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Oct. 7, 2022

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Thorns get Pride in opening 2-1 victory

Portland beats Orlando before crowd of 16,000

By , Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter
Published:

PORTLAND – Alex Morgan returned to Portland Sunday wearing Orlando Pride purple.

But it was a pair of new Portland Thorns – with the help of a star who stayed in Portland — who provided the joy for the 16,073 fans at Providence Park for the kick off of the fourth National Women’s Soccer League season.

Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Lindsey Horan scored goals for the Thorns – both set up by Tobin Heath – in the 2-1 Portland win. Morgan, who Portland traded to Orlando in the offseason, had several chances but couldn’t beat Thorns goalkeeper Michelle Betos.

Horan broke a 1-1 tie in the 82nd minute after Heath was able to pick a floating ball out of the air with a touch pass that found Horan wide open 12 yards from goal. Horan calmly placed the ball inside the left post with her left foot.

A 21-yeaar-old who spent the three previous seasons with Paris Saint Germain and played for the United States national team on its World Cup victory tour, was impressed by her first experience playing in front of the Portland fans.

“It’s like having another player on the field,” said Horan. “I love it. I’m so impressed.”

Sunday’s match was the first in club history for the expansion Pride. But it served as a restart of sorts for the Thorns, who improved to 4-0 in home openers. Portland had five new players with international experience in the starting lineup for new coach Mark Parsons.

Parsons was most pleased with the way his team responded after falling behind early, praising the effort more than the execution of his team.

The Portland backline with Emily Menges and Emily Sonnett in the middle, Megan Klingenberg on the left and Kat Williamson on the right held its own against Orlando’s speedy duo of Morgan and Jasmine Spencer.

“I thought the back line, that has been a work in progress during the preseason, the back line was very good tonight,” Parsons said, praising Sonnett’s effort marking Morgan as exceptional.

The other individual standout for Portland was Heath, who was dangerous with the ball throughout the match and at times seemed to be everywhere on the pitch. Heath wore the captain’s arm band in place of injured Christine Sinclair.

“I felt like our response to that first (Orlando) goal was great, and it kind of sets us off on a good page because it wasn’t easy at times and I don’t think our quality is what t can be,” Heath said.

Parsons said that at halftime he strongly suggested the Thorns get Heath the ball more often. “In the second half we got her the ball two, three, four times and special things happened.”

With all of the American star power on the field, the first-half goals came from other corners of the world as Australia national teamer Steph Catley scored for Orlando and Iceland national team forward Brynjarddottir tallied for Portland.

The Thorns first goal came in the 25th minute. Brynjarsdottir finished a cross from Heath to tie the score.

Former Thorns fullback Catley scored in the 12th minute, the first goal in Pride history coming on a free kick taken just outside the right side of the penalty area that bounced past a diving Betos with Morgan making a run towards the goal.

Betos later in the first half made a strong challenge to deny Spencer’s one-on-one chance at the end of a Morgan pass. In the second half she handled a Morgan shot from the right side of the penalty area.

Early in the second half, Allie Long was ruled offside when she her header found the target off a Nadia Nadim cross. Nadim also forced Orlando keeper Ashlyn Harris into an athletic save shortly after halftime. Long, the Thorns all-time leading scorer, narrowly missed a couple of shots from distance and her midfield partnership with Horan seemed to gain confidence as the game progressed.

It will be more than a month before the Thorns play another home match. Portland spends the next four weekends on the road before hosting the Washington Spirit on May 17. Next Saturday the Thorns visit defending NWSL champion FC Kansas City.

Heath said the travel over the next month will require each player to be professional about her preparation.

“It’s going to be a tough stretch, but a stretch that’’s really going to show what we’re made of,” Heath said.

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Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

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