The Portland Thorns battled the North Carolina Courage to a wild 3-3 draw art Providence Park on Wednesday night. Sophia Smith and Diana Ordóñez traded braces, Morgan Weaver added one for the Thorns, and Jalene Daniels had the final equalizer for the visitors.
The Thorns trotted out a very strong and offensive-minded lineup, featuring Sophia Smith, Morgan Weaver, and Christian Sinclair in the eleven.
That offensive set up paid off early for the home side as Sophia Smith opened the scoring in the eighth minute, burning all of North Carolina’s backline in vintage Sophia Smith fashion to score Portland’s first goal.
The first half was defined by Portland’s suffocating pressure, forcing North Carolina into turnover after turnover. The Thorns’ midfielders and attackers feasted on those second balls, turning them into scoring chances.
One of those chances ended in Portland’s second goal, as Sugita pounced on a misplayed ball to create an opportunity that fell to the feet of Morgan Weaver right in front of the goal. She made no mistake and scored to stretch Portland’s lead to two goals in the 24th minute.
The first half ended with Portland holding a 2-0 advantage, and very much being the dominant team on the field.
North Carolina however came out with a renewed energy in the second half, showing an increased urgency and intensity. The visitors were eventually able to capitalize on that renewed push, behind the scoring prowess of Diana Ordóñez. The rookie forward scored on two headers in the second half, leveling the game as affairs entered the final handful of minutes.
The final 13 minutes and change were a wild back and forth affair. Sophia Smith carved for the Thorns yet again, as she cooly slotted home Portland’s third goal in the 77th minute after collecting an excellent entry ball from Olivia Moultrie. But Jalene Daniels struck back for the Courage to level affairs for the second time late in the 85th minute.
And level was how affairs would end, as Portland let two separate leads slip late and were forced to settle for a 3-3 draw with the Courage.
- 3′ First chance of the game fell to Sophia Smith, who muscled her way past two defenders to find space in the box. Her chipped attempt by her sailed wide of the goal.
- 6′ Bella Bixby suffered a bad giveaway, passing the ball straight to Debinha. Incredibly, the Brazilian midfielder put her attempt on an open goal wide right.
- 8′ GOAL THORNS 1-0. The magical forward Sophia Smith did it again. She collected the ball off of a giveaway in the attacking third, and drove at the North Carolina defense with pace. She cut breezed past two North Carolina defenders, cut past a third in the box, and then slotted home in the bottom corner to make it one goal beyond.
- 13′ Hina Sugita rifled off a shot from a distance after some nice interplay with Christine Sinclair and Sophia Smith, following a turnover forced by Sugita herself. Casey Murphy was equal to the task, and she palmed it aside.
- fifteen’ Smith curled a shot from close range after being played in by Sinclair following another turnover, and a fingertip from Murphy kept it out for a corner kick.
- 24′ GOAL THORNS 2-0. After yet another turnover, Sophia Smith collapsed the defense and laid it off for Sugita. Hina’s cross was meant for Sinclair, who collided with her defender in the box. The ball spilled out and Murphy palmed it to the side—right to the foot of Morgan Weaver. The forward powered the ball home, and then hit a, er, unique looking celebration.
- 26′ With the red smoke billowing in the north end, Debinha tried to answer immediately for the Courage. Her free header from her was sent wide, in another uncharacteristic miss for the midfielder.
- 35′ Bixby made her first save of the night as she nabbed a looping header off of a North Carolina corner kick.
- 40′ Sinclair had a shot on goal saved off the line, following some pretty passing interplay by the Thorns in the box.
- Four. Five’ Some great resolute defending from the Thorns, including a brave block from Becky Sauerbrunn, kept the Courage off the scoresheet following a series of crosses off of a North Caroline corner.
Portland held their 2-0 lead into halftime, a reflection of their offensive dominance. Portland recorded a whopping 13 shots in the opening frame, putting seven on target. North Carolina managed eight shots, but Portland kept them off the scoresheet.
- 46′ The second half got underway, as Natalia Kuikka subbed on at the half for Tegan McGrady for the Thorns.
- 51′ Smith tried an ambitious one-time shot from distance after a long ball over the top, but Murphy collected.
- 61′ Goal North Carolina 2-1. Diana Ordóñez got on the end of the corner, and her header snuck past all of the defense and tucked into the far post past Bixby, as the visitors pulled one goal back.
- 65′ Janine Beckie subbed on for the Thorns, replacing Rocky Rodriguez.
- 68′ Murphy tipped over a header from Sinclair that seemed destined for the back of the net.
- 71′ Bixby made an excellent save through traffic to smother a header from Ordóñez off another corner.
- 72’Goal North Carolina 2-2. It was Ordóñez again, who powered home a cross with authority past Bixby, who couldn’t keep it out of the net. It was the rookie in form who had powered the Courage to level the match.
- 73′ Portland made a double change in an effort to restore their lead, bringing in Yazmeen Ryan and Olivia Moultrie for Christine Sinclair and Morgan Weaver.
- 77′ GOAL THORNS 3-2. It was Sophia Smith yet again for the Thorns, as she carved her second goal of the game. Getting on the end of a great entry ball from Moultrie, Smith raced past the backline, rounded the ‘keeper, and fired home to edge Portland in front yet again.
- 79′ MASSIVE double save by Bixby to deny North Caroline and preserve Portland’s advantage.
- 85′ Goal North Carolina 3-3. Jalene Daniels got on the end of a cross and tapped in yet another equalizer for the visitors
The whistle blew for fulltime, and Portland was forced to settle for a 3-3 draw with the North Carolina Courage.
The Thorns moved to the top of the NWSL standings by virtue of their goal differential, but they likely can’t help leaving this game feeling like they deserved more. The Thorns let a two goal lead slip, and then after regaining the lead they let it slip yet again in the final five minutes of the game.
Still, Portland now stands at the top of the table, Sophia Smith moved into a tie at the top of the NWSL golden boot race, and the Thorns’ unbeaten run reached ten games. The defense has a bit to work on, and the Thorns will seek to tighten things up as they approach the stretch run of the season.
Portland is next in action on Wednesday August 10, as they travel to face the defending NWSL champions the Washington Spirit in the nation’s capitol at 4:30 PM Pacific.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism