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Thorns hold off KC 4-3

MORGANStrikers Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair were back from national team duties, and the Portland Thorns FC again looked like the best offensive side in the National Women’s Soccer League.

But even with the return of two other standouts — defender Rachel Buehler and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc — Portland’s defense was unspectacular, and the Thorns barely survived FC Kansas City 4-3 Wednesday night at Jeld-Wen Field.

Morgan scored two goals, and Courtney Wetzel and Danielle Foxhoven each had one for the Thorns in the highest-scoring game yet in the fledgling NWSL.

“I would prefer the scores to be a little bit of a wider margin,” Thorns coach Cindy Parlow Cone said. “But Kansas City never said die.”

With the win before an announced crowd of 10,886 at Jeld-Wen Field, Portland (7-2-1, 22 points) claimed a share of first place with Sky Blue FC (7-1-1, 22).

The Thorns took the match to FC Kansas City early, and

in the 13th minute, Morgan made her presence felt. FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn lost possession in the 18-yard box, and Morgan flashed to the ball, gettig it at her feet before Sauerbrunn could even turn around. Morgan took a touch and, from 12 yards, hammered a shot just beneath the crossbar for a 1-0 lead.

“It was a defensive mistake on their part,” Morgan said. “I got fortunate on that, picking Becky off. With the shot, I went for power more than accuracy.”

Portland went up 2-0 in the 20th minute. Thorns defender Marian Daugherty passed to Wetzel for the 10-yard, left-footed score.

“It was a combination of good passing and moving and a great ball from Marian that was pretty hard to miss,” Wetzel said.

FC Kansas City (3-3-1, 10) made a penalty kick in the 31st minute, set up when Kansas City striker Renae Cuellar made a run into the box and Buehler, a step behind, clipped her. Midfielder Lauren Cheney hit the PK.

In the 48th minute, Foxhoven — a halftime substitution for Mana Shim — scored her second goal of the season. It came after Morgan made an outstanding run into the box, dribbling past numerous FC Kansas City defenders. Morgan released a low cross toward the goal, and the pass found Foxhoven perfectly in stride. All Foxhoven had to do was put boot to ball and the Thorns had a 3-1 lead.

FC Kansas City would not go away, though.

In the 56th minute, Cheney slipped a shot inside the near post for a goal off defender Leigh Ann Robinson's service.

Suddenly, the momentum turned against the Thorns. FC Kansas City went on the attack, creating dangerous opportunities and pushing Portland back on its heels.

But Morgan’s second goal of the night, in the 66th minute, was enough to stem the tide. She scored from four yards after goalie Nicole Barnhart missed on a punch-out attempt.

“It was a scramble in the box, and I’m not sure if I got the ball or Allie (Long) got the goal,” Morgan said. “I think she should’ve because she might have touched it last.”

Kansas City cut the gap to 4-3 in the 81st minute. Striker Erika Tymrak made a run around several Thorns defenders along the top of the 18-yard box. Once Tymrak had created enough space, she sent a rocket to the top right corner of the net.

FC Kansas City spent the remaining nine minutes on the attack, but the Thorns were able to hold on for the victory.

Portland's next match is June 16, at home against the Seattle Reign FC.