NWSL

Seattle Reign FC Fall 2-1 to Portland Thorns in NWSL Semifinal Match in front of 14,179 fans.

Playing at Providence Park for the second time in two weeks—this one for a trip to the NWSL Championship—Seattle Reign FC fell 2-1 to Portland Thorns FC.

The semifinal match featured a first-half goal from Jasmyne Spencer before Portland came back with two of their own. Portland’s win means the Thorns will stay home for next weekend’s NWSL Championship.

Reign FC received an early chance when Jess Fishlock drew a foul from Tobin Heath. The play gave Seattle a free kick from just outside the box, allowing Megan Rapinoe to take a shot on goal. Her right-footed blast was blocked away by Portland’s wall before it could reach goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.

Lydia Williams turned in a diving stop in the eighth minute, logging her first save and keeping Christine Sinclair from scoring. Steph Catley took a corner kick in the 12th minute after Reign FC’s strong buildup ended with Portland knocking the ball out of play. She elected to play the ball short to Theresa Nielsen, who crossed the ball in. Rumi Utsugi attempted a volley but had her shot blocked at the top of the box. Rapinoe tried another shot in the 16th minute after chasing down a loose ball, but had her attempt blocked to the side by Emily Sonnett. As play moved down to the other end, Williams and the defense combined to keep the Thorns’ multiple close-range shots out.

Rapinoe won a corner kick for Seattle in the 25th minute after tangling with Ellie Carpenter down the sideline. The corner kick could not produce a goal, but Seattle did win an important free kick minutes later when Sonnett brought down Fishlock outside the penalty area. The reckless tackle resulted in a yellow card for the Portland defender, giving her two straight matches with a booking.

Standing just a step outside the box on the left wing, Rapinoe hit an in-swinging ball over Franch and off the crossbar. Jasmyne Spencer was there to field the rebound and knock it home for the first goal of the day. The Spencer strike gave Seattle a lead in the 29th minute and marked the second goal of the season for the Reign FC forward.

Jodie Taylor nearly doubled the lead in the 33rd minute. Seattle’s center forward stood 20 yards away from the goal, waiting for a looping ball to come down. She hit out of the air for a blazing volley, hoping to power it past Franch. The Portland keeper backpedaled just enough to get into position for a sprawling save. Taylor would go for goal again in the 37th minute, corralling the ball inside the six and turning for a left-footed shot that Franch saved.

Seattle put together an exciting chance in the 39th minute. Theresa Nielsen took the ball out wide and laced a dangerous cross in for her teammates. The ball was deflected away from a streaking Spencer before finding Rapinoe on the back post. Just as Rapinoe re-directed the ball into the goal mouth, Franch was there for a huge save.

A stretch of physical play began in the 40th minute when Fishlock picked up a yellow card on a fierce challenge. Sonnett was whistled for a foul of her own in the 41st after driving her cleat into Lydia Williams’ midsection while chasing a cross. Sonnett was given a stern talking-to by the official but avoided her second yellow card.

Portland got its equalizer minutes before the halftime break. Lindsey Horan dribbled out of the midfield with Heath running at her side. As the defense encroached, Horan slid a pass to Heath, who beat Lydia Williams to supply the Thorns a tying goal 43 minutes into the match. This tally brought the teams to halftime level at one.

Emily Menges began the second half by picking up Portland’s second yellow card. The Thorns’ defender struggled to keep pace with Spencer as the dribbled down the sideline, tackling the Seattle forward violently. Reign FC’s back-to-back corner kicks in the 52nd minute represented their first scoring opportunities of the second half, but neither ended with a shot on goal. Rapinoe got her name in the referee’s book after a 55th minute collision with Heath.

Allie Long would follow with a yellow card of her own five minutes later, giving Seattle three in the game’s first hour. Both teams struggled to find any offensive rhythm as whistles broke up much of the first half’s early minutes. Portland looked to have two decent chances in the 67th and 69th minutes, but both were called back as Thorns players drifted offside. The second drew the ire of the crowd as Heath knocked the ball in and began celebrating with her teammates before realizing the linesman had their flag in the air.

Fishlock found some daylight in the 72nd minute and used it to uncork a shot. The ball only made it as far as Emily Sonnett, who fell to the turf after blocking the blistering attempt. The Thorns countered with a long span of possession in the 75th minute but couldn’t crack the Seattle defense.

The second and decisive goal for Portland happened in the 77th minute. Horan made a purposeful run into the box and got into place for a header on goal. Christine Sinclair picked her out and located a cross toward the penalty spot. Horan elevated and sent her header off the post, which careened into the net to put the Thorns in the lead.

Seattle used all three of its substitutions after Portland pushed ahead. Bev Yanez came in first, replacing Spencer in the 78th minute. Morgan Andrews was the next sub to enter, as she relieved Rumi Utsugi in the midfield at the 82’ mark. Fishlock left in the 84th, giving way to Elizabeth Addo. The Ghanaian forward made her impact felt immediately, as she drew a foul to give Reign FC a set piece from 30 yards out. Rapinoe sent the kick into the box, and after it rattled around between several players, went out for a throw-in.

The match came to a close without another major chance for Seattle. Portland head coach Mark Parsons used the five minutes of stoppage time to insert Elizabeth Ball for a hobbled Sonnett. The final whistle came soon after that, bringing the end of Reign FC’s 2018 season.

Portland advances to play the winner of North Carolina and Chicago in the NWSL Championship. The final match is scheduled for Saturday, September 22 at Providence Park.

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