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Thorns earn demoralizing 1-1 draw against Sky Blue

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Bennett Dewan

The Thorns were back at home tonight for the first time in almost a month, playing a lopsided match that nonetheless ended with the Thorns handing Sky Blue their third point of the season. Portland dominated most of the game, but as we’ve seen so often this season, injuries played a role, with Tobin Heath and Emily Menges scratching last-minute, followed by Sonnett subbing out to start the second half.

Mark Parsons started a back line of Meghan Klingenberg, Katherine Reynolds, Emily Sonnett, and Ellie Carpenter, in front of Adrianna Franch, starting in goal at home for the first time since mid-April. Reynolds and Sonnett are both right-footed, and Reynolds played on the left, a role she doesn’t typically have to play. Celeste Boureille, Lindsey Horan, Christine SInclair, and Andressinha started in the midfield, with Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic and Mallory Weber up top.

The Thorns dominated the first half and were knocking on the door almost from the starting whistle. Andressinha took one of her patented distance shots in the sixth minute, which curved a few feet over the bar. She got another chance few minutes later, when a Meghan Klingenberg cross bounced off a couple defenders before falling to Christine Sinclair, who dropped it back to her at the top of the 18. Her shot was weak, though, and Kailen Sheridan collected it easily.

Sky Blue got their first chance of the night in the 16th, when a long lofted pass found Savannah McCaskill on the right edge of the penalty area. She sent in an angled shot/cross that flew harmlessly across the face of goal and out.

Another near miss came in the 20th minute. After a corner kick, the ball fell to Sonnett, who beat a defender in the penalty area and dropped the ball back to Sinclair, who took a shot that was deflected out for a second Thorns corner kick. That corner kick bounced around a little and eventually fell to Crnogorcevic, who had a clear window on goal from near the penalty spot, but she sent her shot well wide. Then in the 22nd, Andressinha broke away on a counter and beat her defender with a nice cutback to get one-on-one with Sheridan, but sent her shot wide.

Portland had a number of good opportunities over the next fifteen minutes or so, but all of them were wasted—as has so often been the case—when players sent shots wide or plinked them straight at Sheridan.

After spending a few minutes on the front foot, Sky Blue nearly got on the board in the 38th minute. Imani Dorsey took a close-range crack, and Franch came up big to get the stop, but couldn’t keep her grip on the ball. It ricocheted straight up in the air and fell to the feet of Sonnett, who cleared it away.

In the 41st minute, Janine Beckie earned a yellow for a professional foul against Andressinha as she was getting forward on a fast break.

After knocking for most of the half, Horan finally put one away in the 45th minute. A free kick by Kling found Sinc in the box; she headed it toward goal and Horan took a diving header to send the ball to the back of the net. A minute or so later, the ref blew the whistle directly after regulation time and the teams headed to the locker rooms with the score at 1-0.

To start the second half, Angela Salem came on for Sonnett—post-game, Parsons explained the substitution was to give her some rest after a hot, difficult first game back from injury in Houston. Boureille moved to centerback, with Salem slotting in at defensive midfield.

Sky Blue got another chance in the 56th minute, when Shea Groom found a close-range header off a corner kick, but Franch handled it easily.

The people finally got what they wanted in the 57th minute, when Hayley Raso subbed on for Weber to get her first home minutes of 2018. In honor of the Thorns’ pride night and #RibbonZ, her signature bow was rainbow-colored instead of the usual Rose City red.

The next 25 minutes or so passed fairly uneventfully. Sky Blue earned a few corner kicks, none of which they managed to do anything with—but they were starting to play their way into the game.

Then, in the 76th minute, Boureille clipped Lloyd at the edge of the box, taking her down to concede a penalty kick. Lloyd stepped up to take the kick and sent it to the left. Franch guessed right, but didn’t quite get enough extension, and it sailed past her fingertips and into the back of the net.

If the New Jersey side were already starting to find some confidence before the penalty, equalizing blew things wide open. Sky Blue looked as confident in the attack as they have all season and didn’t stop pushing for a second goal for the rest of the half.

On Portland’s side, desperation set in, but despite a few more close misses, there were to be no last-minute heroics.

After two minutes of stoppage time, Angela Salem earned a yellow for a foul against Carli Lloyd. Moments later, Mandy Freeman picked up another caution for an arm-pull that brought Raso down. Kling sent a free kick into the area, but a Sky Blue defender headed it away and the final whistle blew.

Parsons was optimistic about the performance but realistic about the result. The Thorns played a good first half despite their injury woes, only to concede what was a fairly soft penalty.

“It should have been a wobbly, wild performance, and actually wasn’t, until the last ten minutes,” said Parsons after the game. “We didn’t take chances, which you have to in this league. Really good chances, the game could have been put to bed really early.”

With the other results today—Houston beating Orlando and Seattle tying Utah—Portland doesn’t move out of fourth place in the standings. If they had to draw at home, now was the time to do it, and Sky Blue was the team to do it against. Nonetheless, this is a demoralizing draw for a team that needs to stop dropping results.