TUKWILA, Wash.- The return of goalkeeper Hope Solo from injury energized the Seattle Reign (0-7-1, 1pt), but it was not enough as they fell to the Portland Thorns (6-1-1, 19pts.) on a controversial 84th minute penalty kick goal by midfielder Christine Sinclair in front of 3,324 at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila Wash.

The victory was the second consecutive clean sheet performance by the Thorns, their 4th shutout of the season, while the Reign have dropped seven straight.

The Cascadian rivals played a hard-fought match in front of a packed house, but it was referee Margaret Domka controversial decision-making that became the story, in a match featuring 21 fouls and 3 yellow cards.

“I think the people in green missed a good game tonight,” Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone said following the match. “I think there was a lot of confusion on the field, what was a foul, what wasn’t a foul, what’s a card, what’s not a card. That adds to the physical play when there’s confusion on the field with the players.”

Reign head coach Laura Harvey was more succinct, “The referees are a joke. Next question.”

Hope Solo debuted in goal for the Seattle Reign FC in the Reign's 1-0 loss to the Thorns.

Hope Solo debuted in goal for the Seattle Reign FC in the Reign’s 1-0 loss to the Thorns.

Solo’s debut clearly energized the Reign, and they were the dominant team in the first half, controlling much of the possession and forcing Thorns goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc to make several punches to save the ball, including a point-blank attempt by Reign midfielder Keelin Winters in the 19th minute.

The Thorns defense was able to firmly hold their ground and neutralize every Reign attack, as Cone noted, “I think our defense, especially our back line and Karina in goal, just keeps getting better, week in and week out. They’re just so strong back there. They’re fast, they’re technical, they read the game so well. They’re fun to watch.”

On the attack, the Thorns had trouble with the patchwork Reign defense. With injuries to starters Kate Deines and Elli Reed, as well as a suspension to Jenny Ruiz, forcing midfielders Kaylyn Kyle and Kristen Meier in defense, which made Lauren Barnes the only usual starter on the backline. They weren’t challenged much in the first half hour or so, with Sinclair taking a couple of long shots outside the box, but not much else, as the Reign were able to control their 18 yard box with Kyle shutting down any runs by Morgan.

Heading into the break, the Reign were clearly the more inspired team.

Out of the break, the Thorns began to dominate more of the possession, making several runs in the attack, while containing and dispossession any Reign attempt. One of the best chances for the Thorns came in the 53rd minute, as Morgan and Sinclair linked up to find forward Mana Shim in the box, but the Reign were able to clear.

The Thorns kept up the pressure for much of second half, forcing the Reign to put nearly everyone behind the ball. While this was effective in keeping the Thorns from scoring in the run of play, it stifled the Reign attack as centerbacks Rachel Buehler and Kat Williamson was easily able to dispossess the attack.

The Reign had their chances, with LeBlanc forced to make two saves in quick succession from shots by forwards Liz Bogus and Teresa Noyola, as well as a Bogus shot hitting the woodwork in the 76th minute.

The game ultimately came down to a single play. In the 84th minute, Sinclair found midfielder Allie Long at the top of the penalty box. As Kyle and Meier collapsed in on Long, the referee called for a foul in the box and pointed to the penalty spot.


Aforementioned foul in the box. We tried to zoom in on the action a little bit.

After the protests from the Reign defenders, Sinclair calmly put the shot past Solo for her league-leading 4th goal of the season, her second of the season from the penalty spot.

“It was one of the few PKs (where) I’ve actually been really nervous,” Sinclair revealed after the match.

Now down a goal, the Reign pushed a bit more, but they were unable to find the equalizer.

The return of Solo should have been the story after the match, but it was overshadowed by the controversial penalty call, and she had little to say after the match. “Unfortunately, Portland didn’t earn the victory,” Solo said, “and I think that’s what’s most disappointing for our team. They didn’t earn it. Dubious call. Referee gives it up. That’s really all I’ve got to say.”

While coach Cone was elated after the match, she also heaped praise on the Reign as well, “Seattle is a great team, and they have been unfortunate to not get results because all their games I’ve watched, they’ve been dangerous in every single game, and tonight was no different. They played a great game, created a lot of chances and gave us a lot of trouble.”

Following the match, United States internationals Morgan and Buehler and Canadian internationals Tiffany Cameron, Kyle, LeBlanc, Sinclair, and Emily Zurrer all headed to their respective national team camps in advance of their friendly June 2 at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario. The match will be aired live on ESPN News and is part of the U.S. Soccer Centennial Celebration.

The Reign will have the next week off before hosting FC Kansas City June 9 at 7:00pm PDT (9:00 CDT) at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Washington. FC Kansas City leads the season series 2-0-0, following victories on May 4 and May 11.

The Thorns return to action on Saturday, June 1, at 2:00pm PDT (4:00pm CDT) as they host the Chicago Red Stars at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Oregon, in their third meeting of the season. The Thorns have shutout the Red Stars by identical 2-0 scores in their first two meeting at Chicago.

Watch the full match replay:

Portland Thorns FC (6-1-1, 19pts) vs. Seattle Reign FC (0-7-1, 1pts)
May 25, 2013 – Starfire Sports Complex (Tukwila, Wash.)

Goals by Half                1          2          F
POR                              0          1          1
SEA                               0          0          0

Scoring Summary
POR: Sinclair (penalty kick), 84

Misconduct Summary
POR: Edwards (Caution), 30
POR: Morgan (Caution), 38
POR: Dougherty (Caution), 51

Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Karina LeBlanc; D Marian Dougherty, D Rachel Buehler, D Kathryn Williamson, D Nikki Marshall, M Becky Edwards, M Allie Long, M Meleana Shim (F Danielle Foxhoven, 67), M Angie Kerr (M Courtney Wetzel, 76), F Christine Sinclair (capt.), F Alex Morgan

Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay, D Jazmyne Avant, M Elizabeth Guess, F Jessica Shufelt

TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Sinclair, 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Sinclair, Morgan, Foxhoven, 1); FOULS: 12 (Edwards, 4); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 5

SEA: GK Hope Solo, D Lauren Barnes, D Kristen Meier, D Kaylyn Kyle, D Kiersten Dallstream, M Jessica Fishlock, M Keelin Winters, M Christine Nairn, F Liz Bogus (F Kristina Larsen, 86), F Tiffany Cameron, F Teresa Noyol

Substitutes Not Used: GK Michelle Betos, GK Haley Kopmeyer, D Emily Zurrer, M Elli Reed, M Lyndsey Patterson, F Lindsay Taylor

TOTAL SHOTS: 17 (Noyola, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Two players tied, 2); FOULS: 9 (Two players tied, 2); OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 8; SAVES: 2

Referee: Margaret Domka
Assistant Referees: Veronica Perez, Ian Johnson
Fourth Official: Ray Moffatte, Jr.
Attendance: 3,324
Weather: 61 degrees, partly cloudy

All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial