Goals from forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Allie Long was all the Portland Thorns (4-0-1, 13pts) needed to defeat the Chicago Red Stars (0-3-2, 2pts) in front of 1,329 at Benedictine University Sports Complex in Lisle, Illinois on Sunday. With the victory the Thorns continue their unbeaten run to five matches, with four straight victories, while the Red Stars are still searching for their first victory of the season.
Unlike their first meeting of the season, where the game remained scoreless late into the second half, Thorns star Morgan ensured this wasn’t the case. In the 3rd minute defender Nikki Marshall sent the ball up to Morgan, who was able to slip the Chicago defenders and push the ball past goalkeeper Erin McLeod, scoring her third goal of the season and running her points streak to four matches, scoring in the past two, while giving Marshall her first assist on the year.
After allowing the quick goal, the Red Stars went on an attacking run of their own, with midfielder Zakiya Bywaters and forward Ella Masar both having opportunities to put the ball on net, only to be stifled by Thorns goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.
For the next several minutes, both teams had their chances, but nothing came of it. Morgan had another solid scoring chance in the 10th minute, but McLeod easily saved it, while the Red Stars had what was possibly their best chance of the night, when midfielder Julianne Sitch fired the ball in, but it was pushed aside by LeBlanc in the 22nd.
The Thorns began to take control of the match after that, threatening often in the attacking third, before finally breaking through again in the 35th minute, as midfielder Allie Long whipped in a cross from midfielder Nikki Washington, earning Long her first goal of the season and Washington her second assist.
A few minutes later, it appeared that Thorns forward Christine Sinclair had added the third goal of the match, but it hit the crossbar and was cleared off the line by a Red Stars defender. Whether the goal would have counted remains unknown, as it appeared Sinclair may have been a step offside, though it went unflagged by the nearside assistant referee, who signaled the teams to play on.
The remainder of the first half was relatively uneventful with the Thorns going into the break two goals up on the Red Stars. While the shot total was relatively even with the Thorns up nine shots to seven, they clearly came out of the first half the better side leaving Red Stars head coach Rory Dames looking for answers.
Coming out of the break, the Red Stars made one change, bringing in midfielder Jackie Santacaterina in for midfielder Julianne Sitch. Both teams came out with physicality to their game, with Thorns defender Rachel Buehler being given a yellow card for a challenge, followed by another card being given to Red Stars midfielder Alyssa Mautz, both for aggressive play.
The game settled down a bit after this, with both teams making attacking runs, but nothing coming from it. As the match went on, the effects of playing a hard-fought match on Wednesday began to wear on the Red Stars and it became more apparent as the clock ticked away.
While the Thorns had needed to weather furious comeback attempts in their past two matches versus Chicago and Washington, this was not the case today.
The Thorns had another chance at a late goal as Red Stars midfielder Lori Chalupny was whistled for a handball at midfield. Morgan headed the ensuing free kick on goal, but it was handled by McLeod. Another solid attempt came from defender Marian Dougherty off a free kick taken just outside the penalty box, but it sailed just over the crossbar.
The last few minutes of the match were uneventful as the Thorns lessened their attack, while the Red Stars continued to show the effects of playing earlier in the week, with neither side making any attempts of note.
With the victory, the Thorns remain at the top of the table with 13 points, while the Red Stars remained in 7th place, one point ahead of last-place Seattle Reign.
For the match the Thorns had 15 total shots, with 9 of these on goal, led by Morgan’s 7 shots (5 on goal), while the Red Stars had 10 total shots, with 4 on goal, spread amongst several players. LeBlanc earned her second clean sheet of the season (second against the Red Stars), making 4 saves, while McLeod was much busier, making 7 saves.
After their second shutout loss to the Thorns, the Red Stars and their coach Dames are still looking for answers, “We’re a team that wants to win the league and Portland is a team we’ll have to figure out.”
The Red Stars will not next take the pitch until May 24, when the travel to Rochester, New York to take on the Western New York Flash (2-1-2, 7pts) at Shalen’s Stadium at 7:05pm EDT (6:05pm PDT).
The Thorns will finally return home after three matches on the road, hosting Sky Blue FC (3-1-1, 10pts) at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Oregon on Thursday at 7:30pm PDT (10:30pm EDT), in the first of six matches in the Pacific Northwest, in a match that will feature two squads at the top of the table. The Thorns will then host the Washington Spirit (0-2-3, 3pts) on Sunday, May 19th at 2:00pm PDT (5:00pm EDT)
The Thorns and Red Stars will next face each other on Saturday, June 1 at 2:00pm PDT (4:00pm CDT) in their first of two meetings at JELD-WEN Field this season. With the US and Canadian Women’s National Teams facing off the next day at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario, both sides will be likely missing several key players as they represent their respective national squads.
Portland Thorns FC (4-0-1, 13pts) vs. Chicago Red Stars (0-3-2, 2pts)
May 12, 2013 – Benedictine Sports Complex (Lisle, Ill.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
POR 2 0 2
CHI 0 0 0
POR – Morgan (Marshall) 3
POR – Long (Washington) 35
POR – Buehler (caution) 52
CHI – Mautz (caution) 54
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 (Courtney Wetzel, 84), M Nikki Washington (Danielle Foxhoven, 56), F Christine Sinclair (capt.), F Alex Morgan (Jessica Shutfelt, 89)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay, D Jazmyne Avant
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Morgan, 7); SHOTS ON GOAL: 9 (Morgan, 5); FOULS: 4 (Four players tied, 1); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 4
CHI: GK Erin McLeod; D Lydia Vandenbergh, D Taryn Hemmings, D Carmelina Moscato, D Rachel Quon, M Julianne Sitch (Jackie Santacaterina, 46), M Lauren Fowlkes, M Leslie Osborne (Jessica McDonald, 72), M Zakiya Bywaters, M Lori Chalupny, F Ella Masar (Alyssa Mautz, 29)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Taylor Vancil, D Michelle Wenino, M Dinora Garza, F Maribel Dominguez, F Hanna Gilmore
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Two players tied, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Four players tied, 1); FOULS: 12 (Bywaters, 3); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 7
Referee: Kari Seitz
Assistant Referees: Jennifer Jones, Cesar Ibarra
Fourth Official: Greg Dopka
Weather: 55 degrees, mostly sunny
All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial