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Thorns and Courage play to first-ever goalless draw

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The Thorns were awarded the NWSL Shield and honored Reynolds and Eckerstrom before their 0-0 draw with the Courage to close out the NWSL regular season.

Portland Thorns FC/Craig Mitchelldyer

The Portland Thorns played to the first-ever scoreless draw with the North Carolina Courage in Providence Park on Saturday to conclude the teams’ NWSL regular season campaigns. The Thorns kept their 13th clean sheet which is an NWSL single-season record.

Before the match, the Thorns were awarded the 2021 NWSL Shield which Portland clinched their last time out with a 1-0 win in Houston. The Thorns also honored former Portland players Katherine Reynolds and Britt Eckerstom, who retired after the 2020 season.

Crystal Dunn (left hip) and Rocky Rodriguez (right hip) were ruled out of the match due to injury and Yazmeen Ryan slid into midfield, making her first professional start.

The Courage started quickly. They pressed the Thorns high up the pitch and pinned the Thorns back. Carson Pickett swung a free kick into the box in the third minute that was headed off the bar. Kaleigh Kurtz pounced on the rebound and tapped it in but the flag was up for offside.

Portland created a chance of their own immediately. Sophia Smith got to the end line and cut back her cross to Morgan Weaver, who curled her shot wide of the target. Then North Carolina went the other way at pace. Amy Rodriguez drove toward goal and fired just over the goal.

The Courage had the better of the possession in the opening stages but the Thorns found space to exploit going forward on the counter attack. In the 18th minute, Smith pushed her shot wide of the post and a few minutes later she was fed through on goal. Ryan dribbled at the back line and slipped a through ball to Smith. Casey Murphy came off her line quickly to block Smith’s shot.

Portland established sustained pressure as the half progressed. They pinned the Courage in their own area but were unable to unlock the defense. Smith curled a shot wide in the 41st minute and was denied by Murphy in the 43rd and the teams would go into the half deadlocked.

The Thorns had two good chances at the start of the second half. Morgan Weaver struck the post with a left-footed shot and Christine Sinclair launched her shot over the bar from inside the 18-yard box moments later.

Horan danced down the left flank and crossed toward the back post in the 61st minute. Ryan and Pickett rose to challenge for the aerial ball. Ryan got to it but looped it off target.

Bella Bixby was forced into action by Jessica McDonald. The Courage forward drove toward goal and shot from a tight angle. Bixby got down quickly and parried it back to McDonald, who skied her follow-up shot.

The match became much more disjointed as the clock ticked toward the 90-minute mark. The Thorns made a myriad of substitutions and were much more direct going forward. The Courage nearly found the winner in the 88th minute. McDonald rose above the rest and headed a Pickett corner off the crossbar.

The Thorns conclude their 2021 NWSL regular season with the scoreless draw against the Courage. Portland have a bye into the NWSL semifinal on Nov. 14 which the Thorns will host in Providence Park.