The Thorns honored their World Cup players in style with a dominant 5-0 victory over the Houston Dash, putting to bed their stretch of questionable home form in the process. This match marked the first time the USWNT players have played at Providence Park all season, a highly anticipated return. “It felt so good to be home playing in front of our crowd, playing with my teammates that I love, in the renovated stadium on a Wednesday night in front of 22,000 plus people,” said Tobin Heath. “It was just spectacular. This place never stops amazing me.”
With the USWNT players more integrated into the team, coach Mark Parsons made several notable changes to his lineup. The Thorns made the return to four defenders, allowing room in the XI for a third forward — Heath joined Hayley Raso and Midge Purce up top — a switch which proved effective against a disorganized Dash backline.
The changes paid off early; Lindsey Horan had two good looks in the fifth minute of the match as she got on the end of Heath’s corner. It was Horan, again, who opened the scoring two minutes later when Gabby Seiler picked the ball off Sofia Huerta’s feet and played it through to Heath. Dribbling forward, Heath cut the ball left to find Horan’s run out of midfield, and Horan’s one-touch strike sailed past Jane Campbell.
The Thorns struck again in the 12th minute as Meghan Klingenberg played a fantastic ball through two Dash players to Heath’s run up the left flank. Heath’s cross was just ahead of both Purce and Allysha Chapman’s defensive effort, but found Raso unmarked on the far post. Drawn out of position by her attempt to get on the end of the initial cross, Campbell was taken out of the equation, giving Raso a completely open look on net — one that she took full advantage of.
Just minutes later, Purce was fouled in the box as Amber Brooks slide-tackled her from behind; Brooks caught Purce’s legs perfectly but got absolutely nothing on the ball. It was an easy penalty call and another fantastic goal from Christine Sinclair, who stepped up to the penalty spot.
In the 23rd minute, Heath found a brilliant ball to Purce, who was able to drive forward and draw out Campbell. Touching the ball behind Campbell, Purce passed the ball to Raso. Raso’s shot found its way past Brooks and Chapman as they attempted to cover the net.
Four goals down, Houston coach James Clarkson made two more substitutions in the 30th minute of the match, swapping Kealia Ohai in for Christine Nairn and Cece Kizer in for Kyah Simon — switches in the midfield and the attack rather than moves to shore up the Dash defense.
“That first 25-30 minutes was full-throttle Thorns,” said Parsons after the match. “Electric football. Fast-paced ... Fantastic first half of football.”
The Thorns kept pressing. In the 32nd minute, Christine Sinclair’s shot was blocked, and Horan’s bicycle-kick off the deflection was tipped off the crossbar. The ball fell to Heath, who tried her luck, but was denied by a fantastic foot-save from Campbell. The play was eventually whistled offside.
However, Houston weren’t without their chances, recording three shots in the closing minutes of the first half and calling Adrianna Franch to make a couple of saves early in the second.
The Dash’s defensive woes weren’t over, though. In the 58th minute, Ally Prisock hit the ball into her own goal, but the play was ultimately called off due to a Purce handball. In the 71st minute, Heath’s free kick led to a scramble in Houston’s box, and Tyler Lussi eventually was able to make a play on the ball. Unfortunately for the Dash, Campbell’s attempted diving tip wasn’t enough to redirect the shot, and Campbell was ultimately credited with the own goal.
“I think from the very get-go we wanted it so badly,” explained Horan, “and were moving for each other and were playing, and playing with purpose, and just having fun, and it resulted to four goals in the first half, so awesome. Really proud of the team.”
The Thorns continued to attack through the closing minutes of the match, maintaining their five goal advantage and looking like the far superior team. (And yes, Andressinha did end up getting subbed on in the 68th minute. “It’s great to get Andressinha in,” said Parsons after the game.)