BOYDS, Md. – Forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Nikki Washington each tallied goals and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made six saves as Portland Thorns FC earned their third consecutive victory with a 2-1 win against the Washington Spirit on Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,011 fans at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md.
The win allowed Thorns FC (3-0-1, 10pts) to maintain their position at the top of the National Women’s Soccer League standings, extending the team’s season-opening unbeaten streak to four matches, including two straight wins on the road.
Settling a long pass from defender Nikki Marshall over the top of the Spirit defense in the 12th minute, Morgan controlled the ball trying to find a seam toward the goal and was taken down by Washington defender Domenica Hodak near the upper edge of the penalty box. The Thorns FC forward stepped to the penalty spot, facing fellow U.S. Women’s National Team member Ashlyn Harris in goal, and calmly slotted the ball inside the left post as Harris guessed the wrong direction.
The goal was Morgan’s second of the season and extended the forward’s streak of consecutive matches with at least a point to three after scoring a goal against Seattle Reign FC on April 21 and notching an assist against the Chicago Red Stars on April 27.
Six minutes into the second half, midfielder Nikki Washington provided Thorns FC with a two-goal lead in the 51st minute, converting her first goal of the season. Defensive pressure forced an errant pass by Spirit defender Ali Krieger as the U.S. Women’s National Team defender delivered a pass directly to Washington 20 yards from goal and the Thorns FC midfielder curled a low drive around Harris off the right post and into the net.
The Spirit (0-2-2, 2pts) upped the offensive pressure in the second half, forcing Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc to make five saves during the final 45 minutes. LeBlanc finished the match with a season-high six saves.
The Spirit cut into Portland’s lead in the 87th minute when midfielder Diana Matheson was fouled inside the right edge of the penalty box by second-half substitute defender Jazmyne Avant. The Canadian international converted a right-footed penalty kick past LeBlanc for her league-leading third goal of the season.
Morgan and forward Christine Sinclair each finished with two shots on goal apiece, but it was Morgan who came closest to scoring her second of the match for Thorns FC in the 20th minute. An errant pass from Harris to defender Robyn Gayle allowed Morgan to steal the ball and streak into the penalty box, but her effort struck the right post and went out of bounds as Harris scrambled to regain position.
Portland and Washington finished even on shots, 11-11, as Thorns FC became the league’s first team to win three straight games.
Thorns FC conclude their three-game road trip on Sunday, May 12, against the Chicago Red Stars at Benedictine Sports Complex in Lisle, Ill.; kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. (Pacific). Portland previously defeated the Red Stars 2-0 on April 27 in the first game of the team’s current road swing.
- With a goal on Saturday, forward Alex Morgan has earned at least a point in three straight matches.
- Midfielder Meleana Shim made her NWSL debut for Portland, earning her first start of the season.
- Defender Jazmyne Avant made her NWSL debut, entering the match as a 64th minute substitute for injured defender Nikki Marshall.
- Thorns FC wore their white-black-white jersey combination for the second time this season, previously wearing the pairing in a season-opening 1-1 draw against FC Kansas City on April 13.
- For the first time this season, Thorns FC fielded a different starting XI from the first three matches – inserting Shim in the place of midfielder Angie Kerr.
- Forward Danielle Foxhoven and midfielder Courtney Wetzel each made their team-high fourth substitute appearances on Saturday.
- Morgan’s penalty kick goal in the 12th minute stands as the quickest goal in Thorns FC history.
- Portland leads the league with five second-half goals and is tied with the Boston Breakers for the league’s overall lead with seven goals.
- Thorns FC recorded six shots in the first half on Saturday, which equaled the team’s season-high for first-half shots.
- All three of Portland’s road games have been witnessed by sellout crowds.
