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Hogan’s PK heroics and goals from Kuikka, Moultrie send the Thorns to the WICC Final

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Natalia Kuikka and Olivia Moultrie scored in the second half to erase a two-goal deficit while Shelby Hogan came up big in penalty kicks to give Portland the win over Houston.

Houston Dash v Portland Thorns FC: 2021 Women’s International Champions Cup Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After two clutch second half goals and some impressive heroics from goalkeeper Shelby Hogan, Portland Thorns FC took down the Houston Dash in the semifinal of the WICC, winning the penalty kicks 3-1. Natalia Kuikka and Olivia Moultrie scored the goals that tied things up for Portland and forced PKs.

The Thorns and the Dash took the field after Olympique Lyonnais’s thrilling 3-2 win over reigning European champions FC Barcelona. Thorns’ coach Mark Parsons selected a heavily rotated lineup. Shelby Hogan started the match in goal, making her Portland Thorns debut.

The Thorns tried to play their brand of soccer. They looked to dictate the tempo on and off the ball. Sophia Smith was played into space toward goal in the ninth minute. She took a touch around Jasmyne Spencer and was one-on-one with goalkeeper Amanda, Dennis but her shot was saved.

Portland and Houston began trading opportunities. Bri Visalli fired a half-volley at Hogan, which she saved. On the other end, Kuikka played it to Smith and the forward squared for Olivia Moultrie, but the pass and touch were slightly off and the chance was wasted.

Houston proved to be the more clinical side in the 17th minute. Shea Groom got the better of Kuikka with good body positioning. She cut inside and curled a shot inside Hogan’s goalpost and into the net.

Portland nearly responded immediately. Rocky Rodriguez got on the end of a Moultrie free kick and headed it toward goal. It was cleared off the line by Rachel Daly to keep Houston ahead.

As the Thorns searched for the equalizer they created chances, but the Dash were dangerous in transition. In the 35th minute, Madison Pogarch found Smith down the left flank. Smith crossed and the deflected shot made its way to Marissa Everett. She attempted to find the bottom corner, but couldn’t get enough power on it to test Dennis.

Hogan made a fingertip save to push Daly’s header off the post to keep the deficit at one, but that wouldn’t last long. Moultrie redirected a Smith pass wide of goal and moments later Groom had a brace.

Meaghan Nally tried to find Pogarch with a cross-field switch, but it was picked off. Daly received the ball on the turn and played in Groom, who finished calmly.

Portland came out in the second half rejuvenated and refocused. Everett pounced on a bouncing ball in the box and turned. She pulled her shot wide. The Thorns pulled one goal back in the 51st minute. Kuikka rose in the air and fired a header into the goal.

Two minutes later, Moultrie arrived in the box after a late midfield run. She connected and headed the ball off the post. Moultrie wasn’t done creating danger. She stepped up to a free kick in the 58th minute and curled it over the wall and it dropped in at the post to make it 2-2 as Providence Park erupted.

After equalizing, the Thorns continued to shred through the Dash defense. Halftime substitute Simone Charley caused them problems all over the pitch with her defensive pressure and her runs behind the defense.

The Dash eventually calmed down and were able to slow things done and got on the ball more. The match became more even with both teams possessing and trying to find gaps in the opposition’s defense in search of the go-ahead goal.

Emily Menges, who replaced Kelli Hubly at halftime, was forced into a key intervention late in the match as Daly barreled toward goal. In the 80th minute, Gabby Seiler won the ball off of Pogarch and passed to substitute Michaela Abam in the 18-yard box. Abam struck it well but wide of Hogan’s goal. Daly had another chance in the 90th minute but the shot sailed wide.

Regulation ended without either team finding a goal, so the Women’s International Champions Cup semifinal would be decided by penalties.

Hogan guessed correctly and saved Christine Nairn’s penalty to start the shootout. Klingenberg stepped to the spot and gave the Thorns an early shootout lead. Hogan did it again to deny Sophie Schmidt, but the Thorns couldn’t capitalize as Kuikka’s shot was saved.

Daly calmly converted to tie the shootout. Moultrie placed her penalty well to reestablish Portland’s shootout lead. Hogan came up big again for the Thorns, saving Abam’s penalty.

Charley stepped up with the chance to end the match and send Portland to the final and rolled it past the keeper. The Thorns advanced 3-1 off penalties.

The Thorns will play Olympique Lyonnais in the final of the Women’s International Champions Cup at 7:06 p.m. on Aug. 21 at Providence Park. FC Barcelona will play the Dash in the third-place match at 4:36 p.m. in Providence Park.