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Chicago Red Stars

Henry assists as unbeaten Thorns beat Chicago, go top

Amandine Henry registered an assist in her first NWSL start to help Portland Thorns FC reach the midway point of the season undefeated with a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars. Henry, in her home debut, redirected a Tobin Heath corner kick toward goal, where Nadia Nadim flicked it home from the doorstep. Christine Sinclair opened the scoring for the Thorns, who became the fourth team in NWSL history to go 10 or more games without a loss. The Red Stars fell for the first time since opening night and fell out of first place in the process, ceding the position to the Thorns.

The tenor of the match changed in the 6th minute when Julie Johnston took a bad touch in the box and compounded matters by turning to face goal. But Sinclair pounced, took the ball from Johnston, and scored from close range to put the Thorns ahead 1-0.

Moments later, the Red Stars came within a whisker of equalizing when Alyssa Mautz played Sofia Huerta clear behind the Thorns defense. Michelle Betos rushed off her line and may have disrupted or distracted Huerta just enough that her shot hit the post and bounced to safety after traveling through the six-yard box.

The Red Stars actually had the better of the play much of the half but they were burned again when on a situation where the Thorns had insufficient numbers ahead of the play. Nadia Nadim elected to take a shot and it glanced off Casey Short for a corner kick. Henry made clean contact with Heath’s corner and Nadim beat Vanessa DiBernardo to a spot and redirected the ball up and in with her head. 25th minute, 2-0 Thorns.

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“I thought it was a very professional and smart performance,” Thorns coach Mark Parsons said. “It’s tough to play with that defensive discipline at home. You want to press high. You want to go at teams. It suited us to be a bit patient with our defending and where we defended. That means Chicago was going to have a bit more of the ball where at home you don’t want anyone to have the ball apart from us. So, we had to be smart and professional. I think that played into our hands big time in the first half. We countered them, got set pieces, and we got a goal off countering them. We countered and got a corner for the goal.

“So it was a smart and professional performance. Chicago are an exceptional team. They’re very well coached. They’re very organized and going into the first Chicago game two weeks ago, we were very open against a team that’s one of the most organized teams that we’re going to face. They’re very disciplined and they work for each other. So, to pull out a 2-0 victory, we felt we left some points in Chicago. We should’ve won that game. To manage the game the way we did tonight, I think was important.”

Henry played 70 minutes in her debut.

“The first game in this stadium was amazing,” she said. “We win, is more important. The atmosphere is fantastic. I’m so happy to have played this match.”

Betos had a strong match the rest of the way and the Red Stars, despite some quality possession, were unable to find much rhythm in the attacking third.

The Thorns (5-0-5, 20 pts) face a quick turnaround and a long flight Orlando where they will play the Pride on Sunday. The Red Stars (5-2-3, 18 pts) do not play again until July 1 at Western New York by which time Johnston, Alyssa Naeher, and Christen Press will be in camp with the United States national team.

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