portland thorns

Timbers, Thorns made some memories

Portland got an entertainment overload this year
By Cliff Pfenning

In early May, Brian Fernandez arrived at Portland International Airport and was greeted by an anonymous person, who stood next to him, lit up with a big smile and had someone take a photo of them together. 

Fernandez, a 24-year-old Argentinian, had just been signed by the Portland Timbers from his team in Mexico’s Liga MX, wore a long-sleeve shirt, faded jeans, and hat and had a guarded look on his face as if to say, “who are you? And are with the team?” 

Then more people showed up for photos, and then more. As the photos progressed, Fernandez seemed to figure out these were fans and he just landed in a hotspot of soccer fandom - and his face lit up, too. Soon, Fernandez started showing up on social media with a beaming smile when anyone noticed him and asked for a selfie. And, why not? Portland loved him and he performed.

Fernandez had one of the all-time great introductions to a new team starting slightly more than a week later. Having arrived on May 6 after the team paid an estimated $10 million for his rights, he scored his first goal May 15 after being inserted late in the match at Houston. Then, he scored again - twice - in the next match, and again in the next match. Fernandez scored in this first five Major League Soccer matches, something that had not been done since the league began in 1996, and added scores in two US Open Cup matches giving him nine goals in his first seven appearances in a Timbers kit.

Portland vaulted from being just a team to a contender for another trip to a league final, something it did just last year. But, then all the optimism came crashing down. Fernandez stopped scoring in every game and ended the season in substance-abuse rehab. Emotional sideline outbursts lit up social media, as did rumors of contract negotiations. And, of course, there was the Iron Front, which led the Timbers Army into a national discussion of civil liberties. That was the Timbers.

The Thorns, the women’s side of the franchise, were equally dramatic starting with the Women’s World Cup. The team had four players on the winning US side, which vaulted into nation attention for its success and dispute with USA Soccer over equal pay with the much-less successful men’s team. 

Portland led the National Women’s Soccer League for much of the season and seemed headed for another trip to a final and third league title when suddenly it stopped scoring, and closed out its season with a half-hearted loss in the first round of the playoffs.

Both the Timbers and Thorns lost their first playoff match and had their seasons close out this past weekend. As the playoffs head toward crowning league champions, Portland fans will only be able to follow from afar. And yet, it was not a boring year. 

The 2019 season might have been the most memorable, at least in terms of story-telling, since the franchise initially arrived in 1975 and led fans to claim the monicker of “Soccer City, USA.” In fact, that 1975 team was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in September.

If the goal of a sports team is entertainment, the 2019 season for the Timbers and Thorns might be the most entertaining for any team that’s not going to win a league title. Fernandez arrived, Diego Chara finally played in a league All-Star Game, Diego Valeri reached the 70-70 mark and Steve Clark played stellar in goal in a season that started with 12-straight road matches. And the Thorns had the thrill of the World Cup and an early-season rise to the top of the league in spite of all those road matches only to slide in a historic level.

And, there was the Iron Front.

It all started March 2 in Denver, where so much snow landed on the field the second half had to be stopped to dig out the lines so everyone could see where the field ended. The match started at 18 degrees - the coldest in league history. Portland led 3-2 and had a man advantage in extra time, but the Rapids scored to force a 3-3 draw leading Timbers fans to snap their fingers and think what could have been with just a little more defense. 

The Denver result was a huge missed opportunity because the team lost its next five matches and was at the bottom of the league with just one point after six weeks.

The switch to Clark in goal seemed to start a turnaround. Portland won its next three matches as rumors of the Fernandez deal swirled across the land. Then he landed and the franchise really took off and the team rose to as high as No. 5 in some weekly power rankings. And then they started playing at home after the $85 million expansion of Providence Park finally finished up. Fans in the Timbers Army began arriving at the stadium half a day ahead of matches to be allowed in an extra 30 minutes early, continuing the city’s love affair with the franchise. All those home matches, though - 17 of the remaining 22, led to a thought of the players becoming complacent. The Army wasn’t complacent.

With politics sweeping the nation ahead of the 2020 Election, the league’s ban on political signage hit the Army due to its support of a symbol from 1930s Germany. The Iron Front, three arrows pointing downward diagonally, represented a group that opposed facist Nazis until 1933. The symbol, being waved on flags across the North end of the stadium, drew the league’s ire, especially after politicians in Washington starting deeming anti-facists as terrorists because of the violence that often erupted when they showed up to events organized by White Nationalists.  

