Portland Thorns settle for 1-1 Sunday draw at Kansas City
Seemingly on the way to a hard-earned victory, the Portland Thorns had to settle for a 1-1 draw on Sunday, Sept. 18, with the Kansas City Current.
Rocky Rodriguez scored late in regulation for Portland but Hailie Mace scored from a free kick in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
The result leaves Kansas City third and Portland fourth in the National Women's Soccer League standings. The Thorns have three matches left in the regular season, two in the next seven days.
Thorns, 87th minute — Rocky Rodriguez put home her own rebound after her initial attempt bounced off the left post and back across the face of goal. She won a battle for possession at the top of the penalty area to create her first shot.
Current, 90+4 — Hailey Mace's shot from 23 yards deflects off of Portland's defensive wall and beyond the reach of diving Bella Bixby.
Big picture: The two points dropped in stoppage time could be quite costly in terms of playoff positioning, especially since the Thorns face quick home matches Wednesday against Racing Louisville and next Sunday against Chicago. The Thorns did a lot of things well, but some big saves from former teammate Adrianna Franch kept Portland from a comfortable victory.
The postgame message from coach Rhiann Wilkinson and players Rodriguez and Sam Coffey was that the Thorns will quickly turn the page from what is a stinging result.
With three games remaining, the Thorns are 8-3-8 for 32 points. They sit in fourth place, but have played one fewer match than third-place Kansas City (33 points), second-place Houston (33 points) and first-place San Diego (34 points). Win their final two home matches next week, and the Thorns will be in position to finish in first place when they visit NJ/NY Gotham on Oct. 1.
A.D. Franch stands tall: Former Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch was credited with eight saves, more than half of them with her feet. She denied several chances for Sophia Smith — including a gutsy play that ended with both Franch and Smith needing treatment, but continuing — and a couple for Christine Sinclair and Morgan Weaver. The Thorns gave Franch plenty of credit, but needed to be more clinical with their chances on a day they outshot KC 28-11 (9-4 on goal).
"(Franch is) playing well. I'll give credit to her. But we need to put the ball where she isn't," Portland coach Rhiann Wilkinson said. "She did do very well with (the saves), but we have to be better at finding the bottom corners. Our forwards are very frustrated after the game this game."
Creating chances: Wilkinson said she is happy the amount of chances her team created reflect an overall strong performance in hot weather conditions. Midfielder Sam Coffey said the team won't worry about failing to convert so many opportunities.
"We are so dangerous in and around goal. We're really unpredictable. And, yes, today we definitely could have been more clinical. We're going to take that we're going to grow with that we're going to be relentless in our in our pursuit of just improving that that side of the game. But it's not a concern."
Quick turnaround: Portland will fly home Monday, train Tuesday and play Racing Louisville on Wednesday, so the frustration players expressed with Sunday's result will need to be channeled into proper recovery, physically and emotionally.
"On the road we take a point. I think it should have been three in terms of our performance, but if we don't put away our opportunities, this is what can happen," Wilkinson said. "And that's a big piece of this season. But it's about resetting. I don't want to see anyone with their heads low. I thought there was a lot to be proud of from the performance, and it's about rest and recovery and we go again at home where we haven't played in a little while and we're looking forward to it."
Said Coffey: "I think we're all leaving here with a little rage inside. But we can't let it be a distraction. We just have to channel that that frustration and that anger into our game on Wednesday."
Next Thorns match: Racing Louisville at Portland, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21 (Paramount+).
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