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Thorns beat Pride in front of 16,000 plus in Portland

Christine Sinclair celebrates with Hayley Raso after scoring in the Thorns' season opener. (photo courtesy Portland Thorns)
Christine Sinclair celebrates with Hayley Raso after scoring in the Thorns' season opener. (photo courtesy Portland Thorns)

Christine Sinclair celebrates with Hayley Raso after scoring in the Thorns’ season opener. (photo courtesy Portland Thorns)

It was an historic day in Portland as the Portland Thorns defeated the Orlando Pride, 2-0, in the league’s first ever Lifetime Game of the Week. The game took place before an audience of 16,125 fans, the largest home opening Thorns crowd since their inaugural home match in 2013.

Despite putting 9 shots on goal, the Pride just couldn’t find the back of the net. That’s partly because of a lack of finishing–they seemed to be sorely missing Marta today–and partly because of Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch who, after having a rough start and making a number of dangerous blunders, made several big stops to deny the Pride. After one early flub nearly resulted in a goal by Jasmyne Spencer, some fans at home dubbed Franch the game’s difference maker, and they were right, although perhaps not the way they expected. Luckily for the Thorns, Franch decided the match in their favor, earning the clean sheet and their first three points of the season.

Ashlyn Harris, in net for the Pride, had a couple of brilliant moments herself, especially in the first half. In the 16th minute, Franch distributed the ball over the entire field, and Christine Sinclair ran onto it. Harris came off her line as Sinclair moved into position, but Harris was able to block Sinclair’s shot with her body to keep the second all-time leading international goal scorer off the board. Seven minutes later, Sinclair was again moving in for a ball played over the field, Ali Krieger racing alongside to defend, but Harris came off her line and got to the ball first with a diving header clearance.

The Pride goalkeeper would be unable to keep the Thorns off the board for the entire first half though, as Nadia Nadim put Portland up a goal in the 32nd minute. Alanna Kennedy, acquired by the Pride in an off-season trade, was called for a handball in the box, and the Thorns were awarded a penalty kick. Nadim, who led Portland in scoring last season, stepped to the spot and put the ball just left of center as Harris dove right.

Although they did not have a bad first half, the Thorns proved much more dangerous in the second, especially Allie Long. Long tallied an assist after battling with Maddy Evans for the ball, earning the turnover and moving the ball down towards goal. Sinclair made a run just to her left, and Long split a pair of defenders with a perfectly-weighted pass to the forward, who easily put it past Harris to double the Thorns’ lead.

While the Pride is still experiencing some obvious growing pains, trying to build a high-caliber roster in just its second season, there is a lot of potential in the roster. The additions of Marta, reportedly in time for next week’s home opener against the Washington Spirit, and Alex Morgan, scheduled to return in June, should help bolster the Pride attack.

In comparison, the Thorns seemed to pick right back up from last season, barely skipping a beat. And that was without Tobin Heath, Katherine Reynolds and Dagny Brynjarsdottir, all of whom were sidelined with injuries, something that has plagued the Thorns in both the off-season and preseason. Once the team is back to full-strength, they seem poised to make yet another run for their second NWSL Championship.

The Thorns (1-0-0, 3 pts.) next hit the road to take on the North Carolina Courage, while the Pride (0-1-0, o pts.) returns to Orlando for their season opener against the Washington Spirit on Saturday, April 22. The Orlando-Spirit match will be the Pride’s first match in their new Orlando City Stadium and will be next weekend’s Lifetime Game of the Week.

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