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Christine Sinclair and Morgan Weaver score late goals on Wednesday at Washington as Thorns win 2-1.

PMG PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ - Morgan Weaver, pictured after scoring on Aug. 5 at home against North Carolina, scored the winning goal for the Portland Thorns on Wednesday in a road win over the Washington Spirit that puts Portland alone atop the National women's Soccer League standings.Christine Sinclair and Morgan Weaver scored late goals Wednesday, Aug. 10, lifting the Portland Thorns to a come-from-behind 2-1 win over the Washington Spirit in front of 3,037 fans at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia.

The win moves Portland three points ahead of San Diego atop the National Women's Soccer League standings. The Thorns are 7-1-7 for 28 points, unbeaten in 11 games and undefeated on the road this season.


Spirit, 76th minute — Own goal (Bella Bixby). After getting a partial punch on a Washington corner kick, the Thorns' goalkeeper reacted and caught the ball but was falling back into her goal.

Thorns, 84th minute — From a corner kick, Portland defender Kelli Hubly put a shot off the crossbar and Christine Sinclair was first to the rebound for the finish.

Thorns, 90+2 — Morgan Weaver placed a left-footed shot from the top of the penalty area beyond the reach of goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury and just inside the left post. The chance was created when Hina Sugita played a ball up the right wing for Weaver to run down. Dribbling at a defender, Weaver created space for a clean shot from the top of the box.

Big picture — Portland is three points clear of San Diego atop the standings after another character-validating performance on the road. The Thorns and the Wave both have seven regular-season games remaining and will meet in Portland on Aug. 27.

The 11-match unbeaten run is the second longest in club history, one shy of a 12-match run in 2016.

After dropping points late at home last Friday, Aug. 5, in the draw with North Carolina, rallying late for a win on the road was another satisfying result for a club with a lot of good mojo right now.

Washington is the defending NWSL champion and reached the final of the NWSL Challenge Cup this spring. The Spirit are 1-6-9 and tied for 10th place, but still have some of the most dangerous attackers in the league in Rodman and Ashley Hatch, who led the NWSL in goals last season. That they were desperate for their first win since May and still saw Portland rally late is a reflection of the Thorns' determination.

Sophia Smith's status — On her 22nd birthday, Sophia Smith was originally in the starting lineup, but after the match was delayed one hour by lightning, Marissa Everett started at the center forward spot. Coach Rhian Wilkinson said the club was being careful with Smith after she felt "tightness" during the week and again during warmups.

Having Bixby's back — After Bixby stumbled into the net for the Washington goal, Portland's intensity in the attack ramped up.

"We just stuck to our process and obviously pressed a little bit more," Sinclair said. "But the chances were coming. It was just a matter of if it was gonna be one of those nights or one would go in, and luckily a couple of went in late in the game. Bella's had our backs so many times this year, it was nice to pull one out for her."

Despite the own goal, Bixby came up big multiple times, including three one-v-one stops among her seven saves — right up to the final minute of stoppage time when she blocked a breakthrough chance when Trinity Rodman broke in behind the Portland defense.

Playing through pressure — Wilkinson praised the composure her team showed — for the most part — playing through Washington's high press with a lineup that opened with Hubly and Becky Sauerbrunn in the middle of the back line flanked by Meghan Klingenberg (back from injury and replaced by Tegan McGrady in the 61st minute) on the left and Natalia Kuikka on the right. Sam Coffey and Rocky Rodriguez played deep in midfield and Sinclair covered a lot of ground as an advanced midfielder winning first and second balls and making it difficult for the Washington midfield to play teammates into dangerous positions.

"There were a few a few moments where I think the bench was more nervous than they were on the field. … There's a few (times) where we overplayed, but I'd rather that than just resort to just kicking the ball long," Wilkinson said. "That is one of our many ways to play out the back or to handle a goal kick. (The Spirit) have a fantastic attacking lineup. They have a great team. And we saw the real talent that we have, and the depth that we have that we can play through that at times. And at times we played over it and won second phase or flick-ons. Just making sure that there's multiple ways we can hurt the opposition and we're not one-dimensional."

Weaver's hot streak — Her goal was Weaver's fourth of the regular season, tying Sugita for third on the team behind Smith (11) and Sinclair (five). Over her last four appearances, Weaver has produced three goals and two assists.

"I think a lot of that has to do with my teammates," Weaver said. "They always have my back no matter what. I can hear them always on the sideline or, if I'm on the bench, we always have little conversations and I think that helps a lot. I have a lot of trust in my coaches and they have a lot of trust in me. So, my confidence has been a lot better this year. And I think they've done a really good job to help me."

Sinclair leads the way — In addition to scoring the tying goal, her fifth in this regular season, the captain kept the Thorns on task throughout a match that saw both goalkeepers come up big to keep it scoreless until late.

"I thought Christine Sinclair put in an incredible performance," Wilkinson said. "She did so much work for the team, taking care of their pivot, making sure that she was side-to-side and then connecting the units. And then you had Sam (Coffey) and Rocky (Rodriguez), who really showed their skill sets today. The bravery, the clarity of what we were asking from them, the turning forward and being available to one another. I'm really proud of the three midfielders I thought they were. The tempo of the team, the rhythm of the team, and defensively, we're rock solid."

Attack generates chances — Without top scorer Smith, the Thorns still created a series of quality chances in each half. Yazmeen Ryan was assertive and fast on the left wing, Sugita was effective with her technical skills on the right and Everett, the late replacement for Smith, did a nice job of getting to dangerous spots even if none of her one-touch attempts on goal found the net. Fresh legs from Janine Beckie (for Everett in the 66th minute) and Weaver (for Ryan in the 74th) injected energy into the Portland attack and, ultimately produced two goals.

Thorns' next match — Monterrey CF at Portland, Women's International Champions Cup semifinal, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17. Next NWSL match, Portland at North Carolina, 4 p.m. Aug. 24.

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