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Second-half goal lifts Portland Thorns to 1-0 victory against Sky Blue FC

Midge Purce scored the lone goal in the second half to lead the Portland Thorns over Sky Blue FC

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — A second-half goal from substitute Midge Purce allowed the visiting Portland Thorns to beat Sky Blue FC 1-0 Saturday at Yurcak Field.

Purce pounced on Simone Charley’s shot from outside the box, which hit a Sky Blue defender before the ball landed at Purce’s feet. From there, the Thorns player had an easy shot from close range and finished in the 69th minute.

It’s unfortunate,” Sky Blue goalkeeper DiDi Haracic said. “It’s a great shot. It’s a quick release.”

The match started with a first half dominated by the visitors, who found little success in their end product. The Sky Blue defense was forced into staying alert, but the Thorns’ attempt to play long balls over the top led to Haracic handling shots with relative ease. Though the Thorns (3-1-2, 11 points) were close at times, the team seemed to lack the necessary finishing touch.

They’re a very direct team,” Haracic said. “They’ve got big bodies so it’s a bit tough dealing with it, but playing direct, you got to keep a high line to be the stopper sweeper in the back. It was a role the Bosnian international filled well at times. Against the Thorns, Haracic made six saves.

On occasion in the first 45 minutes, Sky Blue (0-5-2, 2 points) managed dangerous attacks. Midfielder Nahomi Kawasumi led the way, bringing the ball up the pitch in a wide position, but much like their opponents, it did not seem like a goal was imminent.

The first half, things didn’t go our way, but they weren’t really dangerous situations for them,” Sky Blue coach Denise Reddy said. “We still fought, we stayed organized. We were lower than we wanted, we really couldn’t have a lot of the ball.”

The second half was livelier, starting with an incident that could have resulted in a penalty for the Thorns. Sky Blue’s Raquel Rodriguez committed a scissor-like foul on Angela Salem in the 48th minute, but play went on.

Both teams had more convincing stretches of play and attempts that seemed closer to goal as the second half proceeded. Before Purce’s goal, the closest opportunity came in the 58th minute to Charley, who found the ball after it came off the post.

Purce’s goal increased the intensity of the game. Sky Blue followed by running up the pitch and almost scoring. Both teams searched for another goal. The Thorns racked up shots, ending with 17, while Sky Blue got close on the counterattack.

I think we started really well on the front foot in the second half,” Reddy said. But Sky Blue was not satisfied with the second-half performance.

“We’re better than that,” she said, adding that the players are “not happy with that, to be fair.”

The result sends the Thorns to the top of the NWSL table, tied with the Chicago Red Stars. Meanwhile, it extends Sky Blue’s winless start to the season to seven matches, and places the team second after a fourth game without scoring a goal.

Sky Blue next heads on the road to face the Utah Royals June 15, following the league’s short World Cup break.

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