Sky Blue FC is known to play some of its best soccer at Providence Park.
The team at the bottom of the National Women's Soccer League did it again on Saturday, battling the Portland Thorns to a 1-1 draw in a game that will be remembered more for the officiating of Mark Allatin and his crew than for the soccer.
Portland's only goal came from a Christine Sinclair penalty kick in the 39th minute, but the Thorns felt they deserved two or three more kicks from the spot on a frustrating night for the home team and its 19,070 fans.
Portland appeared to have control of the game, but Imani Dorsey — a forward playing left back — got to a ball that skipped through the Portland box and scored in the 69th minute.
The draw with the league's bottom dwellers left the Thorns second in the NWSL standings, a point back of the North Carolina Courage. Portland is 7-2-6 (27 points). New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC, a club without a head coach, is 2-10-3 (9).
The night was frustrating on several levels for Portland. Yes, the Thorns deserved more penalty kicks. Yes, Allatin was inconsistent with his whistle and the result included several dangerous tackles that went unpunished. But the Thorns failed to score from the run of play in spite of a lot of promising possession.
"It was a game we dominated. Should've won," Sinclair said. "We didn't put away our chances when we had one, and then they get one towards the end and they bury it. Just not good enough from the Thorns tonight."
Sinclair credited her Canadian national team teammate and Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan for two tremendous saves, including a sprawling effort to get to a Simone Charley close-range header in the 89th minute.
"I might be a little biased, but I think Kailen is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and you saw that tonight," Sinclair said. "Against any other goalkeeper in the league, that's in the back of the net and we walk away with three points."
Sinclair and Thorns coach Mark Parsons each gave credit to Sky Blue for again making the game difficult for the home team.
The visitors were the better team at the start of each half, with significant time in the attacking third.
"Sky Blue put in an incredible shift and made things very, very difficult and played very well," Parsons said.
He said his side had some good moments, but "should have produced more good chances and goals and didn't. And if you let anyone in this league hang around, it can punish you."
Those comments came after Parsons answered a question about the officiating by avoiding specific incidents but arguing that this was another example of officials being unwilling to make big calls the Thorns deserve at Providence Park.
"Do the Thorns do too many good things as a club that we've got to make sure we try and balance things out?" Parsons asked. "The trend specifically in this stadium (is) things don't add up when you go through and you're seeing decisions."
After noting that he hadn't seen the controversial non-calls on replay, the coach said: "Am I absolutely delusional? Which is a possibility. Or is there another problem?"
On this night, there was a problem as far as Parsons' Thorns and their partisans were concerned. And those replays won't change those opinions.
Portland forward Midge Purse was knocked down three times without drawing a penalty kick. In the course of two minutes in the first half, she fell to the turf as she and defender Gina Lewandowski battled.
First, they went for a cross and Lewandowski pushed Purse. Purse then was plowed over after sprinting past Lewandowski. The first of those was a judgment call for the official and not a clear penalty. The second was missed as Lewandowski clumsily ran over Purce without making a play for the ball.
The penalty kick that Sinclair converted felt like a make-up call. Hayley Raso was knocked to the ground by Estelle Johnson after making a cross attempt, and Allatin's decision to award a penalty appeared to surprise everyone in the stadium.
Sinclair easily beat Sheridan for her team-high seventh goal this season. She has scored in four consecutive matches.
The Thorns thought they deserved another PK in the 85th minute, when Dorsey slid through the back of Purce, knocking the Portland forward to the turf as she broke free in the box thanks to a wonderful Raso feed.
Sinclair and Meghan Klingenberg pleaded with Allatin to look at the replay screens as Purce writhed on the field in pain.
Purce, who amazingly did not win a foul against Sky Blue despite some rough treatment, took five shots, including one that caught the post and another that floated just high.
"Midge caused them troubles all night. As a 9 (striker), that's what life is like," said Sinclair, who has played much of her career in the forward role. "You get beat up every game. She'll just need to bounce back. Physically, I think she's fine."
The Thorns don't have much time to recover. They face two rivalry games over the next eight days, traveling to Tacoma for a 7 p.m. Wednesday match with Reign FC, then coming home to meet North Carolina at noon on Sunday, Aug. 11. Portland's next three home games are against the Courage, the Washington Spirit and the Chicago Red Stars, all battling for one of the top-four playoff spots.
• Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan and Carli Lloyd — three players who would have been in Portland in not for the U.S. victory tour — scored the goals in the United States' 3-0 win over Ireland on Saturday in the Rose Bowl. Thorns Heath, Horan and Emily Sonnett played for the U.S. in the first of five exhibitions to celebrate the World Cup championship. Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch was on the bench.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.