In this Lifetime Game of the Week, the Portland Thorns faced off against the Houston Dash in Providence Park, their second time meeting in the regular season. After a week off due to international play (Tournament of Nations and Women’s Euros), these two teams fought hard for an important three points.
Returning from international play for the Thorns was Allie Long (USA), Amandine Henry (France), Haley Raso (Australia), Lindsay Horan (USA), and Dagny Brynjarsdottir (Iceland), who all made an appearance on the pitch tonight. Raso, Horan, and Brynjarsdottir were among those picked for the starting lineup. Nadia Nadim did not return from international play, as she and the Danish Women’s National Team have qualified for the Women’s Euro Final.
Returning from international play for the Dash was Morgan Brian (USA), Caril Lloyd (USA), Andressinha (Brazil), Lydia Williams (Australia), and Bruna Benites (Brazil). Only Carli Lloyd and Andressinha made appearances in today’s match, with Lloyd being the only one among the starters. Brian and Williams were not available as substitutions due to injury.
High-paced First Half
Both teams were ready right off the bat to earn three points in this high stake match. The Thorns started off dominating possession, but a calm, composed Dash defense kept the home team’s attack silent. Houston was able to claim a few opportunities, but Portland’s defense also knew how to hold down a determined offense.
It wasn’t until the 11th minute that a goal was scored, when Portland was given an opportunity off a set piece. Meghan Klingenberg took the free kick which found the head of Tyler Lussi. Lussi headed the ball down where defender Emily Sonnett knocked the ball in. In the 12th minute, the Thorns were leading by one goal in Providence Park.
The Dash were quick to counter, very obviously wanting to equalize. Janine Beckie, Canadian National Team player and Houston midfielder, made sure to create many chances. The Dash couldn’t finish in the run of play, but off a cross from Beckie in the 32nd minute, Caity Heap was pushed from by behind by Lindsay Horan in the box. The away team was awarded a PK and Captain, Carli Lloyd converted to tie the match up at 1-1.
The tie lasted six minutes, when Lussi, who had been involved in almost every opportunity Portland had, was given a short ball from Klingenberg in the box after a quick counter. Lussi shook off three Houston defenders before shooting a low, paced ball to the far post. When giving her team a late first half lead, she scored her first professional goal. The Thorns were able to maintain the 2-1 lead going into halftime.
The second half was much quieter than the first. Both teams were still wanting to score, but Portland wasn’t as eager and for the beginning of the half switched their focus to maintaining possession. The Dash couldn’t capitalize off of their opportunities due to a very tight, clean Thorns defense.
Horan made sure to win balls in the midfield, and became very involved in the attacks initiated by Portland. Thorns’ captain, and one of the top goal scorers in women’s soccer, Christine Sinclair, created many chances for her team, but the Dash’s defense made sure to be in the right place at the right time, as well as their goalkeeper Jane Campbell. Campbell, a rookie out of Stanford who made her seventh start this match, made several crucial saves.She helped lead her team to shutout the home team in the second half.
The Thorns were able to clinch a crucial three points with this win at home. They will tie for the top spot with Chicago on the table for now, but the Red Stars, North Carolina Courage, and Seattle Reign have yet to face off. Houston’s six-game unbeaten streak fell because of this match, but if they take advantage of every game to earn points, they still have a shot at playoff contention.