Thorns pick up three more points at home, defeat Spirit 2-1
Weber's first NWSL goal is the game-winner for Portland
Allie Long and Tyler Lussi celebrate Long's equalizer against the Washington Spirit. (Photo credit: Sam Ortega for
Allie Long and Tyler Lussi celebrate Long's equalizer against the Washington Spirit. (Photo credit: Sam Ortega for

Portland Thorns FC put together back-to-back wins at Providence Park after defeating the Washington Spirit 2-1 on Saturday night. The Thorns now move to 6-1-1 at home so far in 2017 and 7-4-4 overall, good enough for third place on the NWSL table. They’re only three points off of the Chicago Red Stars’ first-place pace, despite missing multiple key players for international duty at the Euros. Midfielder Allie Long and forward Mallory Weber sent the crowd of 18,478 home happy after two second half goals to bag all three points.

Forward Mallory Pugh nearly kicked things off early in Portland, with this chance in the 5th minute after some good build-up from the Spirit. Pugh found some space outside the box, and ripped a shot off before the Portland backline closed in on her, but Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch was equal to the task and made the diving catch.

The Thorns were unable to get a shot on target in the first half, but they left the locker room ready to get back into the match. Forward Christine Sinclair cleaned up a poor clearance from the Spirit back line and took her own shot from distance in the 51st minute that struck the crossbar. The rebound eventually fell back to the Thorns, but Lindsey Horan‘s second attempt was blocked wide.

The Washington Spirit struck first, with midfielder Havana Solaun beating Franch in the 58th minute. Pugh sent in the initial cross from the right wing, and Solaun’s first touch hit the post before she herself cleaned up the rebound and walked it into the net past Thorns defender Katharine Reynolds.

It would only take four minutes, however, for Allie Long to find the equalizer for Portland. Defender Emily Sonnett provided the service off a free kick, and forward Tyler Lussi got a head on it and sent it back across the face of goal. Long was there to clean it up at point blank range past Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé.

Finally, Weber found the winner in the 80th minute, only three minutes after entering the match for Lussi. Forward Ashleigh Sykes crossed the ball in from the end line after drawing Spirit defender Caprice Dydasco, and Weber slipped in behind her own defender for the close-range finish.

After the match, Weber told Portland’s Ann Schatz that she was feeling “more relieved than anything.” As for the ball in from Sykes, Weber knew exactly where it was going. “We do that in practice every day, and I know she’s going to get the cross off,” she said. “So I just beat my player and was there, and it was the perfect cross.”

And of course, as with any postgame interview these days in Portland, the requisite hijinks occurred.

As for Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons, here’s what he had to say about Weber’s goal after the match: “The only thing I didn’t say, was ‘go and score the winner’. I said a lot of other stuff and then she ran away and I tried to say, ‘try and…’ and I didn’t get to say ‘score’. It was very tactical, but [I told her] go ahead and take risks, press them and get after the goalkeeper. Every time we get wide make a forward run, every time we get time on the ball, make a forward run, get us going forward. She sprinted off before I could say, ‘score’. So I’m not going to talk about goals in the future, I’m going to let them do their thing. Mal got in, it’s great to see her. She’s been in and out, it’s a very competitive roster and I’m really happy she came on and made statement she should be on the field.”

Portland keeps the home advantage after the international break, hosting the Houston Dash on August 5. The Dash are unbeaten in their last six matches, and have also won their last two games. The Washington Spirit will head to New Jersey on August 4 to take on Sky Blue FC, who have now slipped to fifth place in the standings.

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