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Thorns stay tied for first, beating Seattle 2-0

For the second time in three matches, the Portland Thorns FC had to take the pitch Sunday without their national team players.

Two weeks ago, without strikers Alex Morgan (U.S.) and Christine Sinclair (Canada), goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc (Canada) and defender Rachel Buehler (U.S.), the Thorns lost 2-0 to the Chicago Red Stars.

Playing Sunday without Morgan, Sinclair and Buehler, the result was much different.

The Thorns played the Seattle Reign FC to a standstill in the first half, then exploded offensively with goals from Danielle Foxhoven and Mana Shim.SHIM

LeBlanc made a save on a penalty kick in the second half, and Portland walked away with a 2-0 win before an announced crowd of 15,802 at Jeld-Wen Field.

“Every team is dealing with the same thing,” Thorns coach Cindy Parlow Cone said of the absences. “It’s the nature of the beast, and you have to do the best you can. I’m really proud that this team stepped up.”

The win kept the Thorns (8-2-1, 25 points) tied for first place in the eight-team National Women's Soccer League. Seattle (0-8-1, 1 point) remains in last place. The Reign are the only club without a win.

The first half went back and forth. Both sides were able to move the ball into the attacking third with minimal effort. Once they got there, though, they had difficulty creating quality chances.

The Thorns finished the half with five shots, two on goal. Seattle had seven shots, one on goal.

“It took a little while to get organized and understand where everyone needed to be,” Cone said.

At halftime, Cone went to the bench and put in Danielle Foxhoven.

“'Danny' has proven all year that she’s our super-sub,” Cone said. “She’s been fantastic at it.”

In the 48th minute, Foxhoven rewarded Cone by putting the Thorns up 1-0 with a bending shot that beat Seattle goalkeeper Michelle Betos to the right post.

“I took a touch and cut back,” Foxhoven said. “In warmups before the game, I was feeling a little bend to the far post. It was on. When I got into that position, I knew that was the kind of shot I wanted to hit.”

The Thorns kept up the pressure, ending the match with 14 shots (eight on frame), while Seattle totaled 15 shots (four on target).

In the 66th minute, the Thorns extended their lead to 2-0 on a breakaway goal by striker Shim.

Midfielder Angie Kerr dribbled down the right side of the pitch. As the defense closed around her, Kerr sent a ball into the box.

Shim outraced her marker to the ball, and once she had it at her feet, Betos was the only thing standing between her and the back of the net. Shim took a touch and then sent a shot to the top right corner, where Betos had no chance to stop it.

“Angie Kerr took a really good touch by her defender,” Shim said. “The center of the field was wide open. I got on my horse, and there was no one there.”

In the 83rd minute, LeBlanc put the dagger into the heart of the Reign.

Thorns defender Marian Daugherty was called for a hand ball in the box, and the Reign were awarded a penalty kick.

Seattle midfielder Christine Nairn lined up for the kick. Nairn sent the ball low and to the left. LeBlanc guessed perfectly, though. She dove and made a kick save, keeping the blank sheet intact.

The Thorns will play again Saturday, on the road against Sky Blue FC (8-2-1, 25 points), which has been neck-and-neck with Portland in the standings all season. Sky Blue won 3-2 Sunday at the Boston Breakers.

“The nice thing is we’ll have our national team players for the rest of the season,” Cone said. “The roster will be pretty set. That’s comforting.”