In their regular season home finale, the Portland Thorns jumped right back into first place by virtue of a 3-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars. A brace from Morgan Weaver and a world-class rocket from Taylor Porter secured all three points for the Thorns.
Playing their third game in eight days, the Thorns rolled out a slightly tweaked lineup, with Morgan Weaver, Hina Sugita, and Christine Sinclair all getting nods to the starting XI.
Right before kickoff, the Rose City Riveters treated Providence Park to a top-notch tifo display, declaring as fans, “The club belongs to us.”
The @PDXRivetersSG with a clear message pregame: “We deserve to thrive, not just survive. Because the club belongs to us.”— Ryan Clarke (@RyanTClarke) September 25, 2022
Many other protest signs in the stands including “hands off,” “gaslight FC,” and “You Knew.” #BAONPDX #NWSL pic.twitter.com/ZitZVgLTRL
The first half had the intensity and gravity to mirror a playoff game, a reflection of how high the stakes were for both teams. The Thorns came close to breaking open the scoring on several occasions, usually from Sophia Smith. Chicago had a few chances of their own, the clearest being a curling effort from Mallory Pugh that Bella Bixby palmed over the goal.
But like the first half of Portland’s last game, neither side was able to find the back of the net and both teams went into the locker room knotted at zeroes.
Just as the case was last Wednesday, Portland saved the offensive fireworks for the second half. Morgan Weaver finally found the breakthrough in the 48th minute with a well taken shot, and then hit another signature celebration. She added a second in the 61st minute, after Chicago was reduced to ten players after Bianca St. Georges was shown a straight red card for an inappropriate gesture towards the fourth official.
Taylor Porter added a third in second half stoppage time with an absolute firecracker from distance. The almost perfect afternoon was slightly marred with Sam Coffey suffering a foot/ankle injury, and needing to be subbed off midway through the second half.
Still, the Thorns moved back into first place, one win away from claiming first place in the standings and the 2022 NWSL Shield.
1’ The game kicked off under the Pacific Northwest sunshine.
5’ Becky Sauerbrunn snuffed out Chicago’s first foray forward, as she chased down a Red Star’s attacker to stop a breakaway.
9’ The first big chance of the game for the Thorns fell to Hina Sugita, as she collected the ball and had an effort from distance after Rocky Rodriguez forced a turnover. Alyssa Naeher collected the long-range attempt.
14’ Chicago had a chance off of a free kick, but the header was put high and over the bar.
16’ Some smooth passing from the Thorns in the in and around the box sprung Sinclair, but her shot was blocked.
17’ Smith was next to have a try on goal, as her curler from distance sailed wide of the net.
23’ Portland won a free kick, and Sam Coffey whipped in a beaut of a ball towards the back post. Neither Sinclair nor Kelli Hubly, who were both in the area, were able to get a foot to it however.
25’ Bella Bixby made a fantastic stop on Chicago’s best chance of the first half, as she reacted and leapt well to push over a curling effort from Pugh.
30’ Smith had a shot saved by Naeher, as Smith looked to slot home between the legs of the Red Stars’ ‘keeper.
34’ Smith again came oh so close to scoring, as she almost got onto the end of a Morgan Weaver cross with a diving header attempt.
36’ Sinclair now has a shot blocked by a last-ditch intervention from a Red Stars’ defender.
41’ Sinclair again was denied, as she sent a strong header right to the awaiting arms of Naeher.
The first half ended 0-0, with the Thorns enjoying the edge in attempts on goal and overall run of play.
In order to still control their own fate for the Shield, the Thorns would need another second half offensive explosion— and they didn’t wait long to get it.
48’ GOAL THORNS 1-0. Weaver collected the ball from Sam Coffey on the left wing, and drove into the box. Happily accepting the space her defender was giving her, Weaver kept going and sprung a quick shot towards the far post. The ball skipped under and past the outstretched arm of Naher, and settled into the far corner.
Weaver opened the scoring for the Thorns, and also hit another iconic celebration— this time an homage to the “wacky wavy inflatable arm-flailing tube person” with an assist from Kelli Hubly.
The goal.— X - Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) September 25, 2022
✨ amazing ✨pic.twitter.com/uHHHJqV1hD
53’ Chicago almost answered right back, as Yuki Nagasato sent an attempt just wide of the frame off a great feed from Pugh.
56’ Hubly had a great individual effort to track, close down, and then win the ball off of Pugh as she dribbled into the box.
58’ In a surprising moment, Chicago wingback Bianca St. Georges was shown a straight red card for an off the ball action during a stoppage. After some momentary confusion, it was learned that St. Georges had directed an inappropriate gesture featuring one finger on each hand towards the fourth official in frustration of a call. After being informed the center ref immediately went back pocket and St. Georges was sent off, to little complaint from the Red Stars player.
59’ Meanwhile, the Thorns subbed on Janine Beckie for Rocky Rodriguez.
Chicago was now down a player— and then immediately went down another goal as well.
61’ GOAL THORNS 2-0. Weaver made it twice as nice for her and for the Thorns as she raced past her defender to get to the end of a cross from Smith. Smith did extraordinarily well to shake off her defender, and then square a ball for Weaver, who doubled Portland’s lead with a tap-in.
64’ It then became a shooting gallery for the Thorns, as Naeher stopped Smith right on the doorstep.
68’ Smith, determined to find the back of the net, missed just wide.
71’ Sam Coffey went down after landing awkwardly after a lunge to try to intercept the ball. She received attention on her left foot or ankle region, and walked off gingerly under her own power.
74’ Coffey temporarily attempted to play through the injury, but it appeared that she could not, and she was replaced by Taylor Porter.
80’ Weaver had one final chance at her hat trick, but she scuffed a golden chance right on the doorstep.
83’ Weaver and Klingenberg were replaced by Crystal Dunn and Tegan McGrady.
As we entered second half stoppage time, Chicago once again had a player sent off.
90’+1 Hina Sugita showed off some fancy footwork and pulled off an impressive move with the ball to blow right past her defender, Zoe Morse. Morse pulled back Sugita after getting beat, and was shown her second yellow card of the game, therefore joining St. Georges as being sent off for Chicago.
90’+3 GOAL THORNS 3-0. With the game entering it’s dying embers, Smith had the ball just cleared off her foot at the top of the box. Taylor Porter was first on the scene, and she eyed up the ball and fired it first-time towards goal. Her absolute rocket of a shot sailed past Naeher and into the upper corner, netting the Thorns their third goal and putting an exclamation point on proceedings.
90’+8 There was a scary moment right at the end as Smith got upended by Naeher while chasing a through ball, and Smith’s head banged down hard on the turf as she fell. Smith was down receiving attention as the final whistle blew, but she eventually returned to her feet and rejoined her teammates for postgame proceedings. She was still being evaluated post game.
The 3-0 win vaulted Portland back into first place. They now are one win away from claiming the 2022 NWSL Shield, a first-round bye, and a home game in the semi-finals of the 2022 NWSL playoffs.
Their chance to get the win will come on the final day of the regular season, October 1, when they travel to face Gotham FC at 3 p.m. Pacific.