Sophia Smith scored early and Hina Sugita late as the Portland Thorns won 2-1 on Friday at Racing Louisville to move to the top of National Women's Soccer League standings.
Portland goalkeeper Bella Bixby came up with several big stops, including a fingertip effort on a Jessica McDonald breakaway.
Thorns, seventh minute — Smith spun past a defender at the center stripe and dribbled with pace deep into the penalty area , and then angled a left-footed shot inside the right post.
Louisville, 29th minute — Alex Chidiac scored from a tight angle, beating goalkeeper Bixby to the near post after a couple of nifty touches along the goal line deep in the penalty eluded the Thorns defense.
Thorns, 74th minute — Sugita put home a rebound at the end of a quick combination buildup that led to a Rocky Rodriguez shot. Louisville goalkeeper saved that shot but Sugita reacted first to the rebound and passed it into the open goal with her left foot.
Big picture: Unbeaten in nine consecutive matches — and unbeaten on the road all season (two wins, four draws) — Portland survived a game of challenges on Friday to move ahead of San Diego in the NWSL standings. The Thorns improved to 6-1-6 for 24 points from 13 games, two points more than San Diego has through 13 contests.
In the first game after a week off, and the first after the international window, Portland benefited from Smith's dynamic finishing ability early and Sugita's commitment to follow up a shot. … Portland was a bit better on the ball in the second half, in part a credit to the play of Sam Coffey in midfield. But the Thorns had to work hard in a physical contest and managed to cash in their one big chance of the second half. It was another example of the Thorns depth. Among team members who didn't play were Christine Sinclair, Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges and Janine Beckie. The team wasn't at its best, but found a way to grind out another win.
Rhian Wilkinson's reaction: The Thorns' coach was proud of a "gritty" effort, but said her side made the game more difficult than it might have been.
"We were not good enough on the ball. And that's a piece that we're going to turn into (a lesson)," she said. "If we buy into this transitional game, which was what was happening today, it's exhausting. We lose our patterns, we lose our rhythm. So there's huge learnings we'll take from this win. But I'd rather keep learning from the wins than have to go through the losses."
Bixby's big game: Portland's goalkeeper Bixby tied a season high with six saves, a couple of them diving to her left and a win-saving one-on-one denial with McDonald in on goal on a direct chance that started with a punt from Lund.
"(Louisville's) directness is so, so dangerous if you can't pick up the second ball," Bixby said. "I think that we dealt with it when we could. I think that we did well to keep calm and deal with the threats."
McGrady's debut: Four days after joining Portland in a trade that send Madison Pogarch to San Diego, Tegan McGrady came on at halftime to play left back.
"It's kind of been a whirlwind of emotions and just a lot of things going on," McGrady said. "But the girls, the team, the coaches have all been so welcoming and made this process easier than I could have ever imagined. And I can't wait to continue to get to know everyone and build those bonds."
Lineup notes: With the temperatures around 80 degrees and humidity above 65% in Louisville, and with players reacclimating from international duty, several Thorns split duty. In midfield, Taylor Porter played the first half and Sam Coffey the second. Also at halftime, McGrady came on for Natalia Kuikka and Megan Nally shifted from left back to the right side. Marissa Everett came on for Smith in the 85th and Michele Vasconcelos for Morgan Weaver in stoppage time. The club announced Friday that Vasconcelos, who joined Portland as a national team replacement player, has been signed for the remainder of the season.
Next Thorns match: North Carolina at Portland, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5 (CBS Sports Network).
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