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Portland Thorns come from behind to win 2-1 and go top of the NWSL table

The Thorns looked sluggish in the Houston heat and humidity but came back with two quick goals after going down.

Nikita Taparia

The Portland Thorns beat the Houston Dash after going down a goal in the second half thanks to a stunning strike from Tyler Lussi and a bit of southern hospitality that allowed Midge Purce to sneak in a second. After looking under the weather for large stretches of the match and going down a goal, a six minute flurry late in the second gave them the lead and they would hold on for the points.

Andressinha, the first Thorns player back from the World Cup, returned to the starting lineup to face the club she left in 2018. Stormy weather in Houston delayed kickoff by two hours, and the humidity was obvious to see: Portland’s players in particular looked unused to the weather and would tire as the game went on. Portland nonetheless came out of the gate strong, keeping the ball in Houston’s half for the first few minutes. Simone Charley, after being nullified at home against Utah last week, looked extremely sharp, getting opportunities to dribble into space and isolate on her defenders on the wing, and Andressinha looked ready to make things happen with the ball at her feet.

Houston looked impressive on the counter, with Kealia Ohai ghosting past Elizabeth Ball and Kelli Hubly a few times and putting in low crosses that caused chaos in Portland’s defense. Amber Brooks could have put Houston ahead in the 11th minute with a header from a corner that she put just wide.

Christine Nairn, who punished the Thorns with her deep shooting during her time at the Orlando Pride, nearly did so again not long after, with her shot from outside the box deflecting off Kristie Mewis and forcing Britt Eckerstrom into a save low to her right. Midge Purce could have opened the scoring in the 26th minute off of an Andressinha set piece delivery but sent her header over the bar.

Ellie Carpenter, also making her return to the team from international duty, came on at halftime for Emily Menges, still making her way back from muscle injury that kept her out in the previous two games.

Purce had another opportunity in the first minute of the second half after picking up a long pass but Brooks tracked her all the way and forced her into a difficult shot to Campbell’s far post, which she just missed wide.

The Dash opened the scoring in the 50th minute from a set piece. Kyah Simon, after having come on in the 38th minute, got on the end of service from Nairn to the back post, sending a header softly across the face of goal past Eckerstrom and through an attempted clearance off the line. Simon, who was a late scratch from Australia’s World Cup squad due to recurring injury, looked delighted to be back on the field and scoring in her first match back.

Portland, on the other hand, looked a little short of breath in the Texas humidity. Their runs looked a little slow and they looked second to the ball in the midfield. Tyler Lussi came on in the 63rd minute for Simone Charley, with the rookie still not being 90 minutes fit. Andressinha’s set piece delivery continued to pose problems, with a free kick almost finding its way through the Houston defense without getting touched, but other than that Portland’s opportunities largely came on the break. Meanwhile the Dash could have had more, with Portland failing to clear a ball in their own half and Ohai drifting to the back post before volleying her shot well wide. Ohai nearly scored again immediately after picking up a through ball but sent her shot right at Eckerstrom.

Then, from basically nothing, the Thorns pulled level. In the 69th minute, Tyler Lussi picked the ball up at the top of the box, saw that no one had any intention of closing her down and put in a curling strike that caught Jane Campbell totally off guard. Houston, after being on top for much of the second half, weren’t prepared for the gut punch, and let in another goal just 6 minutes later due to some fairly rudimentary errors.

Brynjarsdottir sent in a fairly aimless long ball that caught Houston’s defense completely out of shape. Ari Romero played Lussi and Purce onside—Romero attempted to head back to her goalkeeper but could only find Purce, who beat Campbell on the volley for her fifth goal in five games.

The Dash, shaken out of their stupor, would go on to pressure Portland’s backline, with Simon and Ohai sending in deep crosses that caused some trouble for the Thorns, but they failed to get another good shooting opportunity. Christine Nairn nearly sent Kyah Simon in on goal but Reynolds was able to stretch all the way out with her foot to pick the ball out of the air before a shot could go through, and the Thorns escaped with all three points.