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Christine Sinclair helps lead Portland Thorns to win over Utah Royals

The Portland Thorns posted back-to-back losses in their first two games at Providence Park this month after suffering just two defeats at home over the entirety of the last two seasons.

But they didn’t allow that home losing streak to continue Friday night.

The Thorns (4-3-3, 15 points) put in a dominant performance to beat the Utah Royals (2-2-5, 11 points) 2-0 and earn their first home win since April 15 in front of 15,113 fans at Providence Park Friday. 

“Good home win, important home win,” Thorns coach Mark Parsons said. “I’m proud of the group. It’s been a tough couple of weeks.”

Parsons earned his 50th NWSL win in the game and 30th career win as the coach of the Thorns. Parsons is the third NWSL coach to reach the 50-win milestone.

After conceding the opening goal in their first four home games of the season, Portland finally managed to score first at Providence Park Friday.

Thorns midfielder Christine Sinclair sent a pass to Tobin Heath at the top of the box in the 18th minute before getting the ball back from Heath and taking a shot. Sinclair’s shot went off the hand of Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith and the post before falling into the net. Sinclair leads the NWSL with six goals this season.

“I thought [scoring first] really pushed us on,” Parsons said. “It gave us the confidence that we wanted to drive on and be really aggressive.”

Portland extended its lead in the 39th minute when Lindsey Horan got her thigh to a beautiful cross from Meghan Klingenberg and managed to redirect the ball into the back of the net to put the Thorns up 2-0. Horan now has four goals this year.

The Royals, who are led by U.S. Women’s National Team captain Becky Sauerbrunn, had conceded just five goals in eight games before giving up two goals to the Thorns Friday night.

“I thought we were really good in the final third in the first half,” Parsons said. “We didn’t get in there loads, but every time we got in there we were really sharp. I thought we moved the ball well, we moved the ball with purpose in the final third.”

Portland was forced to play Friday’s match without injured center back Emily Sonnett, who was dealing with lower back pain. But the Thorns didn’t miss a beat as they shut down Utah’s attack for the majority of the match and stepped up in a few key moments on defense.

Klingenberg made a tremendous save off the line in the 45th minute to deny Royals forward Amy Rodriguez and preserve the clean sheet. After conceding 12 goals in the first eight games of the season, Portland has now posted shutouts in two consecutive games. 

“What was really strong from the beginning was the great work the backline did,” Parsons said.

The game got a bit chippy in the second half after Utah defender Rachel Corsie took down Heath with a hard foul in the 69th minute. Corsie went over to Heath after the play, but Klingenberg tried to move her away. Corsie then pushed Klingenberg. Corsie was shown a yellow card following the interaction.

The Thorns won the 2016 NWSL Shield and 2017 NWSL Championship title thanks in large part to their success on defense and dominance at Providence Park. Portland posted the best home record in the NWSL and conceded the fewest goals in the league in each of the last two seasons.

Portland has struggled in those areas this year, opening the season with a 1-2-1 record at home and dropping results through glaring errors on defense. 

But the Thorns took a major step forward Friday as they earned the clean sheet and the big win at home.

“They really wanted this win and they got it,” Parsons said.

 

— Jamie Goldberg | jgoldberg@oregonian.com

503-853-3761 | @jamiebgoldberg

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