Portland and the OL Reign played to their first 0-0 draw since May 29, 2016. The draw ensures the Thorns’ the eight seed and a July 17 matchup with the North Carolina Courage.
The Thorns played their last group stage match of the NWSL Challenge Cup against OL Reign, who had shut out the Thorns in their previous three meetings in the Cascadia Derby. It was a bit of a must-win for both teams because a loss might mean taking on the North Carolina Courage in the first knockout-round match.
Portland started the match well. Rocky Rodriguez, Celeste Boureille and Angela Salem pressed effectively in the midfield to recover the ball quickly and pin back the Reign. The Reign have struggled with pressure and have given the ball away cheaply in midfield and defense. The Thorns forwards pressed the Reign fullbacks well and forced giveaways that resulted in opportunities in transition.
This is the average positions after half an hour for the Reign. Balcer with a defensive task and Weatherholt and Long overlapping themselves. That midfield need some shape. #NWSLChallengeCup #BeBold pic.twitter.com/jU97KauHWM— NWSL Analitica (@NwslAnalitica) July 13, 2020
The Thorns created their most dangerous opportunities on the wings with balls into the box from Morgan Weaver, Simone Charley and the fullbacks. After the first half water break, Christine Sinclair and Weaver were more successful in their combination play resulting in a few offensive opportunities. Portland started to create more but were more vulnerable in defense at the end of the first half. Bixby was forced into two saves by Sofia Huerta and substitute Taylor Smith.
Portland started the second half on the front foot with a Charley header that provided the Thorns’ best opportunity of the match. The Thorns opened the second half with good pressure but then defended in a medium-block allowing the Reign a little more time on the ball. They selected when and where to press aggressively to win the ball back.
Weaver spun her defender Amber Brooks and looked to be one-on-one with the keeper but elected to pass. Sinclair drifted higher up the pitch as the match progressed looking to get on the end of set pieces and crosses.
Meghan Klingenberg and Kelli Hubly missed a clearance in the box which allowed the Reign their best opportunity as Smith fired a low shot just wide of the post. After the 60 minute mark, the game opened up completely with chances at both ends but neither team could break the deadlock. Christine Sinclair was named Woman of the Match for her efforts in attack.
Next for the Throns will be their quarter final matchup with the North Carolina Courage. First seed against eighth seed. Coach Parsons said, “Right now, coming off this [game], we’ve finished in the same spot where this team is performing at such a high level without the final piece. But what a time to find the final piece in the quarterfinal against a very good opponent like North Carolina.”
Watch the NWSL quarterfinals, July 17, 9:30am PT, CBS All Access.