Seattle, led by former Thorns, tops Portland
In a match brimming with opportunities, former Portland Thorns left Providence Park on Saturday afternoon happier than the current team.
The Seattle Reign outscored the Thorns 3-2 in an entertaining battle in which former Portland goalkeeper Michelle Betos made the difference for the Reign in front of 16,054 fans.
Rumi Utsugi broke a 2-2 tie with a low shot from distance in the 75th minute for the winning goal.
The result moved the Reign (3-1-1, 10 points) to second place in the National Women's Soccer League. The Thorns (2-2-2, 8) are tied for fourth.
Emily Sonnett and Lindsey Horan scored for Portland, which twice erased one-goal deficits.
But a Seattle team with four former Thorns in its lineup prevailed.
Allie Long, one of the most popular Thorns and the club's top scorer in her five seasons with Portland, played her first game at Providence Park for the rival Reign.
Jodie Taylor, the former Oregon State forward who played for the Thorns in 2015, converted a penalty kick for the second Seattle goal.
Steph Catley, who played for Portland in 2014 and 2015, was at left back for Seattle and had an assist on the winning goal.
But it was Betos, who in 2015 won the NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year award while playing for Portland, who had the biggest impact.
Betos was credited with eight saves. Two of the bigger stops were a sprawling effort to smother a chance for Ana Crnogorcevic after a Horan blast hit the crossbar in the 55th minute and a close-range denial of a Tobin Heath opportunity in the 88th minute.
"Michelle Betos is unreal," Long said. "The saves that she pulls out, I can't even see (the ball) as it's coming off of someone's head and she's already catching it. She's been big-time, and that's exactly what you need from your keeper. To win a championship, you need your keeper to make one or two game-changing saves, and she's done that multiple times."
Portland never led, despite a few early opportunities.
Seattle broke through in the 36th minute, when Beverly Yanez put home a corner kick.
Yanez found space between two Thorns defenders, and Portland goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom could not get through traffic to cut off the cross.
Three of Eckerstrom's four saves came in the first half, when Seattle had the edge in possession.
Thorns coach Mark Parsons said he liked the way his team performed in the first half and that his team could have scored multiple times.
The best of Portland's first-half chances came in the 18th minute. Mallory Weber hit the bar after dribbling into prime scoring position. After pouncing on a Reign giveaway, Weber used a right-foot, left-foot move to elude three Reign defenders and create a glorious opportunity.
"The first half, apart from their set-piece goal, was a really, really good half," Parsons said. "Of course that led to some frustration going into halftime. Probably gave us a bit more urgency."
Heath and Andressinha entered for the second half, and the Thorns were n attack mode for most of the final 45 minutes.
Sonnett tied the game 1-1 from a goal-mouth scramble in the 61st minute. A Heath corner kick eluded Betos, and Sonnett managed to get a piece of the ball and direct it over the goal line.
Seattle answered quickly to make the score 2-1. After the Thorns failed on a chance to clear a ball out of danger, the Reign's Jess Fishlock made a move to get around Crnogorcevic and draw the penalty-kick foul that Taylor converted.
Horan tied the match at 2-2 in the 70th minute with a well-placed header off a cross from Meghan Klingenberg that caught Betos off her line.
Portland was credited with 24 shots in the match, including efforts that were blocked.
"Apart from the personnel changes, the second half we just had more intensity, more urgency. I thought players in the first half who weren't at their best really started to step up and get control," Parsons said.
Seattle's chances in the second half came from counterattacks. In the minute before Utsugi's winner, Taylor was twice denied. First, she had a breakaway out of midfield after Sonnett stumbled, but Taylor's shot was caught by Eckerstrom. Moments later, Taylor had a chance cleared from the goal mouth by Kelli Hubly.
It was after the ensuing corner kick that Utsugi was able to side-step Midge Purce and drive a low shot from more than 25 yards that skipped inside the post past the diving Eckerstrom.
Portland pushed hard for a third goal, as Purce on the right and Klingenberg on the left found space to attack the penalty area or send dangerous crosses into the penalty area.
But the third goal eluded Portland.
Long had an eventful return to Providence Park. She picked up a yellow card in the 31st minute for fouling Celeste Boureille. In the 41st minute, she volleyed the ball just over the bar from 10 yards out. Sonnett's goal came when she got a piece of a loose ball that Long could not clear from the Seattle goal mouth.
Seattle was without Megan Rapinoe. The national team winger and former Portland Pilot is recovering from a hamstring injury.
The Thorns don't have long to recover from a disappointing result. They travel to Houston for a 5 p.m. Wednesday match and are back at Providence Park next Saturday to face Orlando at 12:30 p.m..
• The NWSL announced on Saturday that its 2018 league championship match will be played on Sept. 22 at Providence Park.