One of the most heated rivalries in the National Women's Soccer League fired its opening salvo this weekend when Portland Thorns FC hosted Seattle Reign FC in front of a 16,000 plus strong crowd. In a game with chances falling to both teams, it was the Reign who found the winning goal through Rumi Utsugi and propelled themselves over their neighbors into second in the league table.
Seattle go into half-time on top
Portland were on top for most of the half but could not find a way past Michelle Betos or the crossbar for most of the first half. Their lack of clinical edge in front of goal meant that although they kept possession well and created chances, nothing came of it which meant that they could easily be sucker-punched by a goal from the Reign if the away side got an opportunity.
That's exactly what happened in the 36th minute when Beverly Yanez was on hand during a corner kick to score the opening goal. Nahomi Kawasumi sent in the set piece and Britt Eckerstrom misjudged the flight of the ball as she came out to gather it or clear it away. The ball then fell right to Yanez who nodded it home from close range unchallenged. Allie Long could have made it two in the 41st minute and returned to haunt her former team when Megan Oyster picked her out with a great cross but the midfielder sent her volley just over the goal. Portland were unable to answer Seattle's goal and went into the break down by a goal.
The second half provides plenty of action
Portland were in no mood to concede this game and showed that by bringing in both Tobin Heath and Andressinha at half-time to try and get the goals to win them the game. Their impact was felt immediately as Portland pinned Seattle back from the get go. Heath was instrumental in bringing Portland level again when her corner kick was not cleared properly by Long on the goal line and Emily Sonnett scrambled the ball in for the equalizer. Seattle responded straight away as two minutes later, Ana-Maria Crnogorčević brought down Jess Fishlock to gift Seattle the penalty kick. Jodi Taylor, who had missed a penalty the week before, stepped up and sent Eckerstrom the wrong way, putting the Reign back in front again.
The goals did not dry up and both the home crowd and anyone watching were treated to a thrilling second half to the game. The Thorns were back on level terms in the 70th minute when Meghan Klingenberg found Lindsey Horan at the back post, allowing the midfielder to nod over the advancing Betos and into goal. Utsugi then silenced the home crowd with what proved to be the winner in the 75th minute. Seattle played a short corner in which Steph Catley found Ustugi outside the penalty area. The Japanese international took a touch to drift away from her marker before firing off a low driven shot that nestled into the near corner of the goal.
Portland did not succumb to defeat and continued to push for an equalizer. Michelle Betos, who had been at fault for Portland's second, came up big for her team in the 88th minute when she made two point-blank saves from Tobin Heath to keep her team ahead. Betos was the hero once again a minute later when she pulled off a great save to stop Horan from scoring during another corner kick for Portland. The two instances proved to be game-changers as Seattle hung on to pick up all three points.