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Red Stars upset Thorns 2-0 ending Portland’s hope of a fourth title this season

Mark Parsons’ reign as the Thorns manager comes to an end in the 2021 NWSL semifinals after a historic season.

North Carolina Courage v Portland Thorns FC Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Portland Thorns’ season was ended Sunday by the Chicago Red Stars in Providence Park. The Red Stars beat the Thorns 2-0, putting an end to Portland’s search for a fourth trophy this season. It was also Mark Parsons last match as the Thorns’ head coach. Parsons recently became the winningest coach in NWSL and led the Thorns to the 2016 NWSL Shield, 2017 NWSL Championship, 2020 NWSL Community Shield, 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, 2021 Women’s International Champions Cup and the 2021 NWSL Shield.

The Portland Thorns lined up without Crystal Dunn (pregnancy) and without Lindsey Horan (eye injury) and the Red Stars were without Mallory Pugh (Covid protocol), Kayla Sharples (Covid protocol) and Casey Krueger (Illness). Yazmeen Ryan replaced Horan in the starting eleven, making her second-ever start in her first-ever professional playoff match.

The Thorns immediately counterpressed in an attempt to turn Chicago over in their own half and it nearly resulted in a goal within two minutes. Angela Salem made a tackle and pushed the ball to Morgan Weaver. Weaver turned and ran into the box before striking a shot wide of goal.

The Portland press caused the Red Stars issues throughout the first half but Chicago were able to find some space down the left through Kealia Watt and Morgan Gautrat, who were able to cause the Thorns’ defense some issues.

The Thorns were able to repel the Red Stars’ few moments of danger and continued to dominate the match but could only turn their success into half chances. Portland hit another level in the 27th minute and put together a string of chances from Christine Sinclair, Sophia Smith and Rocky Rodriguez.

But it was Chicago who struck first. Katie Johnson, who replaced the injured Watt, fired a ball toward the top corner that Bella Bixby couldn’t get a strong enough hand to.

Portland responded by putting more pressure on Chicago and creating more chaos on set-pieces but couldn’t find a first-half equalizer.

Smith received a Sinclair pass and shot but couldn’t steer her shot on target to start the second half. The Red Stars regrouped quickly and looked much better playing through the Thorns’ pressure.

Portland created another decent opportunity after Sinclair picked off a goal kick. She tried to chip it into the box. It deflected off Ryan and to Smith, who blasted her shot wide. The Red Stars made Portland pay for not converting their chances. Sarah Woldmoe lined one up from distance and found the back of the net to make it 2-0.

Chicago was able to control the pace of the match from then on out by keeping the match as disjointed as possible. The Red Stars were able to see out the result and end the Thorns’ season, advancing to the NWSL Final.