Nearly five seasons into the NWSL’s existence the Portland Thorns became the first team to win 50 regular season matches. They did it at the expense of their fiercest rivals, Seattle Reign FC who also entered Saturday’s match with a chance to become the first to 50. The 2-1 win was the Thorns’s first victory at Memorial Stadium where the Reign lost for the second time in a row after losing only two of their first 43 matches there including two playoff wins. The Reign also missed an opportunity to take the head-to-head lead over the Thorns for the first time.
Following a scoreless opening half that saw the Thorns outshoot their hosts 17-1, they broke through in the first 4 minutes of the second. An extended run of possession was killed off when Lindsay Horan fouled a defender in the offensive box. Haley Kopmeyer played the free kick short and after a bad touch by Kristen McNabb, Hayley Raso swooped in to take it away and score the unassisted goal to make it 1-0.
Raso struck again in the 86th minute. Christine Sinclair played a sublime ball from the center of the park that Raso ran down on the right flank. After beating her defender she took a shot from an off angle that Kopmeyer made a save on. No Reign player was there to fight Raso for the rebound and she stuck it in for her second unassisted goal of the day and first NWSL brace.
The Reign got one late when Adrianna Franch was whistled for a foul against Rachel Corsie and Jessica Fishlock converted the penalty kick. That goal prevented the Reign from being shut out at home for the first time since a 0-0 draw with the Red Stars on May 30, 2015.
With the win the Thorns (11-5-4, 37 pts) strengthened their hold on both a playoff spot and top two position which would give them a home semifinal. They pulled within 2 points of league leading North Carolina but the Courage now have two games in hand. They’re at home to host the Spirit next weekend on Lifetime.
The Reign (7-7-6, 27 pts) failed to make up ground on the playoff teams and visit Houston on Sunday, September 3.
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