With the team, somewhat incredibly, banning fans from matches, all manners of protests were tossed about on social media, from just not showing up, to walking out, to not purchasing concessions. Eventually, it turned into a silent protest for the first 33 minutes of the Aug. 23 match with rival Seattle, which included Seattle fans. Being televised by FOX, the stadium had never been as quiet. 

A month later, the league relented and eased its policy on fan support to allow for the Iron Front.

The protest received national attention, but it also received on-field attention as the team lost 2-1 and social media lit up because owner Merritt Paulson apparently cussed the fans out - linking the protest to the loss. 

The Timbers were potentially headed for as high as second place in the Western Conference, but a late-season collapse halted that dream. Portland finished the season with one win and three draws in its last six matches - just six points of a possible 18, and missed second place by just seven points, falling all the way to six instead.

A 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake ended the season, Oct. 19.

Still, Chara, perhaps the team’s most revered player, played in his first All-Star Game in his ninth season in the league.

Valeri, the league’s MVP just two seasons ago, reached the level of 70 goals and 70 assists, becoming only the ninth player in league history to accomplish that feat. 

And, Clark, who started the season as the back-up to Jeff Attinella, had two entries on the online Save of the Year ballot - the lone keeper to have two entries.

The original Timbers, the 1975 squad of 17 primarily British players that reached the NASL final in its inaugural season, received a spot in the Hall, Sept. 24. The five members on hand for the ceremony at the Multnomah Athletic Club, noted the season was highly memorable for the fan support - two playoff crowds topped 30,000 fans, and the length of the season - 10 weeks by their memories. The regular season actually lasted 14 weeks, May 2 through August 9 for a 22-match schedule. To save money, the team’s East Coast road swing lasted nine days: four matches in nine days, including matches in Hartford, Conn., and Boston on consecutive days (played before crowds of 2,582 and 1,518, respectively).

The Thorns set an attendance record for their 2019 campaign, closing with an average of 20,098 fans per game - better than more than half of MLS teams. The World Cup buzz might have had something to do with that as four of the team’s starters: Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnet and Adrianna Franch, helping the US win the Cup, closing with a 2-0 win over The Netherlands, July 7. 

The Thorns had five other players in the tournament as well, including team captain Christine Sinclair.

Portland opened the season with its bevy of international players and scored eight goals in its first three matches before the World Cup called for talent at the start of May. The Thorns had three wins, a pair of draws and just one loss in the six road matches it played before opening at home, June 2, with a 3-0 win over Chicago. With 11 of its remaining 17 matches at home, the team was on fire.

When the US starters returned for a July 24 home match with Houston, magic erupted in a 5-0 victory before 22,329 fans. The Thorns closed out August with a 3-0 home win over Chicago and had 10 wins, six draws and only three losses for the season. Then, the goals ended. 

Over the remaining six weeks, the Thorns scored just one goal and managed to rack up only four points in the standings from a potential 15. Meanwhile, North Carolina, the defending league champion, won eight of its final nine matches, a stretch that included a 6-0 win over Portland, and finished first in the league standings for the third consecutive year.

With a 1-0 loss at Chicago, Sunday, the season came to a halt, leading into much-needed discussion of the future of the women’s game. In the NWSL, that includes league sponsors (Budweiser became the official beer sponsor), media rights and expansion franchises, one of which is due for Louisville, Ky., in 2021. And, the US women’s team salaries.

Put altogether, FC Portland had a truly memorable year, without winning a title.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the money Team USA

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 3:04pm
Cliff Pfenning
Cliff Pfenning's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 week 6 days ago
Joined: 2010-07-01

As America celebrates its heroes from the Women’s World Cup, the real key to the month of success on the soccer pitch will be on the fields of the U.S., in such towns as Kansas City and Atlanta.

Now that Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and company have dominated the world on behalf of the nation, it’s time to see if anyone will show up to see them when they’re not repping for the Stars and Stripes.

This is the challenge that’s truly bigger than the world, too, because it’s the future, in the attendance figures of the National Women’s Soccer League.

The nation fell in love with Team USA’s players as a unit, but will that translate into more paid ticket sales and sponsors for the league the players star in?

Getting better or even equal pay from the U.S. Soccer Federation seems very logical for the top players, but getting better pay for the breadth of the NWSL’s players will be the greater success of the World Cup win.

One of those keys to success has actually happened, too - the NWSL has a beer sponsor.

As the U.S. was beating The Netherlands in France on Sunday, the league announced Budweiser had become its first beer sponsor and will attach its name to a host of elements such as the championship game.

