Sophia Smith’s early goal propels the Thorns to a 1-0 win over San Diego Wave FC. Portland picked up their first three points of the season and coach Rhian Wilkinson earned her first win at the helm. Abby Smith and Natalie Beckman made their debuts for the Portland Thorns. A. Smith kept her first clean sheet for the Thorns and Porter and Beckman came on as second-half substitutes.
The Thorns and the Wave started quickly as both teams looked to strike in transition. In the fifth minute, Sophia Smith gave the Thorns an early lead. Christine Sinclair and Hina Sugita linked up well in midfield before Sinclair sprayed it wide to Natalia Kuikka. The Finnish wing-back crossed to Smith, who converted.
Portland were the better team throughout the first half but Taylor Kornieck and Sofia Jakobsson caused the Thorns’ back line issues as they tried to find Alex Morgan in the box. Both the Thorns’ A. Smith and the Wave’s Kailen Sheridan came up with good saves to keep the score at 1-0 heading into halftime.
At the beginning of the second half, Portland controlled the pace of the game. San Diego looked long early in the half and the Thorns were content to build from the back. The Wave grew into the game and were much more patient on the ball as the second half progressed. San Deigo exploited the space on the flanks as they looked to unlock the Thorns' defense.
The Wave created more danger toward the end of the match, putting the Thorns under pressure as San Diego pushed for an equalizer. The Thorns dispelled San Diego’s late waves of pressure and finalized their first victory of the 2022 campaign.
- 4’ Emily Menges cleared the ball to Taylor Kornieck at the top of the area and the Wave player struck it well but it rose just over the bar.
- 5’ The Thorns opened the scoring early with a nice move. Sophia Smith challenged for the ball in the middle of the pitch. Christine Sinclair picked it up and passed it to Hina Sugita. The Japanese midfielder laid it back to Sinclair, who played a line-splitting pass to Natalia Kuikka. The right wing-back squared it to the on-rushing S. Smith, who tapped it in on the doorstep.
- 19’ Kornieck looked up and spotted Alex Morgan’s run into the area and played a lofted ball to her. Morgan redirected it toward goal and Abby Smith made a crucial kick save.
- 20’ Morgan got the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and fired a left-footed shot into the hands of A. Smith.
- 21’ The Thorns turned the ball over in midfield and Katie Johnson quickly played it to A. Morgan. Menges stepped to Morgan, who hit a low shot toward goal that A. Smith saved.
- 22’ Kuikka played a lofted ball into the box. S. Smith hit it first-time and forced Kailen Sheridan into a diving save.
- 30’ Sugita drove through the midfield before cutting inside on her right foot. She unleashed a low shot that Sheridan saved.
- 35’ Sugita danced with the ball in the corner before finding Meghan Klingenberg. The left wing-back played an in-swinging ball to the head of Sinclair. The Canadian’s header was grabbed by Sheridan.
- 40’ Johnson laid it off to Kristen McNabb, who curled it toward the top corner of the goal but A. Smith caught it calmly.
- The second half got off to a much slower start than the first. Portland got on the ball more and attempted to pin the Wave back. San Diego didn’t try to play out of pressure, opting to go route one in search of Alex Morgan.
- 56’ Meaghan Nally challenged Wave substitute, Amirah Ali, in the area and both players went down. San Diego appealed for a penalty to be awarded but the referee waved play on.
- 61’ Klingenberg passed it to Sugita down the left. The Japanese midfielder crossed to the back post to an unmarked Sinclair. The Canadian side-footed it just wide of the post.
- 62’ Morgan Weaver and Olivia Moultrie came in for S. Smith and Sugita.
- 70’ The Wave produced one of their best chances of the match from a corner kick. Tegan McGrady swung a ball to Amirah Ali, who met it well but steered it wide.
- 75’ Yazmeen fired a shot from distance that rose over the bar and didn’t test Sheridan.
- 77’ Taylor Porter replaced Ryan, making her Thorns debut in her hometown.
- 81’ The ball bounced out to Wave substitute Jodie Taylor. She laced the ball toward goal but it rose up and over the bar.
- 84’ Natalie Beckman came on for Klingenberg to make her Thorns debut.
- 86’ Weaver ran onto a back pass and Sheridan came out to narrow the angle. The forward side-footed her shot wide of goal.
- The Thorns were able to see out the result and maintained the clean sheet, earning their first three points of the season.
The Thorns return to Portland to host Angel City FC in the clubs’ first meeting. Portland’s home opener is set to kick off at 7 p.m. PST on Wednesday, March 30.