Thorns win at Houston
With their lineup starting to look like they envision it, the Portland Thorns were opportunistic on the attack and solid in steamy conditions on Friday at Houston.
The result was a 3-1 win over the Houston Dash.
Tobin Heath, Ana Crnogorcevic and Christine Sinclair scored for the Thorns, who improved to 5-4-4 (19 points) in the National Women's Soccer League.
Houston fell to 3-5-5 (14).
Portland played without midfielder Lindsey Horan because of yellow-card accumulation.
But the return from injury of Heath, goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and defender Emily Sonnett meant Thorns coach Mark Parsons had more of his first-choice lineup than at any point this season.
It was the first match this season that Portland's top defensive unit was together, with Sonnett alongside Emily Menges at center back and with Franch in goal.
Heath gave Portland a ninth-minute lead, finishing with the outside of her right foot after being sent into the box by a Sinclair pass that Crnogorcevic let roll behind the defense.
The lead didn't last long, as some miscommunication between goalkeeper Franch and Sonnett led to an opportunistic 12th-minute goal for Sofia Huerta. It was Huerta's first goal for the Dash since last week's trade from Chicago.
Crnogorcevic put Portland up 2-1 in the 33rd minute.
Meghan Klingenberg sent a low cross from the left wing into the box. Crnogorcevic tried to chip the ball over goalkeeper Jane Campbell. The rebound popped up, and Crnogorcevic sent a spinning header across the goal mouth. It clipped off the inside of the far post and rolled across the goal line.
With the lead at halftime, Portland was able to play a more defensive second half, which helped the Thorns weather hot, humid conditions. Portland had 60 percent of the ball in the first half and finished with 56-percent possession.
The clinching third goal came in the 83rd minute. Klingenberg sent a forward pass that was controlled by Tyler Lussi. Lussi dropped a pass for Sinclair, who was able to take three touches dribbling to her right and loft a shot from 25 yards that skimmed off the hands of Campbell and under the crossbar.
It was the league-leading seventh goal of the season for Sinclair, who played in her 100th NWSL regular-season match. Her assist on Heath's goal was Sinclair's fourth of the season, tied for the NWSL lead.
Heath, who missed the Thorns' draw at Chicago last Saturday because of a sore ankle, went 55 minutes and was replaced by Hayley Raso. It was Raso's second substitute appearance in a row after recovering from a knee injury.
Franch, who missed nine games after knee surgery, was credited with one save. It was a quality first-half stop to to deny Clare Polkinghorne.
A one-time Portland Thorns player from Australia, this was Polkinghorne's first NWSL match since her 2015 season with Portland.
It was not a particularly clean defensive performance from Portland, but other than the breakdown on the goal the Thorns mostly forced the Dash to shoot from outside the penalty area.
Menges made a key block on a Huerta chance in the 65th minute.
The Thorns return home on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. game against winless Sky Blue FC at Providence Park.