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Thorns headed to second consecutive NWSL final after beating Seattle

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The Thorns beat the Reign for the second week in a row, 2-1

Tobin Heath celebrates after scoring Portland’s first goal.
Kris Lattimore

Portland defeated their Cascadia rivals for the second week in a row today, again coming back from a one-goal deficit with goals from Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan.

The Thorns started the same lineup as last week, slotting Midge Purce into what was Hayley Raso’s spot; Seattle had both Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long available after both sat out last week’s game.

The boos started early, when Jessica Fishlock won a free kick just outside the penalty arc in the second minute. Rapinoe took the kick and drilled it straight into the wall.

After spending the first few minutes absorbing pressure from Seattle, the Thorns started to get some looks of their own. Christine Sinclair took a crack in the 8th minute, beating Nielsen to send in an angled shot from the left side of the penalty area, but Lydia Williams dove to make the save.

In the 17th minute, Purce flicked a nice header back to Tobin Heath off an Ellie Carpenter throw into the area; Heath didn’t get much on her one-time shot and Seattle deflected it out for a corner. Just a minute later, more chaos happened in the area, and both Caitlin Foord and Midge Purce had close-range shots unluckily blocked by a scrum of Reign defenders.

Around the 20th minute, the momentum swung back Seattle’s direction, with the Thorns defense doing well to block and clear several crosses from the left by Rapinoe and Steph Catley. Carpenter looked strong in the much-anticipated matchup between her and Rapinoe, often teaming up with one or both of Purce and Celeste Boureille to keep the Reign captain quiet.

Emily Sonnett earned the first yellow of the game in the 27th minute, for a foul against Fishlock just outside the left edge of the penalty area. On the resulting free kick, Seattle notched the first goal of the game. Rapinoe hit the cross bar from a sharp angle, AD Franch couldn’t quite reach ball to snatch it out of the air, and Jasmyne Spencer made a run to the far post and one-timed it into the net.

Several minutes later, Franch made a huge diving save against Jodie Taylor, who found space at the top of the box to send a well-struck volley on target. The Thorns almost got one back in the 34th minute, with Horan getting her head on a service from Meghan Klingenberg, but she sent it wide.

Taylor came close again in the 37th, turning the Thorns defense to send a low shot in from close range, but Franch again dove to deflect the ball out for a corner.

In the 40th minute, Fishlock earned a yellow for a foul against Boureille, drawing the loudest cheer of the game to that point.

In the 43rd minute, The Thorns got one back, with—who else?—f***ing Tobin Heath picking up a beautiful diagonal through ball from Horan, taking a few touches to beat the last defender, and coolly slotting her angled shot past Williams.

To start the second half, Mark Parsons made the first sub of the game, bringing in Ana Crnogorcevic for Purce.

In the 49th minute, Emily Menges fouled Spencer on a Seattle transition play for the second yellow of the game, Menges’s first caution since 2015. Rapinoe then earned one for Seattle in the 55th minute for a late foul against Heath.

By this point, the game was decidedly chippy, with fouls flying on both sides as each team tried to slow the other’s momentum. The result was a lot of free kicks on both sides, and a choppy stretch of the game. In the 60th minute, Allie Long picked up the fourth yellow of the game for a foul on Kling.

Portland came close to a go-ahead goal in the 67th minute. Sinclair made a sliding play on the ball in Portland’s attacking third to knock it away from the Reign defense to an onrushing Crnogorcevic, who laid off a nice through ball to Foord, but the Australian was well offside.

The Thorns had a goal waved offside in the 69th minute. Horan, Foord, and Heath all charged forward on a transition play with just Seattle’s center backs in position, and Horan found Heath with a well-weighted diagonal ball that she slotted home from the left. Providence Park exploded—but center ref Ramy Touchan called the goal back.

By that point, though, the Thorns had Seattle on their back foot, keeping the ball in their attacking third and getting repeated looks on goal. The Reign looked as organized defensively as they sometimes looked disorganized last week, but Portland kept knocking, and their efforts finally paid off in the 76th minute. Christine Sinclair, OC, sent a beautiful curling service over the top for Horan, whose header plinked off the back post and over the goal line.

After that goal, the Thorns had taken control of the match and didn’t let go. The Reign’s only real looks were on set pieces, plus a beautifully set-up chance by Bev Yanez inside the box that she unceremoniously whiffed.

In stoppage time, Elizabeth Ball came on for Emily Sonnett, who had pulled up with an injury a few minutes earlier, but initially stayed on the field.

After five tense minutes, the whistle blew to send the Thorns to the final next week. The game will be at 1:30 pm next Saturday at Providence Park.