On Saturday evening, the Cascadia clashed once again, with the Portland Thorns hosting the Seattle Reign for the first time in this young NWSL season. The Thorns were once again without the help of star midfielder Tobin Heath, who has been out for the entirety of the beginning of the season with a lower back strain. They also had USWNT defender Meghan Klingenberg starting on the bench, as she works her way back into game-fitness from an injury herself. In contrast, the Reign were in relatively full strength, with Megan Rapinoe proving herself to be fit for a full 90 minutes.
Coming in hot
The match’s fireworks started early, when within the second minute Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock scored a rocket from outside the box past Thorns keeper Adrianna Franch into the far corner of the goal. This led to a frenetic start to the match, with Portland trying to maintain possession to find the equalizer, and Seattle attempting to quickly pounce on counter-attack opportunities. This probing by Portland paid dividends in the 37th minute, when a low cross by Hayley Raso (who had a very productive match overall) was mishandled by Fishlock, who sent the ball into her own goal. Coincidentally, this was the third own goal of the weekend, with no match on Saturday going unscathed.
Quickly after the equalizer, Reign midfielder Merritt Mathias scored her first goal of the season, after Rebekah Stott was able to dribble through the Portland defense, to make her way into the box. She then slotted the ball to Mathias who easily slipped the ball past Franch. The 2-1 Seattle lead would carry into half-time.
A chippy affair
The second half of the game was more settled than the first, with both teams being well matched. This, plus the rivalry between these two squads pushed the match into chippy territory, with neither team fully being able to put together a cohesive attack. Klingenberg’s insertion into the match gave a spark to the Portland offense, and she started the attack that forced the equalizer for the home team in the 82nd minute when her cross into the box found the head of Allie Long, who was able to direct the ball just over the outstretched hand of Seattle keeper Haley Kopmeyer. The match ended with the 2-2 score-line, with both teams taking a point from the fixture.
Both teams walked away from the match feeling they could have had the full three points, with the momentum of the match swinging between the two teams evenly. Seattle’s inconsistency remains a issue, with Fishlock’s game alone proving a fair metaphor of the teams issues. They have the ability to play truly beautiful soccer, but they’re prone to mental lapses that can swing any game out of their favor. On Portland’s end, they have too good of a roster to let games get completely out of their hands, but there is a lack of cohesion to their attack, and their defense has the ability to be inconsistent. One would imagine getting Heath back into the midfield will be a big help, but she can’t completely cover for Portland's deficiencies, especially as she comes back from injury. It will certainly be a very different match when the two teams meet again in Seattle in July.