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Thorns collect 2-1 victory

The Portland Thorns continued rolling on the shoulders of midfielder Allie Long, striker Jessica McDonald and goalkeeper Nadine Angerer on Wednesday night against the Western New York Flash.

Long gave Portland a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute with her fourth goal of the season. The Thons then went up 2-0 on McDonald’s fifth goal of the year. Western New York pulled within a goal in the 59th minute, but Angerer kept the ball out of the back of the net the rest of the way, and Portland walked away from Providence Park with a 2-1 victory before an announced crowd of 10,920.

“It was a bit hairy the last 10 minutes,” Thorns coach Paul Riley said. “That’s why I have no hair. Nadine had to make a couple of big saves in there. That’s what she gets paid to do. But we created a lot of chances. All’s well that ends well, I guess.”

The Thorns outshot the Flash 20-17. Portland had 10 balls on frame, while Western New York put eight shots on goal.

Portland (4-1-2, 14 points) was the aggressor throughout the first half. The Thorns consistently moved the ball into the attacking third and created dangerous scoring opportunities.

The Thorns jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute. Midfielder Angie Kerr took the ball on the left side of the pitch, 40 yards out. She slid a pass to Long, who was standing in the middle of the box, unmarked. Long took the pass at her feet, turned, and with a Flash defender trying to sprinting toward her to make a challenge, rolled a shot toward the bottom left corner, out of the reach of Flash goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, and into the back of the net.

"'Ang’ put a great ball,” Long said. “I saw a gap between the defenders. I was able to hit it one time and slip it past the keeper.”

Long’s four goals this season ranks the third in the National Women's Soccer League.

At the end of the first half, Portland and Western New York each had eight shots. The Flash put three shots on goal, while the Thorns had two shots on goal. The Flash’s opportunities were not nearly as dangerous, though.

The Thorns took a 2-0 lead in the 49th minute. Midfielder Amber Brooks took a free kick from 45 yards and sent the ball into the box. Wys leaped into the air and tried to catch the ball, rather than punch it out. The strategy backfired. The ball slipped out of Wys’ hands and was loose in the 6-yard box. The ball bounced around several times before finally coming to McDonald, who tapped it into the empty net.

“We were told to challenge the goalkeeper,” McDonald said. “I just kept my stride going hoping the ball would come to me. It pretty much landed right in my lap and went into the back of the net.”

McDonald is second in the NWSL with five goals this season.

The Flash (3-3-1, 10 points) cut the lead in half in the 59th minute.

Western New York midfielder McCall Zerboni got a pass in the box, 14 yards from goal. Zerboni was inexplicably unmarked and had time to turn around, square her body to the goal and send a rolling shot to the bottom right corner where Angerer had no chance at stopping it.

In the 76th minute, Angerer prevented the Flash from scoring the equalizer when she went 1-v-1 with Western New York’s superstar striker Abby Wombach and came out victorious, knocking Wombach’s 12-yard shot out of bounds.

Angerer, who was not made available to the media after the game, finished with seven saves.

The Thorns will have a quick turnaround. Portland will host the second leg of its first back-to-back home match of the season at 7 p.m. Saturday against Sky Blue FC.

“We’ve got to keep plugging along and try to get three more points on Saturday,” Riley said. “We’re going to have to be on our mettle.”