Portland Thorns win big, pummel visiting Orlando Pride
The Portland Thorns won't be fully together for a while, and play only one home match over the next six weeks. But, ahead of an international break, they gave themselves and their supporters a thrilling afternoon as the club celebrated Pride, Juneteenth and Father's Day with a smashing performance in a 6-0 win over the Orlando Pride in front of 16,185 fans at Providence Park.
Sophia Smith scored twice from distance in the second half, after Hina Sugita and Becky Sauerbrunn converted for a 2-0 halftime lead. Natalia Kuikka and Taylor Porter added their first Thorns' goal in a second-consecutive emphatic win for Portland.
Thorns, 21st minute — Hina Sugita drives home a left-footed volley, making a run from the off wing and meeting a whipped in cross from Janine Beckie after Beckie won back possession and delivered a quick ball behind the defense to the far post. 1-0 Thorns.
Thorns 25th minute — Becky Sauerbrunn puts home a rebound after Orlando goalkeeper Erin McLeod dove to block a Sam Coffey free kick. 2-0 Thorns.
Thorns, 63rd minute —Smith collected an upfield pass from Sauerbrunn with her back to goal, spun away from a defender and drove a low shot from 22 yards inside the left post. 3-0 Thorns.
Thorns, 79th minute —On a terrific buildup created a near miss, Natalia Kuikka kept possession and, after sending a short pass to Sugita, found gaping space 10 yards from the goal to receive a pass from Olivia Moultrie and finish. 4-0 Thorns.
Thorns, 86th minute — Smith strikes again, this time with a left-footed bullet after receiving a pass in space from Yazmeen Ryan. 5-0 Thorns.
Thorns, 90+1 minute — After the last of Orlando's 14 fouls, Ryan was allowed to roll her free kick to an open spot in the penalty area and Porter calmly finished the chance. 6-0 Thorns.
• Big picture —With 10 players slated to depart for international play, the Thorns put together a dynamic performance for their home fans and move to a tie for second in the National Women's Soccer League standings. At 4-1-4 for 16 points, Portland is tied with Chicago. San Diego (5-2-3, 18 points) is in first place.
Portland has scored two or more goals in five consecutive matches, with three wins and two draws in that stretch. It outscored Houston 4-0 and Orlando 6-0 in consecutive performances. With the international absences ahead, the Thorns will have a high standard to maintain when they return to action in early July.
• Quality on display —Coach Rhian Wilkinson joked after the game that she taught Sophia Smith how to strike a ball. Both of Smith's second-half strikes came from outside the penalty area and the young forward is now up to eight goals on the season.
The best goal of the day was the first, with Sugita making a smart run off the back shoulder of a defender and meeting Beckie's curling delivery with a perfect left-footed volley.
• Chances galore —While four of the goals came late, the last three aided by Orlando's disinterest in defending, Portland controlled the game with its pressure, and re-pressing when losing possession, particularly in the attacking areas. The Thorns speed in closing down Pride players and decisive distribution had the visitors on their heels for long stretches of the match. The result was a 26-6 advantage in shots taken (12-3 on goal).
• Smith on a roll — With her two goals Sunday, Sophia Smith is second in the NWSL this regular season with eight goals, one more than the seven she scored last season. Alex Morgan scored twice Sunday for San Diego and leads the league with 11 goals. Her goals were Portland's first two this season scored from outside the penalty area.
•A day of firsts —Becky Sauerbrunn and Taylor Porter each scored her first goal for the Thorns, and Natalia Kuikka scored her first regular-season NWSL goal — each of them setting off unique celebrations that capture the togetherness this team appears to be developing. Sauerbrunn also recorded her first Thorns assist, the ninth different Portland player to assist on a goal this season.
Sauerbrunn now has scored five NWSL goals. Her previous goal was scored for Utah on Sept. 6, 2019 in a Royal 1-0 win over the Thorns.
• Bixby comes up big — While she wasn't very busy, Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby came up with a couple of big saves. In the 16th minute, she reacted with her left hand to deny a close-range chance for Orlando's Meggie Daugherty Howard and at the hour mark Bixby was at full stretch to deny a dipping 35 shot from Darian Jenkins.
• Rhian Wilkinson's reaction: The coach was, naturally, quite pleased with her team's performance. But she emphasized it is only one game — albeit a fun one.
"I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. It was a good performance. And we'll keep pushing," she said. "And, thank you to the internationals for leaving us in the best possible position, and those that will be here now take over for this next period of games.
"Look, we're one poor performance away from being asked all the opposite questions. Today, everything went very, very well. What I will say is from my arrival until today, we continue to push our standards and what we expect from one another, and today was one of those days where things really came together."
• Sauerbrunn's first Thorns goal almost came on an early corner kick, but Orlando goalkeeper Erin McLeod made a terrific save. Her breakthrough came by following up a well-struck free kick by Sam Coffey.
"I'm rarely near the goal, so today was a very weird day, but I loved every second of it," Sauerbrunn said.
She said her celebration was spontaneous. "I'm sure I was like briefly possessed by something. I was just super excited," said Sauerbrunn, who did a little dance before she was engulfed by happy teammates. "I just saw people looking at me like, 'Oh, my god.' They were as bewildered as I was."
• Sauerbrunn on the team's form, with two dominating wins after a late lead turned into a disappointing 2-2 draw at San Diego:
"It feels really good going into (an international) break. We still got a lot to work on. But it's really good to see so many different goal scores, and so many different relationships being made on the field. I think we're at a point right now where things are really gelling, and it's really exciting to be playing right now."
Next Thorns match — Portland at Angel City FC, 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 1.
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