Sky Blue FC strikes early and often in 3-1 win over Thorns
Sam Kerr contributes two goals and an assist
Leah Galton and Kayla Mills celebrate during Sky Blue FC's 3-1 win over Portland Thorns FC. (Photo credit: Sam Ortega for
Leah Galton and Kayla Mills celebrate during Sky Blue FC's 3-1 win over Portland Thorns FC. (Photo credit: Sam Ortega for

By Meg Linehan

Sky Blue FC struck early at Providence Park and held on for the 3-1 win against Portland Thorns FC. Sky Blue midfielder Raquel Rodriguez tallied in the first minute to put the hosts on the back foot, and forward Sam Kerr provided two goals and assist to ensure the victory in a heated, back-and-forth affair.

The first loss at home for the season for Portland came in front of 16,736 faithful supporters. Portland’s defense had been the stingiest through eight weeks of NWSL action, allowing only five goals. But it only took the 2016 NWSL Rookie of the Year Rodriguez 25 seconds to sneak one past the Thorns back four and goaltender Adrianna Franch after Portland failed to clear the box. Rodriguez’s quick strike ties the 2015 record for fastest goal scored in the NWSL, set by FC Kansas City’s Erika Tymrak.

Sam Kerr provided the assist on Sky Blue’s early goal, kicking off a big night for the Australian.

Sky Blue had a chance to double their lead in the first half, but midfielder Sarah Killion’s penalty kick in the 33rd minute missed wide left. Two weeks ago on June 3, Franch saved Killion’s penalty kick attempt in Portland’s 2-0 win in New Jersey.

Portland’s best attempt during the run of play came in the second half from Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan, but she wasn’t able to get enough on the header to beat Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan in the 58th minute. Shortly after, Ashleigh Sykes made her Thorns debut, and she contributed to many of Portland’s more threatening looks in the box as time wound down.

Enter Sam Kerr. In the 70th minute, she headed down a pass from Sky Blue forward Maya Hayes and broke past the Portland defense for the finish past Franch in the bottom right corner. She then added the third and final goal of the game in the 88th minute. Midfielder Madison Tiernan lofted a long assist over the top and Kerr beat the Portland defense yet again, as well as Franch who tried to challenge Kerr well outside the box.

Portland’s only goal came from a penalty kick in the final minutes of stoppage time. While Kailen Sheridan was able to get her hands on Thorns forward Christine Sinclair’s first attempt, she couldn’t control the rebound, and a frustrated Sinclair buried the rebound only seconds before the final whistle.

While Providence Park has been a fortress for the Thorns, Sky Blue snapped the eight-game unbeaten streak at home for Portland with Saturday night’s win. The Thorns held a large advantage in possession and passing accuracy, but struggled with giveaways and a few key miscommunications between Sinclair and forward Hayley Raso.

After the match, Thorns head coach Mark Parsons told media that Sky Blue deserved credit for the win, but there were still lessons from the mistakes made. “It’s a massive opportunity for us that I know we’re going to embrace, a massive opportunity to get ready to learn. Get ready to grow from this, get ready to get better, not waste a split second doing anything that doesn’t help us move forward to get ready for a tough road game against Washington.”

Parsons and the Thorns will look to get ready and make quick adjustments for that match-up against the Spirit on Saturday, June 24. Sky Blue FC stays on the road, and will face the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park on Sunday, June 25 and will hope to similarly upend Chicago’s impressive run as of late.

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