There were lots of headlines going into tonight's match between the Portland Thorns and the Orland Pride. Orlando had a plethora of former Thorns players on their side, none bigger than Alex Morgan. Portland's biggest change from the previous, aside from letting Morgan go, was bringing in Mark Parsons to lead the way.
But when the match got underway, none of that mattered. The Orlando Pride struck first through Steph Catley, but Portland scored two unanswered goals. Dagný Brynjarsdóttir leveled things before Lindsay Horan scored the match winner late. Portland came out with a 2-1 victory and will hope to build on that momentum going forward now.
Portland dominates early, but Pride strike first
Portland dominated possession in the beginning, pinning Orlando deep in their defensive third. In the fourth minute, the first corner of the match fell to the Thorns. Tobin Heath sent a delivery into the middle of the area where Orlando cleared it, but not far. Allie Long hit a volley, but blasted it well over the top of the cross bar.
Orlando did not spend a lot time in their final third of the pitch early on but did have a couple of set piece chances. With nine minutes off the clock the visitors had the chance to strike first. Steph Catley stood over the ball and hit a curling shot that slammed off the cross bar. Catley, would not miss her second opportunity.
On 12 minutes, Catley sent a shot from a difficult angle into the area. There were some Pride players causing the Thorns goalkeeper to root her to the spot. As a result of Michelle Betos' poor reaction, Catley found the far corner.
Portland had been dominating possession, moving the ball around, searching for an opening. That opening came in the 25th. Lindsay Horan rode a challenge from a Pride defender before hitting a long ball over the top of the defense. While Nadia Nadim did not get a clean header, it still fell to Tobin Heath. Heath then proceeded to send a pass back across the middle of the area. Again, Nadim could not get involved but Brynjarsdóttir could. The Icelandic international rocketed a shot into the top of the net to level the occasion.
As the clock ran down on the opening half, the Pride grew more confident. They started to play their game, but still lacked the final ball. With three minutes to go in the opening stanza, Betos hit a bad distribution ball. Then, Alex Morgan fed Jasmyne Spencer. The veteran was clean through on goal but Betos made up for her earlier blunder, stopping the one - one.
In the second half, the Thorns wanted to venture into their attacking third more. And five minutes into the second half, they almost capitalized on one of the moves. Nadim curled a beautiful ball towards the back post where Long made a nice run to get on the end of it. The former Tar Heel redirected the cross with her head and found the back of the net, but was offside.
That was one of the main reasons why Mark Parsons' side had not taken the lead yet. Portland got into good positions around the eighteen yard box, but their runs were off by a few inches.
Horan completes debut in style
Lindsay Horan is going to be a nice addition for the Thorns. She can hold off would-be defenders and create chances for either herself or teammates. In the 68th minute, she tried her luck from outside of the area but hit it without any power.
Horan capped off a wonderful debut with the match winning goal in the 82nd minute. An attempted pass over the top got deflected by a defender on the Pride and fell to Heath. The US international controlled the ball well before squaring a pass to Horan. The debutante took one touch to settle herself before firing past Ashlyn Harris.
The rookie showed that her overseas experience is going to play a huge role for Portland this summer. If she can keep racking up goals, and contributing in other facets, there is no telling how far the Thorns can go.