Thorns escape Utah with draw
The return of World Cup standouts produced a few special moments on Friday as the Portland Thorns and Utah Royals played to a 2-2 draw in a National Women's Soccer League game watched by 15,931 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
Christine Sinclair scored for Portland, and Lindsey Horan's shot in the 87th minute gave the Thorns an unlikely lead.
It looked like Portland would steal three points, until Rachel Corsie scored in the 90th minute.
Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch then made two big saves in stoppage time to preserve the draw.
At least temporarily, the 6-2-5 Thorns are on top of the NWSL standings with 23 points, one more than North Carolina, which on Sunday faces Chicago.
The Royals are 5-4-3 (18), tied for fourth place.
All four of Portland's U.S. Women's World Cup champion players returned to action, with Franch and Horan starting and Emily Sonnett and Tobin Heath coming off the bench.
Utah got a goal from Christen Press on her return, and the top defense in the NWSL welcomed back Becky Sauerbrunn to the center of its back line and Kelley O'Hara on the left flank. All three factored in the scoring.
Sinclair gave the Thorns the early lead with her fifth goal of the season, a fabulous shot in the ninth minute. Trapping a clearance attempt, she looped a perfect shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
Portland had much of the early possession and kept Utah bottled in its own half for much of the first 20 minutes. But, despite several half-chances, the Thorns could not double their lead.
Press tied the game in the 43rd minute, beating Elizabeth Ball on the dribble, then beating Franch from a tight angle.
Utah was dominant on the ball in the second half, keeping the Thorns in a defensive posture for long stretches. Franch made a save early in the half against Press, and in the 59th minute she went down to her right to rob Katie Stengel.
Franch, who appeared to be caught flat-footed on both Royals goals, took a close-range shot off her face to deny Amy Rodriguez in the third minute of stoppage time, then made a lunging stop to again rob Stengel in the fourth extra minute.
The Thorns' go-ahead goal came from a scramble that developed in the box after Meghan Klingenberg delivered a long free kick out of midfield. Horan was first to the second ball and directed a low shot that deflected off of Sauerbrunn and into the goal. Horan took a kick to her ankle on the play but was able to continue.
The Royals continued to push players into the attack, and O'Hara had all sorts of room to drive a cross to the back post that found an unmarked Corsie, who directed it between the legs of Franch to equalize.
On one of Portland's few attacking sequences of the second half, wing back Ellie Carpenter was crashed into and suffered what appeared to be a right-ankle injury. She eventually left the game, with coach Mark Parsons shifting formations and inserting forward Caitlin Foord.
Parsons went to his bench two more times, inserting Sonnett for Ball in the 69th minute and Heath for Midge Purce in the 77th minute.
The Royals outshot the Thorns 13-5 (7-2 on goal) and out-possessed Portland 55 percent to 45 percent.
Utah had to make an early substitution, inserting the dangerous Stengel when a pass attempt from Horan caught midfielder Mandy Laddish in the side of the head.
The Thorns will play eight of their remaining 11 regular-season games at home, beginning with a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday visit from Houston.
Portland's remaining road games are two visits to Tacoma to play Reign FC and one more trip to Utah.
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