2018 Thorns Spring Invitational recap: Match day three
Catarina Macario scored the lone goal of the match for the U-23 USWNT in their win over the Chicago Red Stars. | Photo: @richardfarley

The 2018 Thorns Spring Invitational preseason tournament has come to a close and the Chicago Red Stars claimed the top spot in the group. The Red Stars won their first two matches against the Portland Thorns FC and Houston Dash, but they lost to the U-23 United States women's national team in the final match of the tournament.

The Houston Dash and U-23 USWNT each finished the tournament with one win, one draw and one loss each. The Golden Boot winner of the tournament was U-23 forward Catarina Macario who scored all four of the team's goals. The Portland Thorns FC finished last with two draws and one loss. 

All three National Women's Soccer League teams were trying out players for the regular season rosters, and the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

U-23 USWNT beats Chicago to earn their first win

Despite winning the tournament, the Chicago Red Stars were unable to overcome the U-23 USWNT. The lone goal of the 1-0 victory for the U-23s came from Catarina Macario on a penalty kick in the 32nd minute. Macario scored four goals in the tournament, with no other player on any team scoring more than one. Her ability to beat NWSL players bodes well for her future in the league.

The game was pretty even throughout, with both teams notching chances but never forcing impressive saves from the keepers. The difference in the game came when Red Stars midfielder Danielle Colaprico was called for a foul in the box. Sam Kerr, 2017 Golden Boot Winner and NWSL MVP, did not start any matches for the Red Stars, but she did make appearances in each of the three matches. She notched one assist and zero goals.

Portland ends their tournament with a draw against Houston

The final match of the tournament finished with a 0-0 draw between the tournament hosts and the visiting Houston Dash. The two teams trotted out much more traditional lineups than they had in previous matches, and neither team used every one of their available substitutes.

Portland defender Emily Sonnet guides the Thorns defense to a shut out in a 0-0 draw with the Houston Dash. | Photo: @ThornsFC
Portland defender Emily Sonnet guides the Thorns defense to a shut out in a 0-0 draw with the Houston Dash. | Photo: @ThornsFC

Portland dominated the first half of play. They had a few threatening offensive opportunities and held the Dash without a shot for the full 45 minutes. Despite their stranglehold on possession, the Thorns were unable to find the back of the net. It is clear that the reliance on Lindsey Horan and Christine Sinclair to carry all scoring duties will cause difficulties for the Thorns. Once Tobin Heath and their strong Australian contingent return to the team they should have more options on offense.

The second half was a bit more even. Both teams force tough saves, but Thorns goalkeeper Adriana Franch and Dash keeper Jane Campbell were up to the task. The Thorns defense played well throughout the tournament, giving up just three goals in the three matches, but the offense managed just two goals.

For Houston, the massive influx of new players went over well enough. South African forward Linda Motlhalo started and played 90 minutes of the match and looks to be fighting for a starting place on the team. English attacker Rachel Daly started this match on defense, so we will see what new Head Coach Vera Pauw has in store for her.

On to the regular season

The 2018 NWSL regular season kicks off next Saturday. The Thorns will travel to Cary, North Carolina to face the North Carolina Courage in the opening LifeTime Game of the Week on March 24 at 3:30 pm ET. 

The Houston Dash will host the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, March 25 at 5:00 pm ET.