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Thorns maintain position on NWSL table, beat Spirit 3-1

Goals from Raso, Sonnett, and Sinclair give Portland the decisive win over the Washington Spirit

Nikita Taparia

The Portland Thorns found a 3-1 victory over the Washington Spirit at Providence Park, exactly the opposite of the scoreline when the teams met earlier this season at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

Although the Spirit found the first good chance of the match — an Andi Sullivan header that went just over the crossbar in the fourth minute — it was Portland who found their way onto the scoreboard first. With the Thorns in posession, Emily Menges received a pass from the dropping Midge Purce and was able to pick out Christine Sinclair’s unmarked run on the right flank. Sinclair took the ball to the endline and tried her luck with a cross that sailed just over the heads of Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Sam Staab before finding the feet of Elise Kellond-Knight, who attempted to clear the ball. However, her pass didn’t make it far before it was picked up by Hayley Raso’s backwards run, and Raso one-timed the ball into the back of the net.

Washington’s coaching staff and players were upset by the no-call on what they believed to be Brynjarsdottir’s offside positioning on the end of the play; she was clearly past the Spirit’s defensive line, and could have hindered Aubrey Bledsoe’s ability to get to Raso’s shot. After the match, the referees stated that Brynjarsdottir “was not ruled to be interfering with play because she did not play or touch the ball.”

“I think it just gets us ahead and gets us a little more confident,” said Raso of scoring in the opening minutes of the match. “Scoring early, also gets the other team down a little bit ... it was good to go out there, get that early goal and then just keep building from that.”

The Thorns were able to do just that when they doubled their lead 14 minutes later: Tobin Heath dribbled through the center of the field, getting around Sullivan and sending a fantastic ball ahead to Raso. Bledsoe came up with the tip save for a Portland corner. Heath played near post, somehow finding the foot of Emily Sonnett, whose shot flew past two Spirit defenders and into the goal. “I think we’ve done well scoring goals in the first half,” said coach Mark Parsons after the match. “I think we’re a team that wants to come out on the front foot and score early and often and I think that second goal changed the game in the sense of now we’re really happy to sit, compact, wait for opportunities and we got them.”

In the 28th minute, Sonnett kicked the ball into Rose Lavelle’s head, leading to a long stoppage in play and Lavelle coming off the field for several minutes. Lavelle re-entered the match, and the first half continued relatively evenly, with the Thorns getting more looks on target — especially in the final minutes — but the Spirit having the edge in possession.

The second half began in a similar fashion: another good look for Washington. In the 47th minute, Lavelle cut the ball back to beat both Menges and Meghan Klingenberg and tried her luck on goal. Adrianna Franch had it covered and snatched the ball from the air.

In the 58th minute, Kellond-Knight was issued a yellow card for a professional foul on Raso. Sonnett’s shot off Heath’s resulting free kick was blocked by Sullivan.

Portland broke through Washington’s defense yet again in the 63rd minute, off a Heath corner. Lindsey Horan went up for the ball in the air, but it deflected off Sullivan to Sinclair. Sinclair hit the ball across her body with her left foot, setting herself up for a beautiful half volley into the upper corner — a ball Bledsoe didn’t have a chance on.

The Spirit stole one back in the 68th minute, when substitute Chloe Logarzo played a cross to the top of the box. Crystal Thomas got a foot on the end of it, sending it to the other side of the field where it was picked up by Lavelle. Lavelle played back to find Sullivan’s run, and Sullivan dribbled forward and hit a shot from just outside the box that sailed past Franch.

The scoreline held throughout the remainder of the match, punctuated by a couple fantastic saves from Franch; the Thorns were able to secure their victory and bolster their position atop the NWSL table.