Thorns surrender lead, settle for draw
For 75 minutes Friday, the Portland Thorns FC appeared to be heading toward a much-needed win and three points against the Chicago Red Stars on the Fourth of July.
In the last quarter of an hour, though, the Thorns almost appeared to grow bored and threw away the win and the three points.
The Thorns took a 2-0 lead into halftime after a 24th-minute goal by Jessica McDonald and a 39th-minute goal by Sarah Huffman. During the last 15 minutes of the match, the Thorns' abominable defense allowed Christen Press to score a brace to end the match in a 2-2 draw before an announced crowd of 13,084.
The game shouldve been over and done with, Thorns coach Paul Riley lamented.
The draw was even harder for the Thorns (6-6-3, 21 points) to stomach because they outplayed the Red Stars (6-6-3, 21 points) throughout most of the match. Portland outshot Chicago 15-12 and put 10 shots on goal, while the Red Stars had seven shots on goal. The Thorns also earned nine corner kicks compared to just two from Chicago.
Both sides began the match like prize fighters testing their opponent. Neither the Thorns nor the Red Stars moved the ball up the pitch with ay conviction, nor created many dangerous chances.
In the 24th minute, the Thorns threw the first big punch of the afternoon after earning a corner kick from the right side. Portland midfielder Allie Long lined up for the kick and delivered a ball into the middle of the 18-yard box. The ball bounced around between Thorns and Red Stars players for a moment. Finally, it landed at the feet of defender Rachel Van Hollebeke, who sent a tap pass to McDonald, eight yards from goal. McDonald sent a soft chip shot toward the upper right corner, just out of the reach of Red Stars goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.
It was a corner kick, and it went near post, McDonald said. Rachel was in front of me, and I just went in for the scramble. It landed at my feet, and I took the shot and stayed calm on the shot.
Portland scored again in the 39th minute on another corner kick from the right side. The Thorns sent a soft, short pass to Veronica Boquete. The Thorns midfielder took a touch and then sent a cross into the 18-yard box. The ball found Huffman, who took a touch around her marker, took another touch and sent a ball to the left post, where LeBlanc was unable to stop it, and Portland led 2-0.
It was a corner kick, and Vero found me, Huffman said. I was able to take an awkward first touch and just sort of slot it to the far post.
At intermission, the Thorns had taken eight shots and put six of their shots on goal. Chicago took six shots and put two shots on frame.
The Thorns continued to be the aggressors as the second half began, pushing the ball up the pitch and giving themselves dangerous opportunities.
At the start of the second half, we had a couple of great chances, Riley said. But we didnt put it away, and we kept them around.
The Red Stars did not see much of the ball at the start of the half, but took advantage when they got it.
Chicago cut the lead in half in the 76th minute on a defensive breakdown by the Thorns and poor goalkeeping decision-making by Nadine Angerer. Emily Van Egmond took the ball down the pitch and sent a pass in to Press, who was making a run into the box. When she got the ball, Press dribbled to the left side of the 18-yard box, clearing space between her and her marker. Angerer left her line to try to defend Press one-on-one. The strategy was poorly thought out, though. As soon as Angerer was 10 yards from goal, Press sent a shot at a completely empty net, making the score was 2-1.
The first goal was very soft, Riley said.
In the 82nd minute, Press struck again, this time with the equalizer.
Press got the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and was inexplicably unmarked. Two Thorns defenders tried to close in on her, but Press was left far too open and had time to get off her shot. Press sent the ball to the top right corner, and the match was tied 2-2.
The Thorns will get another chance against the Red Stars on Wednesday, when Portland travels to Chicago.
Were all excited about this next game to come, Huffman said. Today, we didnt grind it out, and we need to learn how to.