A check of the league website shows Budweiser adds a significant sense of legitimacy to the league along with Nike. The three other NWSL sponsors are Cutter, which is an insect repellent, Thorne, which produces supplements, and Lifetime Network, although it doesn’t seem to have much if any involvement in airing league matches. ESPN will air matches on ESPN2 and ESPN News for the remainder of the season.

Budweiser is a step the NWSL has needed, and the Team USA players should address directly because that’s where the future of the professional games lies. And, women need to recognize that because equal pay requires equal results within capitalism. Kansas City can be a valuable asset in this arena. Atlanta, too.

During the World Cup final the FOX broadcast switched to a party being held in a public section of Kansas City that attracted a reported 10,000 fans. It was a wild atmosphere worthy of such an event. Kansas City officials used the party to promote the city as a host site for men’s World Cup headed for North American in 2026.

Kansas City is a great soccer town, evident by 10,000 fans showing up to watch Team USA win the World Cup. But, where is the town on women’s soccer? It had one, but it folded and its players moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to form the Utah Royals FC.

Atlanta joined the MLS in 2017 and immediately set the soccer world on fire with its raucous crowds at Mercedes Benz Stadium. The team led the league in attendance its opening year and set a record of 53,000 fans per game in 2018 on the way to winning the league title. Atlanta does not have a team in the NWSL.

And, moving across sport lines, Portland has some women’s equality issues to deal with, too - in basketball. For all his wealth, the late Paul Allen didn’t have much passion for the Rose City in terms of women’s sports. Allen owned the Portland Fire in the early years of the WNBA, but folded the team after only three seasons (2000-02) because of economics. It was an era when the Blazers were losing a tremendous amount of money due to luxury tax issues, and Allen’s company was on the way to filing for bankruptcy from just running the Rose Garden.

A women’s team in the WNBA would seem like a solid economic gamble these days considering the University of Oregon and Oregon State have some of the best attended games in women’s basketball these days, and win on the court regularly. Would Portland’s basketball fans support the Portland Fire the way its soccer fans support the Thorns? Portland would be a great market for the WNBA, and in the process serve as a step forward for women’s pro sports if it works economically.

Team USA can beat the world in the World Cup and in the Olympic Games, but can its players survive as professionals within their own league? It requires fans in seats.

Of the NWSL’s nine teams, only Portland and Utah, which features Team USA players such as Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press, average more than 10,000 fans per game. The other seven teams aren’t past 5,000 fans per game even though they also have Team USA players on their rosters.

Fans in seats, eyes on screens, sponsors on jerseys and beyond.

Team USA’s stars have earned some celebration time in the very near future, but they need to capitalize on this momentum to make the NWSL a stronger league, which is how women’s soccer, and women’s pro sports, will truly win going into the future.

Thorns show off home magic

Portland handles Chicago 3-0 before Providence Park faithful
Staff report

Portland's NWSL return to Providence Park could hardly have gone better in front of a raucous, sun-drenched crowd of 19,461 fans Sunday afternoon with the Thorns beating the Chicago Red Stars 3-0 to move into second place.

Playing without nearly half of its regular rotation due to the upcoming World Cup, Portland got a pair of goals from Midge Purse and one from Simone Charley to improve to 4-1-2, 14 points. The season began with six road games.

Thorns fans can watch for four team members on the U.S. National Team - midfielders Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan, defender Emily Sonnet, and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, as well as Christine Sinclair playing for the Canadian side. In addition, Ellie Carpenter is with the Australian side and Andressinha is playing for Brazil.

The World Cup begins Friday with the league taking a week off for the opening round. Portland next plays at North Carolina, June 15, and again in Portland June 21 against Utah.

 

 

 

Ducks keep Eugene buzzing

4CAST: NCAA women, Pac-12 baseball, softball, Hawks, soccer
Staff report

The Oregon women’s basketball team moved to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the second straight year with a 101-73 win over Minnesota Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon will play either Central Michigan or Ohio State, which play today, Saturday with the winner facing either Notre Dame or Texas A&M next Monday in Spokane, Wash.

“I will be shocked if they’re not playing in the Final Four,” Minnesota coach Marlene Stollings said after watching the Ducks put up 30 points in two different quarters Sunday. “They were rolling on all cylinders.”

Sunday’s second-round game matched two of the top-10 scoring offenses in the nation, and the teams combined for 52 points in the first quarter. From there, though, Oregon - leading 30-22 after the first quarter, outscored the Gophers 52-28 in the next two quarters to effectively decide the outcome.

