On Saturday night at Providence Park, the Portland Thorns looked to extend their impressive play at home against the Houston Dash, a team that has struggled to find answers against a very stacked Portland team.
While the Thorns have sat in second place for a few weeks after a big win against the Chicago Red Stars, the Dash have found themselves again on the outside looking in when it comes to the NWSL postseason. While Houston had a strong run of play in July, injuries have made consistency tough, especially with the absences of stars like Kealia Ohai and now Carli Lloyd.
Starting out hot
This disconnect was clear from kickoff on Saturday, when the Thorns came out blazing, with a number of good looks on goal in the first minutes. While Portland’s fluidity in the midfield was tough for Houston to handle, they still had some trouble finishing their chances, with a few shots going wide.
However, they finally made the Dash pay in the 14th minute off a well-placed Meghan Klingenberg cross to the head of Lindsey Horan, who was able to get the ball past Houston keeper Jane Campbell and put the hosts up 1-0.
Play opened up a bit after the first goal, and Houston had a good look on goal called back as offside in the 34th minute. Ultimately, the rest of the half had a lot of end-to-end action, but Houston couldn’t find an equalizer. Portland’s defense has been very well disciplined throughout the 2017 season, and they never looked pulled out of formation by Houston’s attempts in the final third. While the Thorns might’ve been ruing some early missed chances, the half ended 1-0.
Hot start pt. 2
The second half of the match started very similarly to the first, with Portland coming out with an aggressive press to keep the ball in Houston’s defensive end. It wasn’t long until this paid dividends for the Thorns, and they doubled their lead in the 48th minute. Houston’s inability to clear sent the ball wide to Nadia Nadim, who whipped in a cross that was headed home by French international Amandine Henry.
After the second goal, Portland seemed comfortably in the drivers seat to control the rest of the match, but Houston’s frustration boiled over in a series of yellow cards to Rachel Daly, who received her first caution for dissent, and her second in the 80th minute for a tussle with Portland defender Emily Sonnett, forcing her ejection from the match. This was Houston’s second ejection of the season, with interestingly both of them coming from matches officiated by Christina Unkel.
Houston struggled to come up with much forward motion after going down to 10 players, and the match finally ended with a 2-0 score-line in favor of Portland. The Thorns’ impressive home record continued to improve, and Houston looked outmatched throughout the game. They’ll be eager to get Carli Lloyd back from injury in the next few weeks, but one also has to wonder if they are now looking more towards the future rather than trying to save a season that for much of it has been spend treading water.