Thorns fail to finish in home finale
The Portland Thorns learned their playoff matchup before they took the Providence Park field on Saturday for the final time in 2019.
Still, they wanted to reward their fans with a win and to gain some momentum heading into next Sunday's National Women's Soccer League semifinal at Chicago.
It did not quite work out that way.
The Thorns were dominant in shots taken and in possession, but for the fourth time in their last five games they failed to score a goal in a scoreless draw with the Washington Spirit. The crowd announced as 24,521, was the second largest in Thorns history.
About an hour before the match kicked off, Orlando scored late to earn a 2-2 draw with Reign FC. As a result, Portland became locked into the No. 3 spot in the final NWSL standings no matter how their match with the Spirit played out.
The Thorns will play at 12:30 p.m. Pacific on Oct. 20 in the semifinal round against the Red Stars.
The other semifinal, set for 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 20, has Reign FC playing at North Carolina. Both semifinals will be televised by ESPN2. The championship match will be played on Oct. 27 at Cary, North Carolina.
The Thorns finish the regular season 11-6-7 (40 points). Washington, already out of the playoffs, finish 9-8-7 (34 points). The Spirit landed in fifth place but were four points out of the fourth playoff spot.
Despite getting blanked, the Thorns felt like Saturday's performance was their strongest in a month and provides a confidence lift ahead of the playoffs.
Thorns coach Mark Parson's said that, in a way, Saturday's performance was the perfect way to enter the playoffs.
"We gained lots of confidence," Parsons said. "We really did well both sides of the ball. And we know that we need to work on getting in the box and scoring goals because that was the only piece missing from a perfect night here in Providence Park."
Portland outshot Washington 21-4 and in the second half played mostly on the front foot. But only five of their shots were on target and the closest they came to scoring a goal was a 25-yard curler from 25 yards that forced goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe to extend fully to keep the ball out of the upper corner.
Speaking of corners, the Thorns earned nine — seven of them in the second half — but the Spirit defended them well.
Most of the shots from inside the box were blocked, including a couple of chances for Andressinha and bang-bang shots late in the first half from Christine Sinclair and Lindsey Horan that were blocked by Bledsoe.
Perhaps the best news was that Horan played 78 minutes after leaving the previous match on Sept. 29 with an injury.
Several players who went overseas for international play last week were held out, including Australian's Hayley Raso and Ellie Carpenter. Parsons said he expects his team to be close to full strength for training leading up to the semifinal match.
Parsons praised the efforts of Andressinha in only her seventh appearance (fourth start of the season) and of Emily Ogle, who made her forst professional start and played 64 minutes (more than doubling the 28 minutes she had played over two appearances off the bench).
• Purce was recognized as the Thorns Supporters' Player of the Year after the match.
• The shutout was the eighth of the season for Portland, the second most in club history for one season. Six of the shutouts came at home.
• Over 12 home matches, the Thorns attracted 241,181 fans for an average of 20,098, both NWSL records. They had five crowds of more than 20,000.
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