Thorns top Orlando
The Portland Thorns are still without several big pieces, but the defending National Women's Soccer League champions do have Lindsey Horan and Christine Sinclair.
And in Portland's 2018 debut at Providence Park on Sunday, those two world-class players played central roles in a 2-1 win over the Orlando Pride.
Horan and Sinclair each scored with an assist from the other as the Thorns quickly turned around an early deficit.
The victory, in front of 16,466 appreciative fans, improved Portland to 2-1-0. The six points have Portland in third place in the standings.
Orlando, providing the opposition in the Thorns' home opener for the third year in a row, fell to 0-2–1 and is eighth early in the league.
The afternoon started with the unveiling of the 2017 NWSL champions banner atop the north end of the stadium.
But it was the Pride who scored first, capitalizing on a giveaway for a 20th-minute goal by Chioma Ubogagu. Portland's Emily Sonnett took a quick free kick in the defensive third, but Orlando midfielder Christine Narin immediately won possession. Narin ran at Portland's back line and slipped a pass to Ubogagu, who calmly put the ball beyond the reach of Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.
Horan tied the score eight minutes later, striking a left-footed shot from 23 yards in front of goal that swerved off the inside of the right post. A trio of Pride players was in front of Horan, but she had enough space to take two touches after a short pass from Sinclair and deliver a perfect shot.
In the 39th minute, Sinclair tapped home a cross delivered by Horan at the end of a quick counterattack. Portland's Mallory Weber made a run to the near post, drawing a pair of defenders, and Sinclair got inside position on Narin and tapped the ball inside the left post for her third goal of the season.
Just before Horan's goal, Orlando's Kristen Edmonds had a shot from near the top of the penalty area hit the crossbar.
Both teams continued to create chances in the second half, especially the Thorns. Portland forced Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to make five of her six saves in the second half.
Weber and Tyler Lussi, the starting forwards, worked for an hour to pressure the Pride defense. When Thorns coach Mark Parsons inserted Ana Maria Crnogorcevic and Ifeoma Onumonu, their fresh legs created a series of dangerous chances they didn't quite finish.
"It was a night of creating a lot of chances. It was exciting that we were creating those chances," Parsons said. "Different players are getting opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. It gives us good momentum going into the week, wanting to improve and get this important result."
Portland was able to take advantage of wide areas against a Pride team set up to limit touches for Portland's playmakers in the middle of the park.
Midge Purce, playing on the right flank, was especially dangerous in her Providence Park debut. Acquired in the dispersal draft when Boston folded, the second-year pro out of Harvard demonstrated her ability to take on defenders one-on-one. She was credited with creating a game-high four scoring chances.
"It was just really cool to be a part of the atmosphere and the stadium, and I feel like a real Portland Thorn now that I've gotten to play at home," Purce said.
Portland was able to contain Orlando's dynamic forwards. Alex Morgan, who has been scoring in bunches for the United States, took one shot. So did Sydney Leroux. Ubogagu, who dropped into midfield in the second half, also took one shot.
"It's hard to keep that front three quiet. It really is," Parsons said, noting his team has been consistently able to limit opponents' chances over the last 18 months. "They're going to cause some mayhem and get an opportunity. The fact we kept them quiet for the majority of the game is a huge plus."
The goal was the only shot on target for the Pride as Franch did not record a save.
The Thorns play at home again on Friday, when the Washington Spirit (1-2-0, 3) visit for a 7:30 p.m. match.