Friday night in the National Women's Soccer League provided some fantastic entertainment for viewers as Portland Thorns FC and the Washington Spirit fought to the very end in a 1-1 draw. The Spirit had the measure of the Thorns in the first half but could not hang on to the lead and had to rely on a late penalty save by Aubrey Bledsoe to keep them in the game.
The Spirit edge the first half but cannot stay ahead
Washington started off the stronger of the two teams and seemed to have adjusted to the Friday night start better than the hosts. After a few exchanges, the Spirit midfield took control of the game and began to create opportunities for its forwards to try and get the opening goal. Ashley Hatch came closest first in the 15th minute when she was the first to a clearance that landed just outside the Portland area. The second year player then took a speculative effort that dipped just above the crossbar, much to the relief of the Portland faithful behind the goal. Mallory Pugh was the next to try her luck in the 21st minute but her effort went right to Thorn's goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom's hands. The biggest talking point of the night came in the 26th minute when the Spirit won a free kick in the Portland half. Megan Dougherty Howard sent in the set piece that ended up at Francisca Ordega's feet. The Nigerian sent her effort to wards goal only for an almighty scramble occur on the goal line that eventually saw the ball not cross the line, according to the referee.
That poor set piece defending would come back to haunt the Thorns in the 37th minute. Tori Huster played in a corner kick that was ballooned into the air in an attempted clearance by a Thorns defender at the near post. Eckerstrom failed to claim the ball and in a melee of players, Ordega managed to force the ball home from right on the goal line. The Spirit failed to keep their lead until half time as just before the break, Ifeoma Onumonu was tripped up in the box. Christine Sinclair stepped up and finished with ease to put Portland back on level terms.
Bledsoe is the hero of the night for Washington
The Spirit continued to control the midfield in the second half as Portland failed to make the right adjustments to stem the tide. Ordega went close to putting the Spirit back in front the 64th minute but Eckerstrom redeemed herself with a good save to keep the ball out. Portland tried to catch Washington out on the break and as the away side began to tire in the latter stages of the second half, Portland began to take over the overall possession of the box. Ana-Maria Crnogorčević should have given Portland their second goal of the game in the 81st minute but she just could not get enough on her header from Sinclair's cross to trouble the Washington goalkeeper. Bledsoe would be called upon in the 86th minute to save the point for her team.
The Washington goalkeeper was the culprit in the 85th minute when she brought down Emily Sonnett and allowed Portland the chance to win the game from the penalty spot. Instead, Bledsoe redeemed herself by saving Lindsey Horan's penalty and watched as the rebound flew over the crossbar. It was no more that Bledsoe and Washington deserved after a solid showing away from home in a tough environment. The result leaves Portland behind league leaders, the North Carolina Courage while the Spirit continue to search for their first win of the season.