Portland Thorns bag all three points in week 4 matchup.
The Portland Thorns returned to regular season action Saturday night at an energetic Providence Park to face Racing Louisville FC.
What is now a habit of putting opponents on their back heels since the initial whistle, the Thorns wasted no time punishing the visitors. In just the second minute of play club captain Christine Sinclair netted the 60th regular-season goal of her career. A play that started with a fantastic run down the left sideline by Sophia Smith, her cutback pass into the semicircle saw Crystal Dunn hop over the ball in a dummy-play, setting up the incoming Sinclair. The Canadian international made no mistake, and with a well placed grounder sunk the right-footed shot into Katie Lund's lower right corner, the ball kissing the post on its way to crossing the line. Sophia Smith tallied her third assist of the season, and Sinclair her first goal of 2023.
Portland did not slow down, and over the next 25 minutes made continuous threatening approaches into Louisville's box. On the defensive end, Bella Bixby remained firm in goal, stopping Racing in their tracks whenever they approached her own box. Her clutch diving save in the 33rd minute earned Providence Park's praise.
Christine Sinclair continued to look lethal throughout the first half. In the 35th and 37th minute she came close to scoring yet again. The first of the two plays had Sinclair scrambling for rebounds in the box, forcing Lund to make two point-blank saves. Two minutes later she followed it up with with a screamer to Lund's right that did not hit the mark.
Portland's backline looked solid as well, even after making a risky error in the 40th minute that allowed Racing to go on the counter in a 2v1 situation. Kelli Hubly confidently tracked down the Louisville attacker just as she neared the box and with a swift sliding tackle snatched the ball away and put it out of danger. In the first half, the Thorns were clicking on both sides of the ball.
Just before the halftime whistle, Morgan Weaver would add to the lead, after a play similar to the opening goal. Sophia Smith with her disruptive attack on the left wing, cut a pass across the six-yard box. Her ball came rolling in, and midfielder Hina Sugita dummied to let the ball through for a lurking Weaver who simply tapped it home. Soon after, the halftime whistle rang, but Providence Park was still reveling in red smoke. Thorns were up 2-0, and Sophia Smith now led the league in goals as well as assists with 4 in each category.
Comfortably in the lead to start the second half, the Thorns quickly set themselves on a search for a third. 60 seconds in, Crystal Dunn nearly added herself to the scoresheet after finding herself unmarked in the center of the box and in possession of the ball. As she toyed with the spherical, she took her time and after selecting the top-right corner, unleashed a curler that went just wide if the post.
With two assists already on the night, Sophia Smith kept hunting for her own score. In the 60th she came close with a run down the middle of the field in Racing's final third. As she approached the semicircle, she set off a low right-footed blast that was saved by a diving Lund.
Seven minutes later, Portland celebrated what appeared to be a third goal beyond. In a chippy play on the right edge of the box, Adriana Leon lost and then regained possession of the ball. Leon then ran towards the end line where she sent a cross into the six-yard box and past Lund, landing at the feet of Morgan Weaver. Weaver slotted the ball back across Lund and into the bottom left corner of the goal, past the line. The North End filled with red smoke, however the party would be halted following a VAR review. A handball determination by referee Thomas Snyder erased Weavers second of the night and Leon's first assist as a Thorn.
With the tempo coming down, the Thorns maintained control of the match in the final 20 minutes. In dominating fashion, Portland closed down the match and kept cool in the winding minutes, even coming close to flirting with a third goal with a Morgan Weaver run into the box that resulted in a defensive block from Racing.
Upon the final whistle, the Thorns secured all three points with a commanding 2-0 result. Bella Bixby reached 20 career clean sheets with the Thorns crest on her chest, and the win keeps them comfortably in first place of the NWSL standings with 10 points. Next up for Portland is Angel City FC on April 29, kick-off is scheduled for 7:30pm at Providence Park.