NWSL: Portland packs in record crowd, Chicago wins fifth-straight match

NWSL Thorns record
PORTLAND, OR — AUGUST 11: North Carolina midfielder Debihna looks for a goal chance marked closely by Portland Thorns defender Emily Menges and Dagny Brynjarsdóttir during the Portland Thorns 2-1 victory over the North Caroline Courage at Providence Park, on August 11, 2019, in Portland, OR (Photo by Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Portland, Oregon  — It’s no secret that the Portland Thorns are good at getting fans into Providence Park. A stadium that they share with an MLS club, the Timbers, the Thorns consistently put up big attendance numbers. However, this weekend, they took it to new extremes.

Portland smashed an NWSL attendance record this weekend. A total of 25,218 packed themselves into Providence Park. Previously, the record was held the Orlando Pride, who brought in 23,403 fans on April 23, 2016. However, Orlando has failed to retain those numbers.

Portland never has trouble getting five-digit attendance numbers. Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch said that the fans helped the team defeat the North Carolina Courage, 2-1, on Sunday.

“When we came back on a Wednesday and had like 22,000 at 8 p.m. we couldn’t wait for a weekend game because we knew it was going to be like this,” Franch said. “We ended the way we wanted to. We didn’t start the way we wanted to, but we found a way to win and that was with the help of our fans.”

Crystal Dunn found the back of the net early for the Courage. However, the lead lasted the first half and then disaster struck for the Courage. Two own goals gave the Thorns three points at home. Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé tapped the ball into her own net, while Abby Erceg slotted an own goal past Labbé in the 82nd minute.

After the match, Icelandic international Dagný Brynjarsdóttir said that the support was amazing.

“Obviously North Carolina scored early on us and [the crowd] just gives us this extra power,” Brynjarsdóttir said. “We keep going against North Carolina it’s always a good game. We just have this extra, you know… This crowd was just amazing today.”

Chicago picks up fifth victory in a row over Washington

The Red Stars keep on rolling.

Chicago picked up its fifth-victory in a row, tying the club’s record for most consecutive victories. Chicago might not be sitting in first place right now, but they’re only one point behind the Portland Thorns. The Red Stars have the chance to make history on Wednesday when they host Sky Blue FC for a mid-week match.

Meanwhile, the Washington Spirit stood in their way of getting a fifth win. However, the Spirit at home was no problem for the Red Stars. Yuki Nagasato put her head on the ball in the 65th minute, after Casey Short found her inside the box.

Ashley Hatch had all three chances for the Spirit on goal, but Alyssa Naeher stood up and made three saves. Meanwhile, Aubrey Bledsoe was forced to make two saves against Tierna Davidson and one on Nagsato.

Meanwhile, for Chicago, Arin Wright made her 100th NWSL appearance. The forward had a chance early in the match, as Sam Kerr found her inside the box, but the ball landed to Bledsoe.

Laura Harvey gets revenge on Reign FC

It was another reunion for Laura Harvey and her former club.

Harvey coached Reign FC — when they were formerly known as the Seattle Reign — from 2013-17. However, once FC Kansas City dissolved and the Utah Royals were born, Harvey and Vlatko Andonovski swapped teams. Now, the former FCKC coach was in Seattle and Harvey inherited Andonovski’s team.

The two international coaches met up once again on Sunday afternoon. Harvey got the last laugh, with the Utah Royals picking up a huge 3-1 victory over Reign. