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Thorns pull out a win in home opener

McDonald scores 2 late goals as Portland tops KC 3-1


For the first 84 minutes Saturday, it looked as if the Portland Thorns were not going to deliver a win in their home opener against FC Kansas City.

Then Portland striker Jessica McDonald got loose. The 6-foot McDonald, who played for Seattle last year, broke a 1-1 tie with a goal in the 84th minute, then left no doubt by scoring in the 88th minute to give the Thorns a 3-1 win before an announced crowd of 14,124 on a cold, rainy night at Providence Park.

“We rode out luck in that 15-minute patch (at the end of the match),” Portland coach Paul Riley said. "Getting to that 15 minutes was critical. The key thing was getting the three points at home.”

The Thorns (2-0-1, 7 points) went up 1-0 on a penalty kick by Allie Long in the 44th minute.

FC Kansas City (0-2-1, 1 point) got the equalizer when Lauren Holiday converted a PK in the 57th minute.

Long has three goals this season.

The Thorns were bailed out time and time again by the phenomenal goalkeeping of Nadine Angerer, who finished the match with six saves.

“I’m totally focused on the ball and my team,” Angerer said.

Portland finished with 16 shots and put 10 balls on goal. FC Kansas City also had 16 shots and put seven shots on goal.

In the 44th minute, Long dribbled into the box on the right side. She was nearing the end line when FC Kansas City defender Nikki Phillips tried to make a tackle. Phillips clipped Long, the Thorns midfielder went down and referee Katja Koroleva awarded Portland a penalty kick.

Long lined up for the PK. She sent a hard, rolling shot low and to the left. FC Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart guessed correctly, diving to her right. Long’s shot was just out of reach, though, and the Thorns had a 1-0 lead.

Before the PK, Barnhart and Angerer kept the match scoreless with excellent goalkeeping. Barnhart finished the half with two saves (she had six saves on the night). Angerer was even better, making four saves in the half, two of them requiring her to lay out to keep the ball out of the back of the net.

“I was going to wait and see if 'Barny' was going to guess a certain way and move before my kick,” Long said. “She didn’t, and I just did what I normally do and what I’m comfortable doing on PKs.”

FC Kansas City's PK came after FC Kansas City midfielder Erika Tymrak received a pass on the left side of the 18-yard-box and was taken down by Thorns defender Nikki Marshall, who got more of Rodriguez’s leg than the ball on an attempted tackle.

Holiday lined up for the PK. She sent the ball down the middle of the goal and just below the crossbar. Angerer dove to her left, and the match was tied 1-1.

“On the PK, I never have a plan,” Angerer said. “I just jump somewhere, and sometimes I get lucky.”

The Thorns pulled ahead when McDonald got a pass from Long on the right side, 14 yards from goal. The 26-year-old former North Carolina Tar Heel took a touch and fired, getting the ball just inside the near post and out of the reach of Barnhart.

“I was working off the shoulder of a defender,” McDonald said. “I was calling for the ball, and when I got it I focused on finishing low.”

Four minutes later, McDonald struck again. She got a pass from Mana Shim in the box. McDonald was unmarked, with only Barnhart to beat. Barnhart came out to challenge McDonald. The Thorns striker sent a shot over Barnhart’s head and into the back of the net, putting an exclamation mark on the Thorns victory.

“I was trying to play high and split the two central defenders,” McDonald said. “I saw the goalkeeper come out, and I just wanted to get it into the net.”

The Thorns will go back on the road next Saturday to face the Western New York Flash (1-1-0, 3 points).

“We can play better,” Riley said. “You’re going to hear that a lot the first few months of the season.”