Portland Thorns FC earn big 3-0 win over Chicago Red Stars
Midge Purce (23) scored twice in Portland's 3-0 win against the Chicago Red Stars. | Photo: isiphotos.com via @PortlandThornsFC

Portland Thorns FC earn big 3-0 win over Chicago Red Stars

A Midge Purce brace and an opening goal from Christine Sinclair keeps Portland at the top of the league table.

aaron_bellamy
Aaron Bellamy

Portland Thorns FC put on a dominant performance in their second 3-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars this season. The Thorns lit up the scoreboard in front of 17,542 fans at Providence Park in the final match of the National Women's Soccer League week 19 play. The loss leave the Red Stars barely hanging on to third place in the league after losing three straight matches. Portland extended their lead to five points over the second-place North Carolina Courage.

Both teams will now have a week off while the United States women's national team will play their second and third matches of their World Cup celebration Victory Tour.

Portland leaned into the counter

Portland came out with a clear gameplan to start the match. They would allow the Red Stars to maintain the majority of the possession, bracket all-star forward Sam Kerr with multiple defenders, and attack swiftly on the counter. They went into their last game against Chicago with the same strategy, and they came away with a 3-0 win despite losing the possession battle 59% to 41% and being out-shot 26 to 9. 

The game opened with Chicago firmly on the front foot. They racked up three shots and a corner kick opportunity in the first six minutes. Despite the quick start, it would be the Thorns getting the first goal.

USWNT star Tobin Heath collected the ball just outside of the penalty area in the 12th minute. She paused, and three different Thorns players made runs into an offside position. Distracted by the runs, no Chicago defenders moved when Heath played the ball forward. Canadian forward Christine Sinclair made a run from the back side of the defense and seemed to just stay onside with her run. Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who starts for the United States, made a move to come out, but Sinclair easily finished the shot and put the home team ahead.

In the 24th minute, after a stretch where both teams had good scoring chances, it would be Portland putting a second goal into the back of the net. The play started with Heath charging down the left side of the field and cutting back toward the penalty area. She sent a cross to the back post where Australian midfielder Hayley Raso was making a run. Raso put the ball on frame, but Naeher was able to block it away. Unfortunately for the visitors, Midge Purce was perfectly located right in front of goal, and she was able to rise up and head the ball into the open net.

The Red Stars were able to generate a few chances in the dying moments of the first half, but there was a creeping feeling that they wouldn't be capable of mounting a real attack after going down two goals on the road. The first halve would end with Portland holding a two goal advantage.

Chicago had a brief flash of possession first after the second half kicked off, but the game quickly tilted back to Portland. Purce scored her brace in the 56th minute in another clean up goal. Sinclair took a cracking shot from distance after the Chicago defense tackled the ball away from Raso. The ball pinged off the crossbar in the top-left corner of goal, but Naeher was forced to dive in an attempted save. The ball went way into the air, and Purce beat her defender to the ball. She sent it straight into the top of the net off the volley. It was Purce's eighth goal of the season. 

Chicago was never able to mount a comeback in this game. Kerr had a single great opportunity from the penalty spot in the run of play, but she sent the shot over the bar and Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch was not forced to make a save. 

The game slowed way down after the 70th minutes. There were constant fouls, and it was clear that the Red Stars were not mentally capable of mounting an attack. The clock slowly ticked up until the head ref finally blew the whistle and handed Portland the three points that they had won in the first 12 minutes.

Both teams will take a break for the upcoming FIFA window. When league play resumes, Portland will be hosted by Utah Royals FC while Chicago will host the Houston Dash

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