The Portland Thorns lost 2-1 to the Chicago Red Stars in Bridgeview, IL on Saturday. Crystal Dunn made her 100th NWSL regular season appearance in the loss.
The Red Stars caused the Thorns a lot of issues early. Chicago pressed the Thorns without the ball and turned them over in their own half. With the ball, Chicago thrived on the flanks and Rachel Hill provided quality service repeatedly.
Bella Bixby was forced into an early save. In the fourth minute, Kelia Watt found Arin Wright, who cut inside and shot. Tierna Davidson delivered a dangerous corner twelve minutes later and Casey Krueger challenged Bixby for the ball. It shot wide of the goal but the warning signs were there for the Thorns.
Portland threatened with a set-piece of their own. Meghan Klingenberg swung a corner kick to the head of Becky Sauerbrunn. Sauerbrunn headed her shot wide from distance. The Red Stars responded with another chance. Mallory Pugh started the Chicago attack. She drove toward goal and passed to Watt. Watt chipped a pass over Pugh to Hill. Hill shot and Bixby made the save.
In the 24th minute, Christine Sinclair scored a stunning opener for the Thorns. She flicked the ball to Celeste Boureille. Boureille played Dunn into the box and Dunn pulled the ball back to Sinclair. The Canadian struck from distance. Her first-time strike hit off the post and into the back of the net.
Just Sinc doing Sinc things. #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/uhEohCxd5T— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) September 26, 2021
One minute later, Chicago equalized. Hill crossed and Bixby dove to claim it. The goalkeeper spilled the ball into the path of Watt, who fired past center back Emily Menges into an open net.
Chicago continued to create opportunities. Hill crossed to Pugh and Bixby comfortably saved Pugh’s shot. Then Watt fired a low shot on goal which was saved. Morgan Gautrat also forced Bixby into a save toward the end of the half.
Thorns coach Mark Parsons made a triple substitution at halftime. Sophia Smith, Rocky Rodriguez and Natalia Kuikka came on for Christen Westphal, Olivia Moultrie and Celeste Boureille.
Portland were able to dictate the tempo and pin Chicago deep to start the second half. Smith made an instant impact and put the Red Stars defenders on their heels. In the 53rd minute, Smith dribbled toward the box and then curled a shot to the bottom corner of the goal but it was saved by Cassie Miller.
Watt had a great opportunity to put Chicago ahead in the 60th minute. The Red Stars forward was able to sprint past Sauerbrunn and into the 18-yard box. Emily Menges came over to cover and blocked Watt’s shot out for a corner kick.
The Red Stars did take the lead in the 65th minute. Chicago pinned Portland back and eventually got the ball to Pugh. The Chicago forward went one versus one with Kuikka and created enough space to get off a cross. Hill met the ball at the back post and headed Chicago into the lead.
The Thorns dominated possession after the Red Stars’ goal. In the last ten minutes of the match, Portland put constant pressure on Chicago. Portland were unable to create clear shots on goal as Chicago defended well and saw out the 2-1 victory.
Portland will look to bounce back against rivals OL Reign on Saturday, Oct. 2. The match kicks off in Providence Park at 7 p.m. (Pacific).