Oregon blew the game open with a 10-0 run to close out the second quarter, capped by a fadeaway three-pointer at the buzzer by Sabrina Ionescu, while she was being fouled.

Ionescu led all scorers with 29 points, while sophomore Ruthy Hebard added 22 for the Ducks - playing in front of a vocal crowd of 7,576 fans.

Oregon made 11 of its 22 3-point attempts.

The Ducks had never been to the Sweet 16 until last season, when they reached the Elite Eight.

2. PAC-12 BASEBALL

Michael Gretler homered in the second inning to spark the top-ranked Oregon State baseball team to a sweep of California Sunday as the Beavers won the series finale, 6-4, in Berkely, Calif.
 
The win pushed Oregon State to 18-1 on the year, matching the 1951, 1962, 2013 and 2017 teams for the best record through 19 games. The victory also sends the Beavers back to Corvallis with a 3-0 conference record; OSU has won 13 consecutive Pac-12 games dating back to the 2016 season.]
 
The sweep marked the Beavers’ third in Berkeley since 2012 after getting swept at Cal in 2016. OSU starts a three-game series with Washington on Friday.
 
In other Pac-12 action, Oregon lost all three games of its series against Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., to drop to 12-7. The Ducks return to Eugene for a three-game series with Cal starting Friday. Oregon is 8-2 at home this season.

3. PAC-12 SOFTBALL

Sixth-ranked Oregon rallied from a loss Friday to beat UCLA Saturday and Sunday and is 25-5 heading for a weekend off before a three-game series with rival Oregon State March 29-31 in Corvallis.

Oregon State recovered from a 12-0 loss Saturday to beat Cal 8-3 Sunday and earn a 2-1 series win in Corvallis. Oregon State won the first game of the series 10-5 Friday and is 19-10 heading into a three-game series at UCLA Friday.

4. WINTERHAWKS HEAD FOR PLAYOFFS

The 72-game regular season came to a close with a 5-4 loss to Spokane Sunday for the Portland Winterhawks, but the season begins anew Saturday. Portland, which finished the regular season at 44-22-1-5 for 94 points, plays the Chiefs in a seven-game series with the first two games in Portland Saturday and Sunday.

EXTENDED 4CAST

The Portland Thorns and Portland Timbers return to the pitch Saturday with league matches. The Thorns, who drew with Houston 0-0 Saturday at Merlo Field, open NWSL play at North Carolina Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Portland won its second NWSL title last season.

The Timbers, 0-2 in MLS action, play at Houston Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Portland has scored just once in its two games, and is looking for its first win under new coah Giovanni Savarese.

Ducks, Beavers await tournament pairings

4CAST: NCAA women, Oregon men, Blazers, Thorns
Staff report

The Oregon and Oregon State women's basketball programs will get their official NCAA Tournament placements tonight, giving their fans and end to more than a week of waiting.

The Ducks won the Pac-12 Tournament title last weekend for the first time, a day after Oregon State's regular season ended. The Ducks are likely to receive their highest tournament seed in the program's history.

Oregon, 30-4, enters the tournament ranked No. 6 nationally, and with a nine-game win streak. The Ducks were a 10 seed last year, but played into the Elite Eight before losing to Connecticut 90-52.

Oregon State, 23-7, is ranked 13th. The Beavers were a No. 2 seed last year, but got knocked out by Florida State in the Sweet 16.

The women's tournament begins on Thursday.

2. OREGON NIT

The Oregon men's basketball team missed out on the NCAA Tournament - Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State received spots - but did get into the NIT and will play host to Rider on Tuesday night at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon reached the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and is 22-11 overall. Rider, 22-9, won the regular-season title in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, but missed out on the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament by not winning the MAAC tournament. It's the first-ever meeting between the schools. Rider is located in Lawrenceville, N.J.

3. BLAZERS MIAMI

Portland, in third place in the Western Conference, will put its nine-game win streak up against Miami, the No. 7 team from the Eastern Conference.

The Blazers are 40-26 and two games ahead of fourth-place New Orleans, Minnesota and Oklahoma City.

Miami is 36-31 and has a two-game win streak.

4. PORTLAND THORNS PRESEASON

The Portland Thorns lost their first of three preseason games Sunday, 1-0, to the Chicago Red Stars at Merlo Field. The team plays again Wednesday and Saturday Merlo Field in preparation for the start of the season, March 24. Wednesday's game is against the U.S. National Under-23 squad.

