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Thorns fight back to earn 2-2 draw with Chicago Red Stars

Sam Kerr nets her third brace in four games at Providence, with Christine Sinclair drawing the Thorns level.

Nikita Taparia

Two teams fighting for playoff position left each other in roughly the same position as they started in at Providence Park in a wild game that saw the Red Stars shoot to a two goal lead on opposite sides of halftime courtesy of Sam Kerr only for the Thorns to peg them back late in the game to salvage a point.

The Thorns started what has become their first choice lineup in recent weeks, featuring their backline of Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Sonnett, Emily Menges and Ellie Carpenter, the midfield of Celeste Boureille, Lindsay Horan and Christine Sinclair and Tobin Heath, Hayley Raso and Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic as forwards. Chicago, fresh off a frustrating 0-0 draw in Seattle in smoky Seattle, decided to leave Danielle Colaprico on the bench to start the game in favor of Nikki Stanton. Casey Short and Arin Gilliland swapped sides in order to put a better defender on Tobin Heath, but other than that their lineup was unchanged, bringing Sam Kerr back to Providence Park for the first time in 2018.

Gilliland switching to the left hand side allowed her to push up further and ask questions of Raso defensively, who she got the better of in the opening stages, where Short was tasked with getting tight to Tobin Heath. The Thorns were mostly successful in forcing the Red Stars to shoot from range, except for a crucial few opportunities that they skied over the bar.

The best early chance saw Horan get free in the box in the 19th minute on a set piece but could only send her header softly looping toward Naeher. The Thorns nearly had another chance just a minute later when Crnogorcevic held up the ball well and played Tobin Heath in but Casey Short forced her wide and denied a shot. Sam Kerr nearly got a shot away after being played into a one-on-one with Franch but somehow neither touched the ball. Just a minute after, Morgan Brian got on the end of deep set-piece service and volleyed just wide of goal. Julie Ertz very nearly put an excellent Yuki Nagasato cross into the net but could only volley over six yards from goal.

The Red Stars opened the scoring just before half time in the 43rd minute, after a mixup from Sonnett allowed Sam Kerr to take the ball off her toes, beat her for speed and then beat Franch at her near post. Chicago had been pressuring the backline all night but Sonnett got caught feeling a little too confident on the ball, so the Thorns went into the break a goal down, having gotten into good positions but only having two shots to show for their efforts.

Morgan Brian came off for Danielle Colaprico to start the second half. Sam Kerr scored again almost immediately, putting a soft header into the bottom corner off a deep cross in the 47th minute.

Mark Parsons, facing a two goal deficit and seeing his team fail to produce offensively, rang the changes in the 56th minute, pulling off Celeste Boureille for Andressinha and Crnogorcevic for Caitlin Foord. Andressinha in particular was an immediate offensive spark, playing Klingenberg in behind the defense with a clever disguised ball almost immediately. The Thorns offense benefited from being directed from deep by Andressinha, and they almost immediately became rampant, helped by the fact that no one on the Red Stars seemed interested in closing her down.

The Thorns pulled level soon in the 60th minute, with Carpenter sending in deep service that both Lindsey Horan and Alyssa Naeher challenged for. Naeher, punching as she fell, could only get the ball as far as Tobin Heath, who guided her header into an empty net. Chicago’s bench was outraged, wanting a foul called on Horan, but the ref never seemed particularly interested.

Sinclair drew the Thorns level in the 68th minute off service from Heath. Heath drove into the box, drawing defenders out of the way, before sending a low cross that Foord dummied and left for Sinclair, who was waiting behind the play to fire off the crossbar for her first league goal since May.

The Thorns continued piling on pressure after that, but the Red Stars worked their way back into the match. Sam Kerr, swinging out wide, sent in a dangerous cross in the 86th minute that evaded everyone and Vanessa Di Bernardo sent in a rocket that Franch palmed onto the post in stoppage time. In the end neither team could close the game out.