The return of the Thorns!
Tonight’s match marked the return of the internationals to the league and the Portland Thorns team. Coach Rhian Wilkinson presented a starting XI with many of the starters from the last match against Gotham, but instead of Meghan Klingenberg and former Thorn Madison Pogarch, she put Becky Sauerbrunn and Natu Kuikka in the back four. Upfront she used Sophia Smith instead of Marissa Everett.
Tonight's lineup. Let's do this. @UnitusCCU x #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/U2oxLmOJVd— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) July 29, 2022
Things started pretty well for the Thorns with a goal by Sophia Smith, but Louisville caught up in the first half thanks to the Australian Alex Chidiac.
The second half was won by Hina Sugita and Bella Bixby. Sugita tallied the winner, and Bixby made several key stops to preserve the win.
3’ Sophia Smith first shot in the match obliges Katie Lund to make a diving save.
7’ GOAL! Sophia Smith recovers the ball in the midfield and after running at full speed and leaving two defenders behind, she finishes with a diagonal ball.
✨ some call it magic, we call it Sophia Smith ✨@sophsssmith x #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/wgEBq1mkzY— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) July 30, 2022
16’ Morgan Weaver’ service from the right almost finds Yazmeen Ryan but a rebound favors Lund who got to the ball first.
20’ Yellow card for Becky Sauerbrunn.
22’ Key pass from Smith to Weaver. Milliet gets in the way but can't contain the ball and Weaver gets to shoot but it’s too high.
27’ Nervy moment for the Thorns backline! Kelli Hubly with the back pass to Bella Bixby finds the goalkeeper away from her line and almost scores an own goal.
29’ Louisville goal. Alex Chidiac scores from a difficult angle after beating Kuikka, Hubly and Bixby.
34’ Good play orchestrated by Portland. Sugita passes the ball to Weaver on the left. She crosses it to the box, where it connects with Moultrie but her shot goes a little wide.
41’ After a good play made by Taylor Porter, Smith has the chance to shoot but she couldn’t hit it properly and the ball got to Lund’s gloves.
42’ Great build-up by Smith on the right, she crossed it to the box and found Meaghan Nally. She couldn’t shoot after being tackled but the ball ended up at Moultrie’s feet. She shoots but can’t beat Lund.
44’ Jessica McDonald’s header is no problem for Bixby.
45’ No PK, referee? Ok. Great combination between Smith and Ryan, that ends up with Ryan and Fox fighting for the ball. Yazmeen falls inside the 6-yard box but the referee says was all legal.
The second half started with a double substitution for the Thorns: Sam Coffey entered for Taylor Porter and Natu made way for the debutant Tegan McGrady.
Making her Portland Thorns debut, @teganmcgrady9! pic.twitter.com/1qxrVMNVGp— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) July 30, 2022
51’ Another header by McDonald but this time she puts Bella to work. She saves it with the tip of her fingers.
Brick Wall Bixby pic.twitter.com/XWxEggtTPa— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) July 30, 2022
59’ Smith charges against three defenders and leaves the ball to Weaver. She can’t find the angle to shoot and Racing’s defense gets to clear the ball.
64’ Corner for Louisville. Portland blocks McDonald shot but the second ball falls to Milliet, who shoots on target but makes no problem for Bella.
68’ BIG save by Bella! Emily Fox shoots and forces the goalkeeper to fly to stop it.
69’ Rocky Rodríguez enters into the match for Olivia Moultrie.
74’ GOAL! Yazmeen Ryan passes the ball to Sophia. She passes to Rocky, who shoots and hits the post. Hina Sugita takes the rebound and scores her fourth goal in the season!
The lead is restored by @hina_0_8_2! @ThornsFC | #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/yvstTi1vfB— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 30, 2022
80’ Weaver is shown a yellow card.
83’ Bella denies McDonald in a 1v1 and then makes another big save after a corner.
light work for Bixby pic.twitter.com/lAq3Lj8Xr0— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) July 30, 2022
85’ Marissa Everett comes into the match for Sophia.
90+2’ Michelle Vasconcelos enters into the match for Morgan Weaver.
It was another win for the Thorns, this time by a narrow margin. Racing Louisville’s defense was tight and did what they’ve been doing during this entire season, but it was nice to see how the Thorns kept playing like a team and got the three points as a result.
And with the win, Portland rises to the first place in the NWSL table (at least temporally, pending tomorrow’s results).
Portland Thorns will be back on August 5 at 7:30 P.M. Pacific, at Providence Park against North Carolina Courage.