ALSO

The Portland Winterhawks rebounded from Saturday's loss with a 2-0 victory over Everett at the Moda Center, and have three games remaining in the regular season. The Hawks play again Friday against Seattle at the Moda Center.

 

 

Blazers keep surging

TUESDAY 4CAST: Portland rallies, Thorns, Hawks reunion, PSU hoop
Staff report

Damian Lillard kept the Portland Trail Blazers winning streak going Monday night with another stellar performance.

Lillard scored a game-high 39 points, including 19 points in the fourth quarter as Portland rallied past the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-103, at the Staples Center.

Portland (38-26) won for the seven-consecutive game, and stayed a game ahead of three teams in the race for third place in the Western Conference. The Blazers play host to the New York Knicks tonight.

Lillard scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, hitting 4 of 5 three-point shots.

The win was also the 15th-straight over the Lakers.

2. SINCLAIR'S SEASON PREP IS INTERNATIONAL

Christine Sinclair scored two goals to lead Canada to a 3-0 win over South Korea in the third round of Group Stage play at the Algarve Cup, but the Canadians will play only for fifth in the 25th annual tournament. Sweden, which beat Canada 3-1 on the first day of the tournament in Portugal, will play the Netherlands Wednesday for the title.

Sinclair's two goals gave her 172 for her international career - within reach of Abby Wambach's record 184. Portland begins its regular season March 24 at North Caroina.

3. WINTERHAWKS GET PLAYERS OF WEEK; PROMOTE REUNION

THe Western Hockey League honored Portland's Cody Glass as the Player of the Week, and goaltender Andrew Farkas as the Goaltender of the Week for the work in keeping the Hawks battling for a top playoff seed.

After a pair of road games tonight and Wednesday, the Hawks return homre and will honor the 1998 Memorial Cup champions with a reunion and team Hall of Fame induction for four of the key members: Marian Hossa, Andrew Ference, Brendan Morrow and Todd Robinson.

4. PSU OPENS BIG SKY TOURNAMENT

Portland State got 24 points from Sidney Reilly and beat Northern Arizona to open the Big Sky Tournament Monday. The Vikings face third-seed Eastern Washington Wednesday.

The PSU men's team opens the Big Sky tournament today against Sacramento State.

ALSO:

THE NBA ACADEMY

Columnist Derek Weber looks over the NBA's strategy to address high school players using colleges for one year only.

 

Portland Thorns History

NWSL Original Franchise

YEAR-BY-YEAR REVIEW

2013 - Sparked by UP great Christine Sinclair, and USA National Team member Alex Morgan, Portland finished third in the league standings, then beat Western New York 2-0 to win the first title of the eight-team NWSL.

2014 - International Player of the Year Nadine Angerer joined the team, and the Thorns set a women's soccer attendance record at 19,123 just two days before MLS played its All-Star Game at Providence Park. Portland lost in the league semifinals.

2015 - The team's roster shifted greatly during the off-season, but it resulted in a disappointing sixth-place finish in the now nine-team standings. The Thorns did manage to sell out the stadium for a game.

2016 - A return to the top of the league standings again resulted in a disappointing loss in the semifinals.

2017 - The Thorns won a team-record 14 games, of 24 played, and again won the league title after placing second in the season standings.

 

 

The World (Cup) catches Thorns game

With U.S. stars watching, Portland drops 1-0 decision in New Jersey
July 12, 2015

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Squaring off against Sky Blue FC for the second time in a nine-day span, Portland Thorns FC could not overcome an early second-half goal in a 1-0 road loss in front of 3,014 fans on Saturday evening at Yurcak Field.

  The two teams combined to create a handful of chances in the opening 45 minutes until forward Sam Kerr, making her Sky Blue FC debut on Saturday, finished a header in the penalty box off a cross from Maya Hayes in the 52nd minute to give the home side a 1-0 lead.

Portland (3-4-4, 13 pts) held a 7-5 edge in shots in the second half, but couldn't put in the equalizer against the team it beat 2-1 the previous week.

Forward Ayo looked dangerous early in the second half, firing a shot just over the crossbar after receiving a pass from midfielder Mana Shim in the opening minute. Reigning NWSL Player of the Week Sinead Farrelly made a back-post run on a free kick from midfielder Allie Long in the 65th minute, connecting with a header from point-blank range, but Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron stood her ground to make the save.

With the win, Sky Blue FC improved its record to 2-6-4 (10 pts) overall this season.

