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Thorns Dash Houston’s Undefeated Streak

NWSL Saturday started off early as the Lifetime Game of the Week was moved up due to high temperatures in Portland. The fans who turned out for the 11 AM match were treated to a dominant Thorns performance and a particularly good first half of soccer.

The Thorns started out on the front foot with an early goal from Emily Sonnett. Meghan Klingenberg took a free kick from a dangerous spot, which Amber Brooks headed up into the air. Tyler Lussi got her head on the second ball, placing it down back toward goal, and Jane Campbell stayed on her line instead of coming out to challenge. Sonnett made an unmarked run in for an easy tap in.

Houston tried to play their way back into the game, forcing Adrianna Franch to save a shot from Nichelle Prince in the 18th minute before having a goal called back for offside on a corner kick, but it was Portland with the next real chance.

In the 28th minute Hayley Raso beat Janine Van Wyk to the ball on a counterattack and crossed it in for Christine Sinclair. Her shot was deflected by Poliana, but Lussi ran onto the ball, hoping to catch Campbell on the ground after she’d gone for Sinclair’s shot. However, her chip hit the crossbar as Campbell was scrambling back, and the Dash cleared.

Minutes later, Lindsey Horan ran into Caity Heap from behind inside the box, and the referee didn’t hesitate to point to the spot. Carli Lloyd put it away decisively to equalize for Houston.

The tie game only lasted until the 39th minute. Lussi, who was a Thorn in Houston’s side all day, collected a deflection off Van Wyk inside the box, did some work to create space for herself, and beat Campbell at far post.

While the game had a lot of back and forth in the first half, the Thorns came out of the locker room with intent, grabbed control of the second half from the whistle, and never looked back. It was an increasingly physical match from both sides, with jersey tugs, hip checks, and players simply bodied off the ball. Lloyd was closely marked all match, never allowing her to get into space. She and Horan got into several tussles, and ultimately Lloyd was probably lucky not to receive a second yellow.

Campbell denied Horan three times in the second half after she was pushed higher by the entry of Amandine Henry, twice on headers and once in the 89th minute when Horan found herself with yards of space but took too long to get a good shot off.

Allie Long had the best chance to extend the Thorns’ lead when Houston’s defense got pulled all out of shape on a counter in the 81st minute. She was 1v1 with Campbell but took too many touches and sent the ball high.

Possession allowed Portland to see the game out and end the Dash’s historic undefeated streak at 6. The Thorns now have a three-game winning streak and command the top of the table, although either North Carolina or Chicago could take it back tonight. Next weekend they travel to Chicago. Houston remains in sixth place but could fall to seventh before they play again, and will host Kansas City next weekend.

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