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Thorns secure home semi; Flash don’t clinch

The Thorns and first-year coach Mark Parsons will host a semifinal for the first time. (Photo:  Portland Thorns FC)

The Thorns and first-year coach Mark Parsons will host a semifinal for the first time. (Photo: Portland Thorns FC)

The Portland Thorns clinched home field advantage in the NWSL semifinals after besting the Western New York Flash 3-2 in front of a record-equaling crowd; the match was also showcased on Fox Sports 1. Western New York and Seattle continue to be the contenders for the remaining playoff spot.

The match started with an aggressive Western New York pressing the Portland midfield and defense and controlling terms of play. The first 20’ saw Western New York with the majority of chances, including a foiled cross from Jessica McDonald to Lynn Williams (4’), a missed shot from Sam Mewis (10’), and a handful of set piece opportunities (6’ and 18’).

Intermittent bursts of Portland’s organized transition threatened a momentum shift, but it was not until Nadia Nadim scored on a generously awarded penalty kick that the home team settled into the more dominant role (27’). The second goal came for the Thorns when Elizabeth Eddy took a heavy defensive touch on a cross from Nadim. The ball ended up on the foot of Christine Sinclair who easily converted (37’). The game became increasingly physical as the two sides battled for midfield, and an aggressive Flash attempted to keep pressure on the Thorns.

The majority of the second half affirmed control of play by the Thorns who put in their third goal off of a good strike from the subbed in Dagny Brynjarsdottir (69’). McDonald kept the Flash in the game by heading a ball past Michelle Betos (77’). The remainder of the match, including the second Flash goal by Williams (80’), showed an invigorated attack by the visiting side. In the end, it was too little to late to grab a point and clinch the last playoff spot. Seattle also won their game on Sunday, thereby guaranteeing an interesting final week of the regular season.

Following a week off for the international window, the Flash will clinch the final playoff berth with a win or draw in Boston on Saturday, September 24. If they lose the Reign can steal it by winning in Houston a day later. The Reign have won all six prior meetings with the Dash.

Kealia Ohai (HOU), Williams, McDonald, and Nadim each scored on Sunday which keeps the golden boot top four intact from the week prior. The standings are currently: Ohai (10); Williams (10); McDonald (9); Nadim (9).


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