The Portland Thorns have been one of the best teams in the National Women’s Soccer League in recent years. The club won the NWSL Shield in 2016 before earning the NWSL Championship title last season.
But at the halfway mark of the 2018 season, the Thorns sit in fifth place in the NWSL standings, just outside the playoff picture — at least for now.
Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan led Portland(4-4-4, 16 points) to a 1-1 comeback draw with the Chicago Red Stars (3-3-7, 16 points) at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., Saturday.
Despite picking up a point on the road with the draw, Portland still dropped to fifth place in the table after the Utah Royals became the first team in the NWSL to beat the first-place North Carolina Courage this season.
The Thorns, who have dealt with injuries throughout the 2018 season, were forced to play without two additional starters Saturday after both Tobin Heath and Midge Purce suffered ankle injuries while on international duty with the U.S. women’s national team.
Chicago also made some significant changes to its lineup ahead of the game. Sofia Huerta, Samantha Johnson and Taylor Comeau were all unavailable for the match due to a three-team trade between the Red Stars, Houston Dash and Utah Royals that was still is in the process of being approved by the league office at game time.
But despite the absences, the Red Stars were dominant in the opening minutes of Saturday’s game. Portland hardly touched the ball in the first 15 minutes as Chicago found chance after chance.
Still, it took the Red Stars until the 43rd minute to turn one of their scoring opportunities into a goal.
Chicago star Sam Kerr earned a penalty kick for her side after going down in the box following a late tackle from Thorns defender Kelli Hubly. Thorns goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom proceeded to save the penalty kick attempt from Yuki Nagasato, but Nagasato followed up and buried her second shot to put the Red Stars up 1-0 at home.
After going into halftime down a goal, the Thorns returned to the field for the second half with new energy and resolve.
Kerr got her head to a free kick from Thorns midfielder Andressinha in the 48th minute, but the ball bounced down in the box to Horan, who pounced on it and scored to tie the game up at 1-1. Horan now has five goals this season.
But six minutes after scoring the equalizer, Horan was shown a yellow card for a late slide tackle on Danielle Colaprico. Horan, who has been one of Portland’s top players this season, will be suspended for next Friday’s game against the Houston Dash due to yellow card accumulation.
Both teams continued to fight for the go-ahead goal throughout the second half, but neither side could break through. Chicago outshot Portland 18-11 (7-4 on target) in the game. The Red Stars are winless against the Thorns since 2013.
Thorns winger Hayley Raso, who has missed the entire season with a knee injury, made her season debut in the match as she came on as a substitute in the 76th minute.
2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at www.oregonian.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.