first for the club after some inept Houston defending. Midge Purce beat her marker on the right and drove into the box, crossing low for Heath. Heath withstood a few Dash tackles and kept the ball in play before Sinclair took over and was tackled off the ball. No Dash defender cleared and Crnogorcevic picked up the ball for a free shot at goal, coolly slotting underneath Jane Campbell.

Heath had a penalty shout turned down in the 34th minute after her ankles got stomped on by Hanson just inside the box but the referee never seemed to consider giving the foul. Portland’s midfielders showed off some good skill but for the most part failed to get decent penetration and create good enough chances for how much talent was on the field.

Purce continued to be the Thorns’ most dangerous player at the start of the second half, regularly beating Kimberly Keever down the right and driving into the box, but just not quite nailing her final ball. Despite a few giveaways at the back again, Houston largely looked toothless, looking to launch long balls over the top once they won the ball.

That is, until the 57th minute Houston found the equalizer. Horan gave the ball away in a bad position and the Dash pounced. Veronica Latsko played in Kyah Simon, who looked to have drifted too wide to the right but got in a great shot which slipped past Eckerstrom’s fingers just inside the far post. After the goal they looked much more dangerous: Kristie Mewis played a beautiful cross in for Latsko in the 62nd minute but Eckerstrom managed to get enough on the shot to send the ball off the post. Eckerstrom was called into action to save a header from Nichelle Prince just a few minutes later. It was Portland’s turn to look offensively inept, failing to get a single second half shot in until the 70th minute.

Tobin Heath, still not quite 90 minutes fit, came off for Tyler Lussi in the 63rd minute and Celeste Boureille came on for Andressinha not long after. The Thorns’ best offense in the second half came from set-pieces. Crnogorcevic got a header on target from a Klingenberg delivery in the 71st minute that Campbell easily claimed.

Ellie Carpenter made her Thorns debut in the 72nd minute for Kelli Hubly, allowing Purce to shift onto the front line and reshaping the backline into a flat four. Portland slowly worked their way into their attacking verve via some good crossing from Purce and Klingenberg: Horan’s header on target in the 80th minute from a Klingenberg corner was cleared off the line by Janine Van Wyk. Despite Portland pressure late they failed to create much outside of Horan long shots and couldn’t find a winner in the end.