It took 15 minutes for Portland Thorns FC (1-1-0) (W-D-L) to score their first goal against the Chicago Red Stars (0-2-0) in Bridgeview, Illinois on Saturday afternoon, and the game just never stopped providing excitement until the final whistle blew. In a battle between two evenly matched teams, both sides left their defense in the locker room and went for the track meet mentality.
A flurry of goals in the first half
The Thorns opened the scoring in the 16th minute. The ball was inefficiently cleared by the Red Stars defense, and the Thorns were able to get the ball to midfielder Lindsey Horan who chipped the ball over the defensive line to Canadian forward Christine Sinclair. Sinclair took a single touch to pop the ball over Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to take the 1-0 lead.
Almost immediately upon restart, Chicago forward Katie Johnson drove into the box and attempted to cross the ball. The ball deflected off of the elbow of Portland defender Ellie Carpenter and a penalty was given. Forward Yuki Nagasato took the penalty kick for Chicago, and the game was tied at one apiece in the 18th minute.
In just three more minutes the Red Stars would take the lead. Thorns defender Emily Sonnett took a back pass, but Chicago forward Sam Kerr pressed her. Sonnett misplayed the ball, Kerr took it off her, and easily slotted the ball past Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch to take a 2-1 lead.
In the 32nd minute, Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath drove down the left side of the pitch at Chicago defender Casey Short. She pulled the ball back and passed to defender Meghan Klingenberg who whipped the ball into the box. Swiss forward Ana Crnogorčević slightly redirected the ball and caught Naeher off guard for the second Thorns goal.
Chicago chases the second half
In the 51st minute Sinclair scored her second goal of the match. Heath sent a short pass to Klingenberg, who chipped the ball over the defense. Naeher didn't attack the ball, but Sinclair did. She charged in and got to the ball just before it crossed the end line and redirected it into the goal.
The Thorns held the lead for the next 26 minutes, but they were finally broken down by a brilliant bit of passing by Chicago in the 77th minute. They strung together at least seven one-touch passes that ended with a Michele Vasconcelos goal and an assist for Julie Ertz.
Christine Sinclair would finish off her hat trick in the 87th minute. Chicago midfielder Katie Naughton took down Portland's Margaret Purce in the 18-yard box. The referee pointed to the spot, and Sinclair stepped up to take the shot. Naeher jumped left while Sinclair shot right, and Portland had a 4-3 lead with just three minutes left in regulation.
In three minutes, Chicago would tie the game back up thanks to Kerr and Nagasato. Kerr took control of the ball and charged at the Portland defense. She split through the defenders and took a hard shot on goal, but it was blocked. The ball bounced fortuitously to the knee of Nagasato who connected cleanly and caught Franch unprepared for the new shot.
The game would end 4-4 after Chicago peppered the woodwork with shots in stoppage time, but they were never able to score a fifth goal. Chicago will host Reign FC next Saturday, and Portland will travel to New Jersey to take on Sky Blue FC.