The Thorns claimed their second home win in a row in an often strange but rarely boring matchup against the Houston Dash.
Portland started a similar lineup to what we saw in last week’s game. With Meghan Klingenberg again available after serving her one-game suspension, she started at left back, with Emily Menges, Emily Sonnett, and Ellie Carpenter filling out the rest of the back line in front of AD Franch—Katherine Reynolds was available, but likely stayed on the bench after she struggled to contain Kealia Ohai the last time these two teams met. The Celeste Boureille-Lindsey Horan-Christine Sinclair midfield made another appearance below a front three of Tobin Heath, Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic, and Hayley Raso.
Portland got their first real chance in the sixth minute when Kling sent a ball into the six-yard box from the corner of the penalty area. Horan jumped and found the close-range header, but Jane Campbell did well to make the save.
The Thorns finally broke through in the 16th minute, with a long free kick by Emily Sonnett finding Lindsey Horan near the penalty spot. Campbell charged out to try to claim the ball, but Horan beat her to it and deftly flicked a header into the back of the net.
Portland made it two in the 31st minute off another set piece. Tobin Heath sent in an angled free kick from outside the area. It found Crnogorcevic a couple yards from goal, and she got her head on it but lobbed it straight up in the air; Campbell bobbled what should have been a routine catch. The ball fell to Horan and she tapped it in.
Houston got one back five minutes later. Kyah Simon beat Kling near the right edge of the 18. The Australian sent a cross in through traffic, and although Franch dove and got a hand on the ball, she couldn’t get a hold of it, and the deflection fell to Kealia Ohai, who got an easy tap-in goal of her own.
Franch nearly made another key mistake in the 39th minute. Rachel Daly charged at Franch while she had the ball at her feet, and almost stripped it from her, Diego Valeri style, when Franch kicked the it directly at her at point-blank range—but she managed to dive down and smother the ball in time.
Portland got straight to work after halftime, with Crnogorcevic putting away her second home goal in as many games in the 48th minute. Hayley Raso found Crnogorcevic in the box with a simple short pass in through Houston’s defense, and Portland’s Swiss exchange student sent her low shot across the face of goal and just inside the far post.
After that third goal, the Thorns never looked back. Houston had a few chances, but Portland controlled the game and never really looked threatened.
In the 66th minute, Kling subbed off for Katherine Reynolds, likely to shift to a more defensive strategy for the final 25-odd minutes of the game. Vera Pauw, smelling blood after Reynolds’s struggles against Kealia Ohai last time, immediately shifted Ohai to the right. Ohai would indeed give Reynolds fits for the rest of the game, beating her to the endline and sending in crosses a number of times.
In the 70th, Hayley Raso looked to get Portland’s fourth when Crnogorcevic headed a service from Celeste Boureille down toward the base of the far post. Raso lunged and stabbed it to the back of the net with her right foot, but after a slight delay, the goal was waved offside.
And then, my friends, it happened.
Crnogorcevic, may god bless her perfect and beautiful soul, formed the sign of the dreaded VAR rectangle at the referee.
Not once, but twice.
How long have I been waiting for this moment? All season, no question. But when I reach deep down into the depths of my soul, I find that the answer, ultimately, is all my life. I didn’t know, before, that this is what I was longing for. But now that it’s happened, I find myself utterly at peace, one with the universe, free from want. This team gives us so much, dear friends. May we never grow weary in our gratitude.
But there were still ten minutes of soccer.
Houston had a few more chances, one really close: in the 78th minute, Ohai beat Reynolds on the right and sent a cross in toward Daly. Franch dove out to punch the ball, and the deflection fell to Daly, whose looping header hit the crossbar, and Portland finally managed to clear the ball.
In the 83rd minute, Hayley Raso subbed off for Tyler Lussi; the Thorns used their third of the night swapping Mallory Weber for Crnogorcevic in the 90th. After three minutes of added time, the whistle blew with the Thorns on top 3-1.