Scoreless draw for Thorns, Red Stars
Given the circumstances, the National Women's Soccer League Challenge Cup is about growth more than about results.
At least that's true until the knockout phase starts.
So, despite a somewhat frustrating scoreless draw on Wednesday, the Portland Thorns can find positive steps from their match with the Chicago Red Stars.
"If we can learn and grow from every single game, I think we'll be in a good spot," Thorns coach Mark Parsons said.
The 0-0 result at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, leaves Portland and Chicago tied at the bottom of the standings, each with a single point. All eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals after four preliminary games determine seeding, so the early results don't eliminate any team.
"There's no such thing, you go to World Cups and Olympics, where a team comes out and they look perfect and they stay perfect," Parsons said. "It's going to be a grind. We have to be ready to review and reflect better than every other team so that we can win the race in growing. If we grow and grow and grow, and are our best within three to four games, we'll be in a good spot to be able to launch from there."
Both teams had young lineups for their second contest of the tournament. The Thorns changed seven starters from their opening loss to North Carolina. The Red Stars went with a completely different lineup than in their opening loss to Washington.
Portland had the majority of possession and had multiple scoring chances in each half, but did not break through. Chicago blocked eight shots, including timely interventions that kept the Thorns from scoring.
The Thorns had three dangerous chances very late in the match. In the 88th minute a low cross just missed Tyler Lussi in front of goal. In the 90th minute a chance for Emily Ogle was blocked and skittered just wide. And a stoppage-time shot from distance by Autumn Smithers took a deflection and then hit the crossbar.
Portland had five decent scoring chances during the first half. The best of those was a volley from Morgan Weaver from six yards out that Chicago goalkeeper Emily Boyd.
The Thorns outshot the Red Stars 16-5, including 3-0 on goal. Parsons pointed to luck, Chicago's defensive work, and a need for more precise finishing as reasons his team didn't score.
"It's tough to walk away from a game creating so many chances and not putting it in the back of the net, but we created them. We didn't create enough against North Carolina," Parsons said.
The Thorns busy week continues with a 7 p.m. Sunday match against the Washington Spirit. That game, like the rest of the tournament, can be seen on the CBS All Access streaming service.
Christine Sinclair, Lindsey Horan, Meghan Klingenberg and goalkeeper Bella Bixby each started her second game of the tournament. Parsons said it is critical to build fitness for his key players. Horan played 69 minutes and Sinclair 82 minutes after going the distance in Saturday's loss to North Carolina.
Sinclair, Horan and Klingenberg "got important fitness work that they need. We need to make sure they're in the best physical place." Parsons said.
One of those key players, defender Becky Sauerbrunn, was not available because of a hip injury.
Bixby did not have to make a save in the shutout, but the Oregon State and Rex Putnam High graduate handled crosses and distributed the ball well in her second consecutive start for injured Adrianna Franch.
Three new starting defenders were Smithers and Christen Westphal in central defense and Madison Pogarch at right back. At halftime, Emily Menges came on for Klingenberg, Westphal shifted to right back and Pogarch flipped to left back.
In midfield, Ogle and Celeste Boureille started alongside Horan. Up front, Morgan Weaver and Simone Charley flanked Sinclair.
Rocky Rodriguez and Angela Salem saw time off the bench in midfield in the second half. At forward, Lussi replaced Weaver early in the second half and Marissa Everett came on late for Charley.
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