Houston Dash blanks Portland Thorns 2-0 on Saturday
The Houston Dash handed the Portland Thorns their first loss of this National Women's Soccer League season on Saturday, May 21.
Houston scored once in each half and rode some strong saves from goalkeeper Jane Campbell to beat Portland 2-0 in front of 14,842 fans at Providence Park.
Dash, 45+3 minute — At the end of a long upfield ball, Rachel Daly was alone in the left side of the penalty area and calmly stepped around Emily Menges' recovery run and slid the ball inside the left post. The opportunity came after Menges and Kelli Hubly both converged to try to win a long ball. Houston's Nichelle Prince was able to send the ball into the box for the open Daly. 1-0 Houston.
Dash, 66th — Sophie Schmidt scores into the top of the goal from the corner of the 6-yard box while holding off fellow Portland Pilot and Canadian Christine Sinclair, a difficult finish after a passing combination with Haley Hartson gave Schmidt a step on Sinclair.
Big picture — In three home matches over eight days, the Thorns did not net a win and managed only two points — a disappointing outcome. Portland is 1-1-2 for five points four matches into the regular season — all of them at Providence Park.
The tight schedule meant lineup shuffles. Sophia Smith played only the final 25 minutes. Sam Coffey came off at halftime (rest). Meghan Klingenberg did not play. Natalia Kuikka and Madison Pogarch split time at left wingback. Janine Beckie and Ryan went the distance, Beckie at right wingback and Ryan in midfield, where Rocky Rodriguez started. With some players still learning new roles and teammates, a certain amount of struggle is to be expected.
Before the Houston goal just before halftime, it felt like only a matter of time for the Thorns to score. Portland had at least five quality chances in the first half, but Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell made one-on-one stops to deny Yazmeen Ryan and Morgan Weaver. Also, defender Katie Naughton was in place to clear away a close-range shot from Weaver. The buildup to Ryan's one-on-one chance was beautiful, with the passing moving the ball front to back and eventually producing a quick turn from Rodriguez in midfield on a pass from Menges that Rodriguez immediately sent between Houston defenders for Ryan to run onto. Alas, the shot was blocked by Campbell, who did well to get her right hand down in time.
Ryan also had a header off the crossbar in the second half, but Portland, with the Dash in the lead, struggled to get quality looks from buildup play against a disciplined and determined Houston defense.
Coach Rhian Wilkinson on two points from a three-match week at home: "We were at home. I would have expected more points. What we talked about as a team is (that) we'll take the hits now to learn later, but we have to learn from these moments. That was a very businesslike performance from Houston. And it's another reminder that it doesn't matter which team it is, it doesn't matter what their reputation or their record … if you don't show up on the day and don't deliver, you won't get the result."
Hubly on Houston's first goal: "I think I actually hit the ball but it bounced backward. I think me and Em (Menges) are just really aggressive and we want to win that ball before (the opponent) can turn. And Nichelle is really good when she's on the ball, she can turn and she can run at you. We wanted to get her before she could turn and run. So, very unlucky that it got through both of us. But we also need to communicate more so that it's just maybe one of us stepping instead of both of us."
Wilkinson on scoring against an opponent sitting deep: "Getting on the ball, finding the opposite sides. The secondary movements become critical. The rotation in the middle. We have to live on the ball. We have to live our identity and we've got to switch the point of attack. And when things aren't going well, we're usually not doing those things."
Thorns' next match — Portland at Chicago, 5 p.m. Saturday, May 28 (Twitch).
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.