Portland Thorns FC boosted its playoff ambitions on Sunday with a 1-0 win over the Houston Dash in front of an NWSL record crown of 19,123 fans at Providence Park.
Verónica Boquete scored the only goal of the match in the 54th minute, finishing a left-footed cross from Stephanie Catley. Portland built up play down the left side, starting with goalkeeper Nadine Angerer. Six passes later, Catley served a pinpoint ball to the far post, where Boquete calmly one-timed the ball into the net for her fourth goal of the season since joining the team in early June.
“You got to take 1-0 at this point,” Thorns coach Paul Riley said. “It’s all about the points. We needed three points. More than anything else tonight, we had to get the three points to put ourselves in a better position to make the playoffs, which we’ve done. Now it’s still in our hands, which is the main thing.”
Portland controlled much of the second half as the Thorns played with more width, stretching out Houston. The Thorns’ width led to their only goal, and it nearly produced a second tally two minutes later, but Dash goalkeeper Erin McLeod pushed Meleana Shim’s low shot just wide of the far post.
“To score in a home game like tonight, in front of almost 20,000 people, I think will be one of the best memories of my career,” Boquete said. “Tonight was the biggest crowd for me. I’ve never played in front of that many people. It was really special and I’m so proud it was here in Portland.”
McLeod came up big again in the 87th minute, denying Alex Morgan to keep Houston in the match late.
Houston had the more dangerous chances in the first half, highlighted by a 19th minute minute chance that caused a scramble in Portland’s penalty area. Dash rookie forward Kealia Ohai sent a low cross into the box toward Melissa Henderson, who just missed getting a redirecting touch on the ball.
Morgan had the best chance of the first half for the Thorns in stoppage time. After a short corner kick was played into the box, Christine Sinclair chested the ball into the path of Morgan, whose toe-poke from close range went straight to McLeod.
Portland (9-7-6, 33 pts.) is now 5 pts. ahead of the Chicago Red Stars for the fourth and final playoff spot, and the Thorns are only one point behind the third-place Washington Spirit. The Western New York Flash (8-11-3, 27 pts.) still have an outside shot at the playoffs after beating the Boston Breakers, 4-3, on Sunday.
After the match, Riley said that midfielder Sinead Farrelly “might not play again the rest of the season” due to injury. Riley hopes to have midfielder Tobin Heath back the August 17 regular-season finale against Seattle.
With the loss, the Dash (5-12-3, 18 pts.) are officially eliminated from NWSL playoff contention.
What a @NWSL record-breaking crowd of 19,123 looks like. #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/9pgPAAfAch
— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) August 4, 2014
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