The Portland Thorns scored early and often to notch a dominant 3-0 win over the Kansas City Current in their NWSL regular season opener at Providence Park. Morgan Weaver opened the scoring, and Christine Sinclair added a second in the first half. Sophia Smith scored six minutes after coming on in the second half to make it three goals in favor of the home team, and the Thorns could then coast to a wire-to-wire win.
Portland’s lineup was marked by the return of Sophia Smith and Hina Sugita, who were both available off the bench in the afternoon. Both players missed the Thorns’ last outing due to health and safety protocol.
The prematch festivities were marked by the Thorns unveiling their newest banner, celebrating their triumph in winning the 2021 NWSL Shield.
As the game began, the Thorns came out flying, pressing Kansas City all over the field. The press caught a semi-rotated KC side on their heels, and it produced a bevy of early chances for the Thorns. Morgan Weaver capitalized on one of those early chances in the eighth minute, as she slammed home a rebound off of a saved Christine Sinclair shot to open the scoring.
The Thorns kept their pressure up after scoring, and in the 34th minute they capitalized yet again. It was Christine Sinclair this time, as the world’s leading all-time international scorer returned the favor and finished off a deflected header from Weaver to double the hosts’ advantage.
Sophia Smith scored six minutes after subbing onto the field, when she scored a spectacular individual effort in the 51st minute. After stretching their lead to three goals, the Thorns eased up on the pressure, settling in to manage the game. The final whistle blew with the Thorns registering 19 shots, 12 on target. They held their opponents to just five shots, and just one target.
A week after crashing out of the Challenge Cup to Angel City, and two weeks after nearly letting a dominant first half slip against San Diego, it felt like Thorns exercised some demons today. A start to finish dominant shutout victory marked by aggressive and effective attacking — just what head coach Rhian Wilkinson wanted to see.
- 3’ First real chance of the game as Janine Beckie fired a shot off a corner on target, but it was right at KC goalkeeper, AD Franch, who made the save.
- 6’ A lot of early pressure from the Thorns, as they won three corners in the first six minutes of the game.
- 8’ The Thorns found their deserved early breakthrough via Morgan Weaver. Kelli Hubly launched a ball over the top that Rocky Rodriguez ran on to at the top of the box. After some nice footwork to make some space, Rodriguez laid the ball off for Christine Sinclair in the box. Sinc’s shot was parried by Franch — right to the awaiting feet of Weaver. She slotted home, and made it 1-0 Thorns.
- 20’ The Thorns did not let up on their pressure, as they continued to challenge KC everywhere on the pitch.
- 26’ It was Kansas City, however, who would get the next best look on goal, via a Thorns mistake. Bella Bixby collected a backpass, but then turned the ball over to Elyse Bennett right at the top of the box. Bixby did well to correct her mistake, as she came out and made herself big to force Bennett’s shot off target.
- 30’ Janine Beckie nearly opened her Thorns account, as she almost got on the end of a cross from Meghan Klingenberg. The ball was just a touch too high, and it sailed over Beckie’s head.
- 33’ Weaver almost got her second first half goal, as she pounced on a misplayed header and fired a shot towards goal. Only the impressive reaction save of AD Franch prevented the hosts from finding themselves with a two goal advantage.
- 34’ But not a a minute later, the Thorns would indeed stretch their advantage to two. A recycled ball around the box found its way to Natalia Kuikka, who whipped in a ball towards the far post. Weaver rose to meet it, but her defender did just enough to put her off and send her header down in front of the box. In a reverse of roles from Portland’s opener, Sinclair was at the right place at the right time to clean up the rebound. In her tenth season in the league, and tenth season with the Thorns, Sinc roofed the ball into the top of the net, making it 2-0 Thorns.
- 45’+ The first half wound down with the Thorns still pressing and seeking another goal, as both Rogriguez and Coffey got shots on target away in first half stoppage time.
- The first 45 minutes ended with Portland leading 2-0 after an impressive display at virtually every area of the pitch. Perhaps most impressively was that the margin could have been even more, save for the play of KC goalkeeper AD Franch.
- At the start of the second half, the Thorns subbed on Sophia Smith and Hina Sugita for Janine Beckie and Rocky Rodriguez. After missing Portland’s Challenge Cup finale due to health & safety protocols, both players made their return to the field.
- 51’ And Smith wasted little time making her mark on proceedings. A minute after she nearly got on the end of a ball over the top, Smith collected a cross from Klingenberg at the top corner of the box. She expertly controlled the ball to bring it down, and off the half volley Smith absolutely smashed the ball into the top corner of the net.
- After scoring their third, the Thorns eased their foot off the gas pedal quite a bit, where they stayed more conservative with their numbers and looked to the individual play of their forwards to create chances off of counterattacking opportunities.
- 73’ Sugita nearly scored on her return as well, as she had a shot blocked in the box. A frantic following sequence almost sprung Weaver, but Franch collected.
- 79’ Kansas City found a few half chances as Portland eased off the pressure, as Victoria Pickett flashed a header wide of the post.
- 80’ Smith continued to menace the Kansas City backline, as she exhibited expert control yet again to get off a strong shot in close quarters. It stung the gloves of Franch, as she saved it yet again.
- 87’ Smith yet again almost made something happen all by herself, as she nutmegged a defender in the box just yards from goal. She couldn’t get to the ball to add a second goal, but she did give the crowd even more to cheer about with the attempt.
- Bixby collects a cutback, and the final whistle sounds. The Thorns completed a comprehensive 3-0 shutout victory to open their 2022 NWSL campaign.
The Thorns are next in action next Saturday, May 7, when they hit the road to face the North Carolina Courage at 4 p.m. Pacific.