Thorns defeat Reign 1-0 after late penalty kick
TUKWILA, Wash. - Forward Christine Sinclair converted a penalty kick in the 84th minute as Portland Thorns FC earned their sixth victory in eight games with a 1-0 road win against Seattle Reign FC before 3,324 fans at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash., on Saturday night.
The shutout, Portland's fourth of the season and second straight clean sheet, sees Thorns FC (6-1-1, 19pts) remain level on points with Sky Blue FC at the top of the National Women's Soccer League standings.
Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made five saves in earning her second consecutive shutout, Sinclair attempted a game-high six shots and recorded her fourth goal of the season while Portland upped its season record against Seattle to 2-0-0 and stayed the league's last remaining unbeaten team on the road (3-0-2).
After conceding nine shots to Seattle (0-7-1, 1pt) during the first half, Thorns FC gained more control of the match in the final 45 minutes while pressing for the go-ahead goal. With seven minutes remaining in regulation, Sinclair chipped a pass to midfielder Allie Long at the top of the box as two Reign FC defenders closed down Long's shooting lane. At the edge of the area, the referee whistled for a foul and pointed to the penalty spot, providing Thorns FC with an opportunity to grab a late lead.
Sinclair stepped up and fired a low drive to the left side as Reign FC goalkeeper Hope Solo guessed the wrong direction. Solo, who was making her NWSL debut after missing the first seven games due to a wrist injury, made two saves in the match.
Reign FC came dangerously close to taking the lead in the 62nd minute as Seattle forward Liz Bogus directed a diving header on goal following a free kick. LeBlanc was forced to make a diving save to her right, palming the shot away from goal. Seattle quickly regained possession and forward Teresa Noyola delivered a shot from outside the box toward the left post, but LeBlanc once against came up with the stop.
Not long after, Seattle threatened again as Noyola found space on the left side of the area. Cutting the ball back to her right foot, the Mexican international's effort from 15-yards out was blocked by defender Kathryn Williamson. Noyola's rebound was blocked a second time by defender Rachel Buehler, who then blocked Seattle midfielder Keelin Winters' third attempt before the ball was cleared from danger.
Reign FC nearly found the go-ahead goal in the 76th minute as a low shot from Bogus glanced off the outside of the right post and out of bounds.
In a physical match from the outset, Sinclair provided the earliest offensive opportunity for Portland in the 15th minute. Midfielder Meleana Shim played a ball in the air to Sinclair near the top of the box. Sinclair's volley from 20 yards out flashed just wide of the left post.
Following Saturday's match, Thorns FC national team allocation players Alex Morgan, Buehler (United States), Sinclair and LeBlanc (Canada) will travel to Toronto to join up with their respective national teams for an international friendly between the United States and Canada on Sunday, June 2, at BMO Field in Toronto.