Thorns 'Sinc' Kansas City
Christine Sinclair sent a message to her Portland Thorns teammates prior to Wednesday's match against FC Kansas City.
Then Sinclair went out and led by example, scoring twice and leading the Thorns to a 3-0 win in front of 16,199 fans at Providence Park.
Hayley Raso scored her first National Women's Soccer League goal in unlikely fashion and added an assist as the Thorns responded after losing their previous two matches.
Portland (5-3-3, 18 points) moved to third behind North Carolina and Chicago. FC Kansas City is 3-4-4, 13.
Thorns coach Mark Parsons credited Sinclair for striking the right tone in a pregame talk with her teammates. The message, Sinclair said, was that individual responsibility — rather then pointing fingers — is the path to success.
"We had to start with ourselves. And if individually we take care of business there's not too many teams in this league that can touch us," Sinclair said of her pregame talk.
Sinclair scored in the 15th minute, putting away a rebound after a chance for Allie Long was deflected off the left post by FC Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
Raso's goal in the 32nd minute made the score 2-0. Lindsey Horan pushed the ball to Raso, who took one touch just outside the right side of the penalty area before striking the ball.
The swerving ball fooled Barnhart — who might have been expecting a cross — floating beyond her reach and inside of the far post.
Was it meant to be a shot or a cross?
"It was a goal," a laughing Raso said.
It was her first goal for the Thorns, and the Australian forward turned to the main grandstand with her arms raised in celebration.
"To be out there and to be playing 90 minutes each week but to not have a goal to my name yet, it felt really good, and hopefully there's more to come from that," Raso said.
"I think after I hit it I realized the keeper was off her line and just watched it float in. It was just such an exciting thing for me to get my first goal, and to do it here at home in front of the fans. It was unbelievable."
Sinclair's second goal, in the 75th minute, was a beautifully placed curving shot from outside the penalty area after Raso darted forward on the dribble and fed Sinclair. After her fourth multi-goal game for the Thorns, Sinclair now has 27 career NWSL goals — four this season.
Sinclair thought she had another one when the score was 2-0. But referee Chipalo Street ruled she had played the ball with her arm before slotting the ball into the goal in the 70th minute. Sinclair disagreed and earned a yellow card for her protest.
While Parsons was happy to see Sinclair and Raso rewarded for their effort, the coach pointed to the work of Long and Amandine Henry to disrupt Kansas City in midfield as a key reason Portland was able to be consistently dangerous on the attack.
Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch recorded her sixth shutout of the season. Among Franch's four saves was a diving effort to deny sharp header from Shea Groom in the first half.
FC Kansas City's Sydney Leroux headed the ball just wide of the post in the 58th minute. and the visitors had a 64th-minute goal wiped out by an offside call.
Dagny Brynjarsdottir got the start at right back, playing 66 minutes before giving way to Celeste Boureille. It was her first start of the season and her first action at right back since she played there for Iceland's under-17 national team nine years ago.
"She performed very well in Washington, and we had to find room for her on the field tonight," Parsons said of Brynjarsdottir.
Mana Shim, who like Brynsjarsdottir has missed significant time to injury, made her first start of the season. She played an hour on the left wing before being replaced by Ashleigh Sykes.
Not available on Wednesday was Nadia Nadim. The forward suffered a slight groin injury in Tuesday's training session. She will miss Saturday's trip to Seattle, then will join Denmark for the European championships.
Seattle beat second-place Chicago, 2-1, on Wednesday and is one point back of Portland in the NWSL standings. Saturday's 7:30 p.m. game at Seattle's Memorial Stadium will be the third game in eight days for both teams.