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Thorns come back to salvage a 2-2 draw with Sky Blue

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Anya Button

The Portland Thorns had to come back from a two goal deficit in order to save a road draw against a Sky Blue FC who previously had no goals and no points in the league. Two Carli Lloyd goals in quick succession put the Thorns on the back foot early, but the they were able to get back in the game on the back of two goals within 5 minutes before halftime. Dagny Brynjarsdottir made her first start in the Thorns midfield after coming off the bench in the previous two matches for Lindsey Horan, who didn’t travel east due to some last minute hip issues.

For Sky Blue, Julie James came in for Jen Hoy as the team set up to try and flood numbers into midfield, with Carli Lloyd as the lone striker. Sky Blue FC came out of the gate blitzing the Thorns, putting a lot of pressure on the backline and midfield in possession, and Lloyd’s running in particular caused some problems for the Thorns early.

Sky Blue opened the scoring with their first goal of the season in the 6th minute. Raquel Rodriguez jetted past Brynjarsdottir and Boureille in midfield and played a perfect ball down the line for Carli Lloyd. With Klingenberg upfield Lloyd was able to beat Katherine Reynolds one-on-one and get a shot away which took a deflection off the recovering Sonnett to take it past Franch.

Lloyd would score another only ten minutes later after picking up a giveaway backward pass out of midfield. Boureille got closed down and attempted to pass back to Sonnett but put her pass missed wide and Lloyd slipped into the box. AD Franch came out to challenge and won the initial ball but Lloyd was able to recover and chip into an empty net from a tight angle.

Portland was eventually able to respond in the 32nd minute on a set piece earned from a Tobin Heath run down the middle. Heath was brought down in the center of the park by Paige Monahan while leading a break, and sent in a chipped ball from the ensuing free kick. Sinclair was able to shield the ball and nutmeg Kailen Sheridan to find a completely unmarked Sonnett, who was had enough time to take a touch before passing the ball into the back of the net for her first goal of the season.

Only two minutes later Tobin Heath got on the board herself with her second backheeled goal of the season. Ellie Carpenter played an excellent ball down the line for Caitlin Foord who had switched out wide. Foord’s cross found Heath in the box, who was able to settle it and somehow backheel the ball past an onrushing Sheridan.

After scoring their two goals the Thorns seemed to wake up and began putting Sky Blue under serious pressure. Heath nearly put the Thorns in the lead in second half stoppage time with a deep free kick that evaded the Sky Blue defense and bounced nearly into the top corner of Sheridan’s net, forcing the Sky Blue goalkeeper into a stretching save.

Sky Blue’s best efforts after the half tended to be on counterattacks, with one in particular very nearly seeing Raquel Rodriguez nearly breaking past the last defender but Carpenter managing to slow her down enough for the rest of the Thorns defense to get back in position and block her shot.

Carli Lloyd nearly wrapped up a hat trick in the 62nd minute breaking down the left with Carpenter caught out of position and beat Franch but hit her shot off the far post. Gabby Seiler came on for Brynjarsdottir in the 77th—after seeing most of her early minutes for the Thorns in defense, she went into midfield, a position she may be called upon to play more in the coming weeks. Savannah McCaskill brought some attacking impetus for Sky Blue off the bench, getting a shot away late that didn’t trouble Franch too much.

Midge Purce came on for Crnogorcevic in the 68th minute. Purce brought effective running and crossing off the bench, sending a low cross into the box in the 81st minute after some good combination play with Foord that no one was able to get in the end of, but the Thorns struggled to get her on the ball and Sky Blue were effective at double teaming her when she did. Foord nearly put the Thorns ahead in the 87th from a low shot off a corner but had her shot blocked by Estelle Johnson. In the end, Sky Blue’s defense held up, Portland couldn’t get enough dangerous shots away in the second half and the Thorns walked away for the second consecutive week feeling like they left points on the table.