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Thorns ease past the Spirit 1-0

The Thorns stay in contention for a second place finish heading into the last day of the season.

Anya Button

A seeming serious injury to Hayley Raso put a dampener on what was otherwise a comfortable night at Audi Field for the Portland Thorns against the Washington Spirit. The Spirit, only two weeks off firing their former coach Jim Gabarra, couldn’t offer very much that the Thorns found difficult to handle.

The Thorns elected to keep their foot on the pedal, retaining mostly the same lineup that started in the last few games as Mark Parsons and his team tried to build up understanding in the team ahead of the playoffs. Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic started the match in place of Caitlin Foord, who dropped to the bench after getting her first start for the club midweek. Midge Purce came into the team late for Meghan Klingenberg at left back. The Washington Spirit, depleted by injury, were reduced to a five-woman bench and major changes to their starting lineup after Rebecca Quinn was determined to be suffering from a concussion late.

The early opening goal was borne out of the comfort the team had on the ball. It began from the team playing out of pressure in the back, and Celeste Boureille sending a long ball up to Hayley Raso, who played a quick one-two with Christine Sinclair to get herself some space down the right. Raso pushed into the box and smartly dropped her cross to the top of the box to Tobin Heath, who left Taylor Smith standing one-on-one, cut left and roofed the ball over Aubrey Bledsoe from a tight angle in the 10th minute.

Lindsay Horan nearly put the Thorns up two in the 19th minute when she got on the end of a deep cross from Tobin Heath. Bledsoe made the decision to come out and punch and was soundly beaten but Horan headed over the bar under the pressure. Raso continued her excellent service in the 24th minute, holding up the ball on the wing and finding Heath again before Heath forced Bledsoe into a save from another tight angle.

The Spirit did get shots away: their best chance saw Rose Lavelle force Franch into a parried save in the 33rd minute. The Thorns managed to keep the Spirit attack in front of them and force them to shoot from the top of the box, denying them penetration for nearly all of the game.

The Thorns came out strong from the restart, with Crnogorcevic getting put through on goal by Celeste Boureille in the 47th minute but electing to try to cross for Raso instead of taking a shot. Just afterward Heath sent the ball into Crnogorcevic with her back to goal just a few feet away from the net, who then laid off for Horan who fired just over the bar.

Hayley Raso, after getting beaten up most of the game, had to come off early in the 59th minute after colliding hard with Aubrey Bledsoe while trying to chase down a long ball. Raso came off the field on a stretcher and in what appeared to be serious back pain. She would eventually leave the stadium in an ambulance, per eyewitness reports. Caitlin Foord entered in her place. Foord immediately made an impact, putting a lovely cross in for Crnogorcevic in the 65th minute that Crnogorcevic just failed to get her head on.

Caprice Dydasco went close with a few shots from distance as the Spirit attempted to make a stand late on, but the Thorns again defended well, with Franch coming up with some big claims on the few crosses the Spirit were able to put in. Tobin Heath came off in stoppage time for Tyler Lussi as the forward line sought to keep the ball in the Spirit corner to kill the game off, allowing the Thorns to seal up their fifth clean sheet of the season.