A razor sharp counterattacking show by the Thorns won them all three points and a clean sheet against the Chicago Red Stars. Two tap-ins from Midge Purce and a touch of Christine Sinclair’s skill proved the difference in a game where the Thorns spent most of their time defending. For the second week in a row the team went up 2-0 within the first 25 minutes, and they never looked unsettled throughout the rest of the game, despite not seeing much of the ball.
It was a demonstration of the Thorns institutional ethos of quality shots above all else. The Red Stars had 55% of the possession in the game and took an incredible 17 shots, of which only two were on target. Meanwhile the Thorns had just 12 shots in total, 9 of which were on target and 8 were in the box. At a point in the first half, all of the shots the Thorns had taken in the game were directly in front of the six yard box.
The Thorns stuck with the starting lineup they rolled out last week with a midfield of Christine Sinclair, Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Lindsay Horan. Chicago, meanwhile, started Savannah McCaskill for the first time since July 6th as the Red Stars entered the game on short rest after a Wednesday loss to the Orlando Pride.
The first Thorns shot of the game was a warning, and it would only take the team one more to score the opener. In the fifth minute Midge Purce silkily split two defenders with an impressive bit of skill to get herself into the box, cut to the endline and chipped a cross for Tobin Heath, whose free header missed by a pretty wide margin.
The opening goal would only take another five minutes. The Thorns front line had pushed up and Klingenberg was preparing to send in a cross. Her effort took a deflection however, and Tobin Heath ended up with the ball at her feet and a defense out of position. Heath found Sinclair, who had the intelligence to keep herself just onside after the intial play broke down, found herself with no one in front of her but Alyssa Naeher, who she chipped the ball over to score her 9th goal of the season.
It would only take until the 24th minute for the Thorns to double up. Klingenberg was faced up against Casey Short and did her signature cut back onto her right foot, sending in a perfect cross to the far post. Hayley Raso was there to fire a shot from a tight angle which Naeher could only parry directly onto Midge Purce’s head, who nodded it in.
Chicago spent a good deal of time on the ball but had trouble turning it into quality shots. Their best opportunity of the first half came from a Sam Kerr blocked shot that rebounded to her for a second chance shot in the box that she put just over. They continued to build pressure throughout the half, though, keeping the Thorns defense busy and making AD Franch come up with some big claims on dangerous crosses: The Red Stars crossed the ball 19 times in the first half. Still, the Thorns managed to keep them from getting more than two of their 12 shots on target.
Chicago continued to pressure in the second half, but it was mostly the same story of them getting into decent positions but failing to generate shots on target, and when the Thorns broke they had a ton of open space to run onto.
The Thorns scored their third in the 57th minute off of exactly this. Raso, Heath and Sinclair combined impressively down the left side to send Raso running at the Red Stars defense. Raso drove into the box and ran into a wall, but the onrushing Sinclair sent in a brilliant shot that forced Naeher to stretch out to save it onto her crossbar. Midge Purce was first to the rebound to collect her second tap-in goal of the afternoon.
The quality of the game degraded somewhat late: Tobin Heath was booked for kicking Casey Short’s nose when going for a high ball, and Sinclair and Julie Ertz spent a good amount of time on the floor after getting knocked around a bit.
Simone Charley replaced Midge Purce in the 62th minute, and Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic came on late to see her first minutes in two months as the game closed out with a series of fouls and uneven play.