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Recap: Portland Thorns Earn Point against Chicago Red Stars

Portland Thorns

photo via Portland Thorns Facebook Page

The Portland Thorns flew into the windy city on Wednesday with the self-imposed task of playing against the Chicago Red Stars as though they were in a final.  Indeed, on Sunday, midfielder Vero Boquete clearly stated that they had to play every remaining match as if it were a “final.”  After playing two previous matches to a draw with the Red Stars, and sitting evenly with them in the standings, coming back with 3 points would have certainly shored up the Thorns playoff aspirations.

There was reason to hope that this would be true as Jessica McDonald came streaking down the middle to neatly poke the ball into the net off a lovely cross from defender and Australian international player, Stephanie Catley, in a team and league record 33 seconds into the match.  This was McDonald’s 10th goal of the season and kept her in second place in the hunt for the golden boot, sitting right behind Kim Little of the Seattle Reign, who currently has 11 goals on the season.

The Red Stars fought back, but found themselves shut out by Thorns keeper, Nadine Angerer, with a reaching tip in the 9th minute against stand-out Chicago forward, Christen Press.  Angerer also found herself coming off her line in the 22nd minute to smother an attempt by midfielder, Shannon Boxx.  The save sent Boxx to the ground, causing the Chicago bench roiling for a PK, but the referee signaled to play on despite the controversy.

The Thorns did better in the midfield than they had in the two previous outings with the Red Stars, with Vero again dancing around the heavy-footed Stars, but this time with a bit more help.  Thorns midfielder, Tobin Heath, put in a strong shift, as well, and the combination between them was the key to keeping the midfield a little lighter on the baby blue stripes that had gummed it up in the earlier meetings.

In the second half, Chicago came rolling back out with more energy and intensity than they had had in the first, managing to unlock their offensive third more, and pushing the Thorns back further.  Despite this, McDonald ran with a beautifully played ball into a one-on-one with Chicago keeper, Karina LeBlanc in the 63rd minute.  LeBlanc, however, put a stop to the attempt, neatly knocking it away.  One of Chicago’s best opportunities came in the 64th minute as Angerer came far off her line to clear a ball and had to speed back to the box in order to save a chip in from Chicago midfielder, Alyssa Mautz, from hitting the back of the net.

The match continued back and forth, with both sides finding touches and missed opportunities until the 70th minute, when a series of substitions saw Alex Morgan and Allie Long come in for Portland, and Adriana Leon come in for Chicago.  The momentum shift was palpable from the moment Leon with her strong attacking style stepped out onto the pitch, and as the activity in the Thorns defensive third increased, there was a sense that the Chicago goal was coming.

It was in the 77th minute that Chicago found the their equalizer.  An Adrianna Leon cross was tapped by Jen Hoy toward the net, but Angerer managed to get in front of it.  However, the ball wasn’t cleared, and bounced around a bit before Red Star midfielder, Lori Chalupny slid in to finally finish it.

Further chances, a one touch miss by Thorns’ Morgan, and a shank from Press on the opposite side came late in the game, and left the score 1-1 after the whistle blew in the 95th minute.

 

 

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