Portland Thorns FC (3-0-1, 10pts) vs. Washington Spirit (0-2-2, 2pts)
May 4, 2013 – Maryland SoccerPlex (Boyds, Md.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
POR 1 1 2
WAS 0 1 1
POR – Morgan (penalty kick) 12
POR – Washington (unassisted) 51
WAS – Matheson (penalty kick) 86
WAS – Harris (caution) 13
POR – Long (caution) 70
POR – Edwards (caution) 82
Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Karina LeBlanc; D Marian Dougherty, D Rachel Buehler, D Kathryn Williamson, D Nikki Marshall (Jazmyne Avant, 64), M Becky Edwards, M Allie Long (Courtney Wetzel, 83), M Meleana Shim (Danielle Foxhoven, 90+3), M Nikki Washington, F Christine Sinclair (capt.), F Alex Morgan
Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Sinclair, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Sinclair/Morgan, 2); FOULS: 7 (Edwards/Shim, 2); OFFSIDES: 4; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 6
WAS: GK Ashlyn Harris; D Domenica Hodak (Jazmyne Spencer, 75), D Robyn Gayle, D Tori Huster, D Ali Krieger, M Lori Lindsey (capt.), M Diana Matheson, M Ingrid Wells (Tiffany McCarty, 46), M Julia Roberts, F Caroline Miller, F Stephanie Ochs
Substitutes Not Used: GK Chantel Jones, D Candace Chapman, D Kika Toulouse, M Colleen Williams, M Lupita Worbis
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Three players tied, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (McCarty, 2); FOULS: 7 (Hodak, 4); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 3
Referee: Christina Unkel
Assistant Referees: Shannon Poplstein, Danielle Chesky
Fourth Official: Hagan Barnett
Weather: 66 degrees, clear and breezy
All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial
Quotes: Portland Thorns FC vs. Washington Spirit
Portland Thorns FC Quotes
Head coach Cindy Parlow Cone
On forward Alex Morgan being the team’s focal point:
“Alex is a true professional in every sense of the word. She may be a young player, but she’s wise beyond her years and she understands the position she is in and has embraced it. She has been great for our team and great for this game. We’ve been to Kansas City and Chicago and everywhere we’ve been people are shrieking Alex’s name.”
On Washington’s defense:
“They’re a fantastic team. Their backline is very good with Robyn Gayle, Tori Huster, Ali Krieger and Hodak with Ashlyn Harris in goal. That’s a very strong back line. In front of them having (Lori) Lindsey and Julia Roberts, that’s tough to play against. I said it before the game that that’s going to be a tough block to break down because they are a very good defensive team.”
On Portland’s defensive pressure forcing miscues:
“We’re sorting out our defensive pressure. We want to be a high-pressing team and we saw moments of it tonight. The one turnover we were able to get a goal on was Nikki Washington’s in the second half (while Morgan hit the post after a turnover in the first half).”
Washington Spirit Quotes
Head coach Mike Jorden
On what’s missing early in the season:
“Definitely some cohesion. I’m kind of tired of talking about how young we are, but it’s a reality. You look at Portland and they have a lot of good veteran players. We’ve got five or six rookies right out of the gate and they’re doing a great job. We’ve still got to keep learning a little bit more about each other. The fight is definitely there, just playing a little tighter and less mistakes, but I’m proud of them.”
On the forwards taking shot attempts earlier:
“I think there were a couple situations tonight where that was the case. I think that whether it’s pulling the trigger or making quicker runs, that’s what we’ve been talking about. Trying to get in behind a little quicker and being a little bit more dangerous. We’re getting a little bit better each week. We’ve proven that we can play with everybody and fight with everybody. We’ve just got to get it done, finish and create more chances as well.”
Defender Tori Huster
On facing Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair:
“It’s easy when you have Robyn Gayle and Ali Krieger next to you and Ashlyn Harris behind you. One of the big things we focus on has been communication and the communication from Ali and Robyn has been phenomenal and it makes my job that much easier.
Defender Robyn Gayle
On the team’s tough start to the season:
“It’s been tough results-wise if you look at the points. We’ve had some great sequences of play and I think we’re moving the ball very well. We have a young team and we’re still growing as a group. There are a lot of great things to build on. The spirit is there and strong. I think every game we’re improving on little things. We’re having great spells throughout the games and it’s about bringing that for 90 minutes now."