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Thorns dominate Red Stars in home opener

The connection between Midge Purce and Simone Charley puts Portland over the top as the Thorns find a 3-0 win against Chicago

Midge Purce beats Emily Boyd to put the Thorns up 1-0
Kris Lattimore

In their home opener, the Portland Thorns put together a solid performance, finding a 3-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars. “I thought we were absolutely our best during the first half,” said Mark Parsons. “There was such an exciting, electric atmosphere and such an exciting, electric performance from the group of players.” Parsons described Portland’s performance as “incredibly dominant,” noting that his major takeaway was “the spirit and the character that the group played with every single player.”

Although the Thorns started with almost exactly the same XI they used against Sky Blue last week, save the insertion of Midge Purce in the place of Tyler Lussi, formation changes led to a significantly different lineup than what we saw against New Jersey. Portland moved back to the three-back, slotting Gabby Seiler into the backline. Dagny Brynjarsdottir dropped back to defensive center mid, and Ana Maria Crnogorcevic stepped in as a Christine Sinclair-like ten, leaving Purce and Simone Charley up top.

Pressing early, Purce got on the end of the majority of Portland’s attacking chances in the opening minute of the game, hitting a shot off the crossbar in the third minute and drawing a foul at the top of the box in the eighth.

It wasn’t until the 20th minute that Chicago found a chance on goal, with Michele Vasconcelos getting on the end of a fantastic ball. Unfortunately for the Red Stars, Meghan Klingenberg tracked back and was able to block Vasconcelos’ shot, deflecting the ball out for a corner.

The Thorns broke onto the scoresheet in the 27th minute, when Elizabeth Ball won a tackle at half and sent a pass to the center for Ana Maria Crnogorcevic. Crnogorcevic went wide to find Simone Charley, who took the ball central and slipped a through ball to Midge Purce. Purce took a touch to beat Emily Boyd and finished a simple shot, putting her team up 1-0.

Only four minutes later, Purce scored again. Simone Charley found herself with the ball at the endline, cutting it back to beat Sarah Gorden. She sent a cross to Purce, who was unmarked at the top of the six yard box. Purce hit a left-footed volley to bury the ball in the back of the net.

“The more that they have a relationship, with and off each other, the more that they’ll individually shine, and I think they embraced that,” Mark Parsons said of Purce and Charley’s partnership. Purce noted: “This is the first time I’ve played major minutes with Simone (Charley). I think both of us were like, ‘oh, this is working!’. I think it was really fun, I think we had a ton of fun today.”

In the 37th minute, Elizabeth Ball was given a yellow card for a late tackle, the only Thorns booking of the match. The 40th minute saw Angela Salem go down without contact, clutching her knee and clearly in pain. The trainer immediately called for a stretcher, and she was carried off the field. Celeste Boureille came off the bench in her place. The Thorns did not yet have an update on Salem’s injury after the game.

Although Portland’s attacking sting was somewhat subdued following Salem’s exit from the game, they were able to hold the Red Stars off for the remainder of the half, with Chicago only recording their first shot on target in the first minute of stoppage time.

The second half began more evenly matched; Katie Johnson saw a great opportunity go off the crossbar in the 56th minute, and Eckerstrom was called to collect a cross by Casey Short only two minutes later. In the 65th minute, Midge Purce hit a curling bar to the far post, beating Emily Boyd but sent just off-frame. Chicago was given their first booking in the 66th minute, when Casey Short was given a yellow card for a foul on Simone Charley.

Portland made their second substitution of the match in the 68th minute, with Tyler Lussi coming in for Midge Purce. The Red Stars followed that, bringing in Maria Sanchez for Michele Vasconcelos in the 76th minute. In the 78th minute, Marissa Everett came on for Simone Charley, making her second appearance of the season.

The Thorns broke through Chicago’s defense yet again in the 85th minute. Meghan Klingenberg sent a dangerous free kick into the box, which was brought down by Marissa Everett. Everett looked composed as she finished her shot, nutmegging Emily Boyd in the process. “I thought the goal summed up what she’s about: she’s got great movement, she reads the game,” Parsons said, pointing to Everett’s near-goal against Sky Blue last week as further evidence of her skill.

Everett was given another fantastic look in stoppage time, as Celeste Boureille took the ball up the field and got a fantastic cross off. Everett sent her shot over the goal. In the closing minutes of the match, Boureille went down, as substitute Kayla Sharples came in from behind. Sharples was given a yellow card for the play, the last major action of the game.