Portland Thorns clinch home playoff game

With Sunday's 1-0 win against the Boston Breakers, Portland will host a semi-final game at Providence Park.

Portland Thorns clinch home playoff game
Portland Thorns celebrate their goal against Boston on Sunday, September 10, 2017 | Photo: Mike Gridley - ISI Photos
Boston Breakers
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Portland Thorns
Boston Breakers: GK Smith, D Purce, D Oyster, D King (C), D Chapman, M Elby (Lavelle, 56'), M Salem, M Leon, M White, M Weimer (Onumonu, 67'), F Dowie (Stengel, 71')
Portland Thorns: GK Franch, D Boureille, D Sonnett, D Reynolds, D Klingenberg, M Henry, M Horan, M Sinclair, F Raso, F Long (Brynjarsdottir, 90+2'), F Nadim (Weber, 75')
SCORE: POR: Sinclair, 72'
INCIDENTS: BOS: Oyster (caution), 82'

It was a win that the Portland Thorns sought after and that they needed in order to secure a home playoff game. The Thorns had already clinched a playoff spot in the postseason.

Coming into Boston, Portland had the opportunity to clinch a home playoff game, and continue in the race towards winning The NWSL Shield, the award to the team with the best regular season record, which they won in 2016.

Portland definitely struggled as Boston, but one goal in the 72nd minute was all the Thorns needed to bring a playoff game to Providence Park where they are 9-1-1 for the season.

Scoreless for 72 Minutes

The Boston Breakers, with not much to play towards to after September except to end their season well, gave Portland a tougher challenge on Angela Salem's 100th NWSL regular season game. Within five minutes, Boston found an opportunity for a shot as Brooke Elby found Margaret Purce, but it was blocked by Meghan Klingenberg, giving Boston a corner instead. 

Portland would get close in the 15th minute from a Hayley Raso cross that was sent to Nadia Nadim, but Nadim did not connect, and the ball went into space instead. The Breakers then pressed forward with Purce taking the ball into the Portland box, going against three Thorn defenders before taking a shot that went off target. A Thorns corner kick that was taken by Klingenberg in the 24th minute connected with Allie Long. Her header, however, went wide.

There would plenty of opportunities for both Boston and Portland for the remainder of the next 48 minutes. Boston took 17 shots on goal with five of them on target while Portland only had three opportunities with two shots on goal. Key saves by Portland's Adrianna Franch and Boston's Abby Smith kept the game scoreless, and it would remain scoreless until the 72nd minute.

The One Goal Portland Needed

With time getting closer to 90 minutes, the Thorns needed a breakthrough. On the run of play in the 72nd minute, Raso received the ball and tried to take it in herself, going against the stingy defense Portland had faced all game. The Boston defense succeeded momentarily as Julie King stripped the ball away from Raso. But Christine Sinclair would connect with the loose ball to score for the Thorns. 

Christine Sinclair scores her eighth goal of the 2017 season | Photo: Mike Gridley - ISI Photos

The goal was Sinclair's eight of the season, which now leads the team. Sinclair also tied her 2013 season-high eight goals. With Sunday's goal, the Canadian international became the Thorns' all-time leading scorer with 31 goals in the NWSL.

Sinclair's tally would be enough for Portland to accomplish their goal to bring a postseason game to Providence Park for the second consecutive season. The 1-0 victory was also Portland's fourth consecutive win, and their 13th of the year, setting a club record for most wins in a regular season.

The Thorns now await their final seeding in the postseason, but they'll be glad to host either Chicago, Orlando, or Seattle, the only three teams still vying for the final two playoff spots.