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Sinclair goal secures draw for Thorns against the Houston Dash

The Thorns and Dash share the points after an even affair in Houston.

SOCCER: APR 21 NWSL Challenge Cup - OL Reign at Portland Thorns FC

In their final match of group play, Portland Thorns FC drew the Houston Dash 1-1 thanks to a late goal from Christine Sinclair. Shea Groom had the goal for Houston.

Portland Thorns FC entered their match against Houston knowing that they will host NJ/NY Gotham FC in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Final. The Thorns traveled to BBVA Stadium only to close out group play against the Dash.

Portland and Houston had their first chance within the first two minutes of kickoff. Christine Sinclair fired over the crossbar and Kristie Mewis’s cross tested Adrianna Franch. Both teams struggled to deal with pressure which led to transition opportunities for the Thorns and Dash.

Crystal Dunn came the closest to opening the scoring for Portland in the first half. The Thorns took a short corner and Dunn launched a shot that forced Jane Campbell into a fingertip save.

Houston jumped out to a 1-0 lead in first-half stoppage time. Rachel Daly played Veronica Latsko into space with an outside-of-the-boot pass. Latsko squared it into the penalty area and the ball found the feet of Shea Groom, who struck the ball into the top corner.

Coach Mark Parsons made two changes to start the second half. Simone Charley replaced Tyler Lussi and Christen Westphal came on for Natalia Kuikka.

The Thorns had possession most of the second half. They passed around the Dash’s penalty area to try and unlock the Houston defense. In the 59th minute, Charley headed a Dunn cross on goal but Campbell made another good save.

Houston caused the Portland defense trouble throughout the second half and the Thorns would have been down by more goals if it wasn’t for the defensive effort of Becky Sauerbrunn.

Charley continued to create danger. She got in behind the defense after letting the ball run into space and turning her defender. Charley put the ball into the box and Sinclair arrived and equalized.

“It’s something we’ve been working on a lot this this year,” said Sinclair in the post-match presser. “And it’s one of the one of the few times it’s actually come to be ... a lot of teams in this league, leave the PK spot open on breaks like that, and yeah, it’s a great, great run by Simone. And I just knew I had to get there. I didn’t hit it the cleanest, but it went in the corner. So we’ll take it.”

The Thorns and Dash both had half-chances to take the lead late in the match, but neither team was clinical enough to do so.

“Houston are very, very good team,” said Parsons. “They know who they are. They know their strengths. And they’re constantly adjusting throughout the game to try and impose their strips and for me I was really excited coming in. I loved the battle. I said to James [Clarkson] (Coach of Houston) at the end ‘this was probably the best game I’ve seen in the in the league for a month or so.”

Portland Thorns FC will play for the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Title against Gotham FC on Saturday. The final will kick off in Providence Park at 10 a.m. (Pacific).