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Recap: Thorns trounce OL Reign 4-1 in final home match of 2020

Christine Sinclair put together a hat trick.

Soccer: NWSL Challenge Cup-NC Courage vs Portland Thorns Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

In their second match of the NWSL Fall Series, the Portland Thorns dominated OL Reign 4-1 at Providence Park. Christine Sinclair put together a hat trick while Rocky Rodriguez scored one of the best goals of the year.

The Thorns didn’t change much going into this one, starting with the 4-4-2 diamond they employed last match. The main change came with Becky Sauerbrunn starting in the backline. OL Reign trotted out a 4-3-3 to start.

It was a fast-paced game right from the start, with OL Reign putting the pressure on first with a shot on goal in the first five minutes. Shirley Cruz got the cross to a cutting Bethany Balcer in the box. Balcer almost launched the header through, but Britt Eckerstrom was there to save the shot.

Portland found some success with the long crosses early, but the Reign made it difficult, really trying to trap the Thorns on the sidelines. The Reign tried to force the Thorns into these long passes, making them as difficult to complete as possible. Portland has the players to make those passes, but OL Reign also has the midfielders to challenge them.

The best opportunities for Portland mostly came on quick runs off turnovers. The speed of Simone Charley and Tyler Lussi helped in the counterattack as they were able to make good runs and force the Reign to keep up. The more they could get out and run, the better.

Charley’s best opportunity came in the 35th minute, where she took a ball from Christine Sinclair and almost took all the way down the pitch. Unfortunately for Charley, the shot went just wide. The Thorns were able to get some shots, but not a lot of them were on target.

For most of the first half, OL Reign was in control. They were finding the best opportunities on offense and pushing the Thorns outside like they wanted; but the eventual break finally pushed the momentum in Portland’s favor.

The breakthrough finally came through in the 40th minute with the familiar combination of Lindsey Horan and Christine Sinclair getting it done. Meghan Klingengberg and Horan worked their way up the left sideline, with Klingenberg delivering a perfect ball to Horan. The midfielder found a running Sinclair down the middle of the box, and the Canadian launched it into the back of the net. It was 1-0 Thorns.

That wouldn’t be the last score of the half for Portland or for Sinclair. Charley drew the foul in the box, meaning Sinclair would have the chance at a penalty shot. Sinclair being Sinclair, she lined it up and lasered it right into the bottom-right corner of the net. The Thorns led 2-0 going into the half.

The second half started and Portland made one sub right at the beginning, brining Kelli Hubly on for Sauerbrunn. The Thorns also brought Sophia Smith and Madison Pogarch on for Lussi and Christen Westphal in the 53rd minute.

Portland came out of the half continuing to ramp up the pressure, not letting the Reign force them to the edges of the pitch as much. The Thorns got some early set-piece opportunities too in the final third, drawing fouls whenever possible. Smith especially made an impact, finding the gaps in the defense and earning some quality chances at the goal.

But the big highlight came in the 57th minute from Rocky Rodriguez. Charley made the cross to Rodriguez from the left side, and Rocky absolutely rocketed it off the volley into the back of the net. It is surely a contender for Goal of the Week and was also the shot that gave Portland a 3-0 lead.

OL Reign didn’t go away that easy. They cut into the lead for the first time in the 71st minute, when Balcer headed in a cross from Shirley Cruz. The ball rolled right into the bottom-left corner and it was a 3-1 match.

It seems like Sinclair did not like the Reign’s goal and responded back with the most clinical play of the match. Sinlcair took the ball from Horan and dribbled right past the Reign’s backline. She pushed the ball past them to a spot where only she could get it before rolling it right in for a hat trick — her third of her NWSL career. It was 4-1 Thorns.

There wasn’t much the Reign could do to stop the bleeding. The floodgates had opened and much of the half was spent for Portland in the final third. There wouldn’t be another goal scored, but there very easily could’ve been. Instead, Portland would happily take the 4-1 victory.

The Thorns return to the pitch this Saturday when they again take on the Utah Royals. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. PT.