Beautiful weather and an atmosphere of excitement drew 19,672 fans to Providence Park for what was undoubtedly a dominant performance from the Thorns. Both teams hypothetically had the fire to make the difference in this match; the last time the two met, the Thorns snapped the Dash’s unbeaten streak, and the Thorns were coming off a disappointing loss against FCKC in the midweek.
Long was back from her two game excused absence, but Parsons opted to sit her and Nadim, for a pairing of Henry and Horan with Sinclair in almost a midfield role of sorts instead. Raso and Dagny were the strikers, and Klingenberg was in a more advanced position as a wingback with Sykes slipping into the same position on the right. The Emilies and Reynolds made up the backline, with Franch between the sticks.
Henry had the first shot of the game; a high flying header which went clear over the bar in second minute, but it was Franch who needed to make the first save, gathering the ball in the sixth minute. Andressinha pulled Horan down in the seventh minute; the touch was hard enough for the whistle, and entirely unnecessary. It was this that would ultimately be the lasting tone of the game; the Dash’s frustration getting the better of them and resulting in sloppy, needlessly harsh defending.
Raso went down in the 11th minute, much to the frustration of Van Wyk, who made it clear she didn’t think there was anything to it. The play would lead to a good chance from Sinclair, though nothing was made of it.
The Thorns first drew blood in the 14th minute, when Horan’s head knocked a clean cross from Klingenberg past Campbell. The Dash might have equalized in the 29th, had a spot of strong of defending from Sinclair, who continues to show she can still do it all, resulted in a cleared ball.
It was Portland who would receive the first yellow of the game in the 32nd minute. There was a bit of confusion around this, as it appeared that the card was presented to Horan, which would have seen her sit for the upcoming Cascadia derby on card accumulation. As it was, the card ended up belonging to Dagny.
Again, the Dash thought they might have equalized in the 34th minute, but the offside flag was up, and it was waved off. In the 40th minute, Sinclair rung one off the top cross bar, and it was only a slip from Dagny that avoided the Thorns adding to the score line in the first half.
The second half was more or less, all Thorns, all the time, straight from the gate. Nadim replaced Dagny, and it took her three minutes to make a difference, when she assisted a Henry header in the 49th minute.
In the 54th minute, Long replaced Henry, to much applause. Not long after, the game became what it had threatened to be since the first minute; chippy, confusing, and perhaps a little out of the referree’s reach. Six of the game’s 7 yellow cards were handed out in the last 30 minutes of the game; 5 of them coming between the 70th and 80th minute. Beckie got a soft yellow in the 60th minute; whilst it was a callable offense within itself, both sides had got away with much worse earlier on in the game, a few times without so much as a whistle.
Nadim just missed a perfectly placed pass from Raso in the 61nd, , Raso herself missing not a minute later.
In the 70th minute, Sinclair received a yellow, her third of the season. Three minutes later, Daly received a yellow card for dissent. Whilst this card was entirely avoidable, nothing would have changed the straight red she received in the 79th minute for violent conduct. Whilst Sonnett arguably embellished the contact, the fact of the matter remains that elbows or hands to the face is an automatic red by the rule of the game, regardless of intent or intensity of the action.
Dash fans, perhaps, might feel hard done by, for although the majority of fouls in the game were called in their favor, they walked away with the majority of the cards. Daly’s red was the second such red card in two Dash/Thorns games refereed by Unkel. Unfortunately for them, both of the red cards were clear-cut calls by the rules of the game, and not particularly something that could be challenged.
Barring an absolute miracle, the Dash are winding down this season. With five games to go, they’re six points outside of the play offs, with the in form Orlando and tenacious Reign and Sky Blue above them. They have no permanent coach, their captain, Lloyd, is out injured for at least another couple of games, and one of their remaining best offensive players will now miss the net game.
The Thorns, however, are looking to earn their second straight home playoff game. Whilst the shield is a long shot; they have a game in hand and are six points from the Courage, they do currently sit five points above Chicago, though they also have a game in hand there. They seem to have hit their stride recently, barring the Kansas City game, and the injury list is lighter than it’s been all season. With the Euros done and dusted, the European players have nowhere else to be, and nothing else to play for, and both the club and the fans are ramping up to make the end of the season the best yet in the Rose City.