The Portland Thorns clinched the club’s second-ever NWSL Shield and a home playoff semifinal match with their 1-0 win at PNC Stadium against the Houston Dash. With the win, Mark Parsons became the winningest manager in NWSL regular season history.
The Thorns dominated proceedings from the first whistle. They possessed the ball and looked to find Morgan Weaver behind the defense early. In the second minute, the Thorns thought they should’ve been awarded a penalty twice. Lindsey Horan was taken down in the box before Christine Sinclair got to the ball. She poked it to Rocky Rodriguez and went down as well. Both Rodriguez and Weaver had shots blocked.
Ten minutes later Sophia Smith almost opened the scoring. Meghan Klingenberg won the ball off Nichelle Prince in midfield, drove forward and released Smith into space. Smith curled her shot toward the top corner but it struck the post.
Sinclair hit the other post in the 26th minute. Klingenberg lofted a free kick to the back post. The Canadian slid to meet the cross and redirected it off the woodwork. The Thorns worked the ball around the field and pinned Houston back. They were able to create some shots from distance and chaos in the box but struggled to create more clear cut chances until late in the half.
Kristie Mewis swung a Dash corner to the head of Rachel Daly in the 42nd minute. Daly connected well but headed into the hands of Bella Bixby. Portland went the other way quickly and clinically. Smith coasted past her defender and crossed to Weaver. The ball popped out to the penalty spot and Horan flew in and got there first. She thrashed her shot into the top corner to give the Thorns a deserved lead.
WHAT. A. GOAL. #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/TKAPD8DGeR— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) October 17, 2021
With that goal, @LindseyHoran becomes the 3rd player in club history to score 25 goals. #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/hJMgO3Bd48— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) October 18, 2021
The end of the first half became very transitional as the Thorns and Dash traded shots from distance. Portland reestablished dominance through possession and pressing to start the second half but Houston adjusted.
The Dash created a great chance to equalize in the 54th minute. Prince chipped a ball through to Mewis, who sprinted in front of Rodriguez. She pushed her header just wide of the net giving the Thorns a reminder of how quickly the Dash can strike.
Houston gained momentum and upped the pressure. They turned the Thorns over in dangerous areas repeatedly. Mewis nearly levelled the score in the 62nd minute. Daly flicked it to Mewis, who turned and fired just wide of the upright.
Sinclair almost created a goal out of nothing. She took advantage of a mis-clearance by Sophie Schmidt in the box and slid the ball toward the back post. Allysha Chapman made a sliding save to keep it out.
The Thorns were forced to dispel multiple Houston attacks as the Dash pushed for a late equalizer. Portland were able to withstand the Dash pressure and secured the three points that clinched the club’s second-ever NWSL Shield.
The Thorns host the North Carolina Courage in the final match of the NWSL season. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. PST on October 30.