Match Recap

After an intense final push, Thorns and Dash settle for 1-1 draw


The Portland Thorns returned to league action at Providence Park on Friday night under clear skies and a beautiful sunset. Debuting the new secondary kit, Portland faced the Houston Dash in week 3 of the NWSL regular season, 14 days after mauling the Kansas City Current on the road.

If there were doubts about whether the international break had slowed the Thorns' roll, they were put to rest as early as the second minute of gameplay when the Thorns began testing the opposition's defense in earnest. Midfielder Olivia Moultrie nearly got on the end of a cross from winger Michele Vasconcelos. Three minutes later it would be left winger Morgan Weaver who rattled Houston's right post following a quick drive down the left.

In the ninth minute of play, the red smoke from the Riveters could not be contained any more, courtesy of Crystal Dunn's second goal of the campaign. The Thorns opening score was set up exquisitely for Dunn by reigning league MVP Sophia Smith. Smith dribbled the ball through the left side of the box and slotted a pass to a waiting Dunn, who sent the ball against the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.

It was 1-0 Portland, and Houston looked on the ropes. Smith secured her second assist of the season.

Houston, however, changed their approach and became more aggressive on defense, pressing every Thorn that received the ball. It worked very well for the Dash as momentum began to swing their way, dampening the Portland attack and keeping the ball in Portland's half. Houston saw two opportunities to level the game in the 19th minute and 22nd—a header that sailed over Portland's goal, and the second requiring a firm save from Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby.

Houston was persistent and in the 24th minute found the equalizer via Maria Sanchez. Their defensive press put the Thorns defense into a frenzy and Sanchez found herself running down the left of the box with possession before slotting a low ball into Bixby's right corner.

The potent Dunn-Smith connection revived in the 27th minute. In a swiftly recovered ball in the final third, Crystal Dunn popped a floater to Smith, who after catching up to it bumped it towards goal, but was denied by Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell. Smith had another close one just five minutes later. Chasing down a through floater from Moultrie on the left, she dribbled into the box only to smash it off the top of the right post. A minute later, Dunn-Smith again went on the attack, with Crystal Dunn swinging at a Smith rebound, however her powerful shot went over.

By the halftime whistle, both teams had found a way to contain one another, and no further damage was done. A 1-1 scoreline as both squads returned to their locker rooms.

In the second half, both squads returned the same 22 players to the field. Portland came out firing, earning three consecutive corners in the first four minutes of play. Defender Kelli Hubly had a shot on goal following a rebound in the third corner kick, however her shot was comfortably blocked by Campbell. Sophia Smith kept the pressure and in pursuit of her fifth tally of the season tested the Dash defense with a wide right shot.

Over the next 20 minutes, the game became a possession battle as both defenses pressed the ball. Other than a few approaches by Portland that ended in Houston clearances, both clubs searched for a window of opportunity to go on the attack. However, they had very few options.

With 20 minutes to go, Portland began to develop offensive opportunities. First, Sophia Smith doing Sophia Smith things, taking the ball herself, juking defenders and blasting it at Campbell in the 72nd, a ball that the Dash keeper palmed to the corner. Houston responded in kind, pressing the Thorns' defense in the 80th minute with a series of rebounds in the box following a corner that ended wide of Bixby's goal.

The race for the game winner intensified in the final minutes of the Portland match. Morgan Weaver nearly blew the roof off Providence Park in the 88th. Her shot was just wide right following a deflected Meghan Klingenberg corner kick into the six-yard box. With time running out, the Dash fought for balls in the corner to preserve the draw.

In Providence Park, Portland and Houston split the points at 1-1, keeping them on top of the NWSL standings with seven points—at least until tomorrow evening, when 6-point San Diego plays OL Reign. Portland will play San Diego Wave FC in southern California on Wednesday April 19 in the first Challenge Cup match of 2023.