She wins tackles. She maintains possession. She is tough in the air. She is critical in transition. And she’s a deadly weapon for the Portland Thorns in and around the box.
It was Horan’s success around goal that fueled Portland Sunday night. Horan scored two goals to lead the Thorns (7-5-5, 26 points) to a big 3-1 win over the Houston Dash (5-7-5, 20 points) in front of 15,327 fans at Providence Park Sunday.
“We’re seeing someone that is doing two or three players’ jobs week-in and week-out and she’s one person,” Mark Parsons said. “It’s fantastic.”
The Thorns still remain outside of playoff position in fifth place in the NWSL standings with seven games left in the regular season, but the win enabled Portland to stay solidly within striking distance of the fourth-place Chicago Red Stars and third-place Orlando Pride, who both have 28 points.
Horan is now tied for the league lead in goals scored with nine this season. It’s a goal scoring rate that would usually be associated with a striker, but Horan has found the back of the net while consistently playing as a dominant central midfielder.
The 24-year-old opened the scoring Sunday in the 16th minute when she beat Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell to a cross from Thorns defender Emily Sonnett and headed-home her first goal of the game. Horan then found her second goal of the night in the 31st minute after Campbell failed to control a headed shot from Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic. Horan got to the loose ball and buried her shot to give Portland a 2-0 lead.
“She’s a complete midfielder that does so well on both sides of the ball,” said Parsons about Horan.
The Dash closed the gap in the 37th minute after Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch made a diving stop on a shot from Taylor Comeau. Franch tried to knock the ball away, but it fell right to Dash forward Kealia Ohai, who scored.
Portland rallied back in the second half as Crnogorcevic got on the end of a pass from Hayley Raso in 48th minute and scored to give the Thorns a 3-1 lead. After recording just one goal in her first nine games as a Thorn, Crnogorcevic now has three goals in the last five matches.
The Thorns continued to pressure the Dash throughout the second half. Raso appeared to tap in a goal in the 69th minute, but was called offside. Portland outshot Houston 19-9 in the game.
“Really confident, committed and disciplined performance from everyone,” Parsons said. “It was a really collective performance. The players have been in a great place for the last few weeks.”
Portland has now won two games in a row for the first time since May. The Thorns will try to extend their winning streak to three games in a row for the first time this season when the club travels to face last place Sky Blue FC Saturday.
“This is going to be the tightest run for a playoff spot in the history of the league,” Parsons said. “I think what we thrive on is when the pressure is on and the business end is here and it’s a must-win, it brings out the best in us.”