Leading the Portland attack, Ayo finished the match with four shots, including a final header late in second-half stoppage time off a cross from forward Hanna Terry. Ayo found enough space inside the box to put a looping header on frame, but at the last moment Cameron leaped to tip the attempt over the crossbar.

Next up, Thorns FC return to the Rose City for a home match against Cascadia-rival Seattle Reign FC on Wednesday, July 22, at Providence Park.


Thorns can use a boost

Portland hasn't won in a month heading into home match
June 19, 2015

In spite of having one of the top rosters in women's club soccer, the Portland Thorns are mired in the thrill of the World Cup.

Having a top roster has been a challenge for the team as its top players have been called up to national team duty, and are central figures on each of their squads as they play against one another in group action that began Friday.

Christine Sinclair, Nadine Angerer, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan - all gone from the Thorns' roster. In their place, Portland has resorted to a relatively untested squad, including amatuer players in a number of matches.

The result has been a winless streak that began April 25 with a 2-all draw at Chicago. The following five matches included two draws and three losses, and the team has scored just one goal in its past four matches. With the results, the Thorns sit in eighth place in the nine-team National Women's Soccer League after eight of their 20-game regular season.

The good news for Thorns fans is the team sits just two points out of third place, and they have outshot opponents in most of their matches.

Portland (2-3-3, 9 points) plays host to Kansas City (2-4-1, 10 points) tonight at Providence Park.

The Thorns' last win came April 18 at home against Western New York, and the team is 2-1-0 in home matches. Three of their next four matches are at home.

 

 

 

 

Thorns rally to tie road opener

Sinclair, Shim score during 2-2 draw with Chicago
April 25, 2015

CHICAGO - The Thorns overcame a two-goal deficit to forge a 2-all tie with the Chicago Red Stars Saturday in a NWSL match at the Benedictine University Sports Complex.

Christine Sinclair scored her first goal of the season, and Mana Shim added her second, which capped the scoring and allowed the Thorns to remain unbeaten on the season at 2-0-1, 7 points.

Reigning NWSL Player of the Week Christen Press bagged her second brace of the season for Chicago, which moved to 1-0-1, 4 points.
 
The Red Stars picked up right where they had left off in the dramatic win over Seattle Reign FC last week with Press taking down a pinpoint-accurate long ball by Lori Chalupny before cutting to her right and sending a beautiful curler past the outstretched Nadine Angerer for the go-ahead goal in the fourth minute.
 
Another four minutes later, it was U.S. Women’s National Team star Press again, as she took a ball by midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo, cut to her left and fired at goal from inside the box, her attempt taking a deflection off defender Courtney Niemiec and slipping underneath Angerer to make it 2-0.
 
Thorns FC nearly pulled one back in the 11th minute of play. Tobin Heath sprinted down the right flank and sent a dangerous cross into the area, only to see a wide-open Mana Shim denied by Karina LeBlanc’s spectacular kick-save. The rebound fell straight to Portland’s Taylor Comeau, whose short-range blast was heroically headed off the line by Chicago defender Julie Johnston.
 
The Red Stars nearly punished their opponents for the pair of missed chances when rookie Danielle Colaprico’s 15th-minute cross was nodded just over the bar by international legend Shannon Boxx. Three minutes later, Press narrowly missed out on a hat trick when she was played in by Chalupny and released a right-footed shot that was tipped around the far post by a diving Angerer.
 
Instead of adding a third, Chicago saw its lead cut to one just before the half-hour mark, Allie Long feeding Sinclair at the top of the box and the world-class striker firing through traffic for a well-placed effort inside the left post. The visitors nearly tied things up four minutes from the halftime whistle, as former Portland shot-stopper LeBlanc came up with a point-blank parry to keep out Sinclair’s toe-poke from close range.
 
Thorns FC did level the match early in the second half. Shim took advantage of some indecisive Red Stars defending, as she picked up a loose ball at the edge of the penalty area and found the inside of the far post with a left-footed drive. The hosts were lucky not to fall behind when Sinclair subsequently fed an unmarked Comeau, an amateur making her first start, inside the box and the California native leaned back for a shot that sailed well over the frame.
 
Portland got even closer to grabbing the lead in the 74th minute. Substitute Kendall Johnson, who entered in the 59th minute for Comeau, found Sinead Farrell in front of the Chicago goal and the midfielder’s delicate curler off the underside of the bar nearly crossing the line on its way down.

The Thorns have the upcoming week off before playing host to Washington, May 9, at 7 p.m.


 

RSS feed