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NWSL Sunday: Portland takes down Orlando 2-1 in home opener

NWSL soccer Sunday week 3 edition is here! Two games closed out the NWSL weekend. Check out our coverage of yesterday’s action here.

Seattle Reign FC 1, Sky Blue FC 0

Rapinoe notches game winner in the 6th minute off a penalty kick (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

It was rainy, windy and wet in New Jersey as Sky Blue FC hosted the Seattle Reign in their 2018 NWSL season opener. It was Carli Lloyd’s first time back in a NJ jersey playing at home since 2010 and Seattle’s first trip to the east coast this season.

The Reign got on the board early thanks to a penalty kick call as a result of a hand ball by Sky Blue center back Erica Skroski. Megan Rapinoe stepped up and buried it past Kailen Sheridan to give the Reign the early lead in the 6th minute of play.

Through the rest of the first half, Seattle dominated the chances though Sky Blue held a slight edge in possession. In the 24th minute, Rapinoe came streaking down the left sideline after Jess Fishlock player her in off a through ball. She appeared to be in on goal, but Christina Gibbons was able to track back and force her to slow down. Rapinoe took a shot off balance near the six-yard box, but it went high. Six minutes later, it was Sky Blue FC who executed some great build up play through the center of the pitch as they neared the 18 yard box. Shea Groom was on the end of a ball slipped through which she buried past Michelle Betos, but the sideline referee’s offside flag was raised and the goal was called back. Just before the second half whistle was blown a scramble in front of the Reign’s goal gave Sky Blue FC a close chance. Betos came out to corral a ball on the ground and it spilled loose. Sky Blue tried to put it back on goal but the ball went wide and out of bounds. Seattle took the 1-0 lead into the halftime break.

In the 51st minute, Sky Blue got a good look on goal as Sarah Killion ripped one from distance that went just wide of the goal. Five minutes later, Megan Rapinoe came off after what looked like a tweak to her left hamstring and Kiersten Dallstream came on to replace her. In the 60th minute, Sheridan was forced to make a diving stop on a ball that came dangerously in on goal with the help of the wind. Sky Blue started to have a bit more of offensive possession towards the later part of the second half. Sky Blue’s best chance of the game came in the 72nd minute as Shea Groom got inside the box off a ball from McCaskill and Betos was forced to knock it away for a corner. As the minutes of the second half start to wind down, Seattle found themselves with yet another penalty kick opportunity in the 85th minute after a foul in the box against Jodie Taylor. Taylor stepped up to take the shot, but her attempt was denied by Sheridan. Fishlock followed up on the loose ball, but Sheridan made the save again denying Seattle their second goal of the game. Despite an attempt to equalize, Sky Blue FC took the loss through 90 minutes of play in their home opener and Rapinoe’s early goal proved the winner for Seattle.

GOAL SUMMARY:

1. Reign – Rapinoe 1 (unassisted, PK), 6

– Hannah Kronick

Portland Thorns 2, Orlando Pride 1

The first half of Portland’s home opener provided the lion’s share of action from the afternoon, as all three goals of the match were scored before the end of the first 45, and the Portland Thorns ultimately prevailed over the Orlando Pride 2-1.

It was the Pride that struck first, when in the 20th minute an Emily Sonnett quick start post-foul, initially meant for Lindsey Horan, didn’t go as planned, as Christine Nairn bodied Horan off the ball and slid a pass through the center of the Thorns defense. Orlando Striker Chioma Ubogagu was ready for the ball, and struck her shot home from close range, putting Orlando up 1-0.

It wasn’t all that long for Portland to find their feet, however. In the 28th minute, Horan dribbled the ball up midfield, dropping it off to teammates before receiving the ball back herself just outside the Orlando box. She then took a whopper of a shot, hitting the inside of the Orlando right post, knocking the ball in for the equalizer.

Portland then took the lead in the 39th minute when Horan, who was able to patrol the left side of the field due to the very strong work of Midge Purce on the right, sent a cross in right in front of Orlando’s goal. Christine Sinclair was right there to receive the service, and she tapped the ball in to give Portland the lead, 2-1, which would hold going into halftime.

Play in the second half was consistently from end-to-end, with Portland working to secure the win, and Orlando looking for the equalizer. Despite the Pride’s best effort, it was Portland that walked away with the full three points. The Thorns will take on the Washington Spirit this upcoming Friday, April 20th, and Orlando will look to bounce back against the Houston Dash on Sunday the 22nd. Both teams are waiting for returning starter from international duty, and will continue to develop their rosters as the season continues.

GOAL SUMMARY:

1. Pride – Ubogagu (Nairn), 20

2. Thorns – Horan (Sinclair), 28

3. Thorns – Sinclair (Horan), 39

— Claire Watkins

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