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Smith scores the fastest goal in Thorns history as Portland beats Houston 1-0

The Thorns maintain sole possession of first place with their 1-0 win over the Houston Dash.

SOCCER: JUL 18 NWSL - Orlando Pride at Portland Thorns FC

Portland Thorns FC stay top of the NWSL standings thanks to Sophia Smith’s early goal. Smith’s goal is the fastest goal scored in Thorns history.

The Thorns and the Houston Dash met for the first time this regular-season at BBVA Stadium on Saturday. The teams last met in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup at BBVA Stadium when they shared the points after a 1-1 draw in which Shea Groom and Christine Sinclair scored the goals.

Portland registered the fastest start in club history as Sophia Smith scored within 32 seconds. Simone Charley forced a turnover in the Dash’s final third and Marissa Everett picked up possession and played it to Smith. The forward drove past a defender and a fortunate deflection allowed her to get by another before sliding the ball into the back of the net.

The Thorns were sloppy in possession to begin the match which afforded Houston some dangerous moments in transition. In the seventh minute, Veronica Latsko drove into the Thorns’ 18-yard box after the Houston press turned the Thorns over. Natalia Kuikka tracked back well and cut out the danger.

Portland dominated possession throughout the first half and were safer on the ball as the match progressed. The Dash sat in a mid-block and tried to recover possession quickly and counter but their most dangerous moments came off set pieces. In the 35th minute, a Dash free kick fell to Katie Naughton. She scooped her shot toward goal but Emily Menges was positioned well and blocked the shot. Latsko headed the ensuing corner kick wide of Bella Bixby’s goal.

The Thorns immediately forced the Dash to defend in their own box. Meghan Klingenberg lofted a cross to Everett, who took the ball down delicately, turned and shot but the shot ricocheted off a Dash defender. Kuikka drove inside and fired a low shot just wide of the keeper’s near post in the 41st minute.

Bixby was called into action one minute later. Makamae Gomera-Stevens dribbled down the flank and crossed. Bixby tipped the cross and caught it as she fell.

Rocky Rodriguez almost doubled the Thorns’ lead one minute into the second half. Klingenberg crossed to Smith in the box. Smith shouldered it down into the path of Rodriguez, who clattered her volley off the crossbar. The chances kept coming for the Thorns. Charley went on a slaloming solo run and was tackled off the ball in the box and Smith curled her shot wide of the post moments later.

As the second half progressed, things got chippy. Kelli Hubly was shown yellow after shoving Brianna Visalli and Houston responded with a few hard challenges of their own.

The Dash put together some sustained pressure and forced the Thorns to defend. Houston drove at the Thorns defense and tried to pick them apart. The Dash looked dangerous but the Thorns dealt with the threat well enough to see out the result.

The Thorns are back in action on Sunday, Aug. 1. They will host Kansas City NWSL in Providence Park with kickoff slated for 12:00 p.m. PST.