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Thorns beat up on Reign to set up playoff rematch — in Portland

Portland Thorns FC scored three unanswered goals to defeat nemesis Seattle Reign FC 3-1 and complete a second-half rally to finish second in the NWSL table. The standing secured them a semifinal next weekend back at Providence Park, where they will again host the Reign. Lindsey Horan scored twice for the Thorns to finish with a club-record 13 goals while Tobin Heath hit the winner in front of the fifth sellout in Thorns history.

The Thorns made a slow start to the match and fell behind when Jess Fishlock shook off Emily Menges to get herself space to turn and shoot for her second goal of the season in the 4th minute. But soon after, the Thorns began to control possession and spend more time in the attacking third.

The leveler came on the half hour courtesy of a quick buildup that saw Midge Purce sneak wide of right back Ellie Carpenter, who found her near the end line. Purce hit her cross first time and it bounced into the heart of the box, where Christine Sinclair became tangled with Christen Westphal. The carom rolled out near the top of the 18 where Horan, by herself, powered into the shot to beat Lydia Williams.

The home side went on top in the 49th minute, and it happened after it looked like the Reign had killed off an attack when Westphal made an alert sliding clear. Morgan Andrews wound up with the ball and looked for Westphal but there was not enough on the pass and as Westphal waited for it, Heath sneaked around her for a clean steal. She then took a touch toward goal and fired off a perfect shot that beat Williams to the keeper’s left and settled into the side of goal.

The backbreaker happened in the 82nd minute when Horan fought through traffic to head in Heath’s corner kick.

The Thorns (12-6-6, 42 pts.) jumped into second place and finish on streaks of three consecutive wins and five without a defeat. The Reign (11-5-8, 41 pts.) finish third and missed a chance to set a league record for fewest goals conceded. Their 19 ties the mark, but the North Carolina Courage have allowed 17 with one game to play.

The Thorns and Reign, whose all-time series is now even 8-8-3, will meet on Saturday, Sept. 15 back at Providence Park with a place in the NWSL Championship on the line.

SCORING SUMMARY

  1. Seattle Reign FC (Jessica Fishlock 4′)
  2. Portland Thorns FC (Lindsey Horan 30′)
  3. Portland Thorns FC (Tobin Heath 49′)
  4. Portland Thorns FC (Lindsey Horan 82′)

— Dan Lauletta

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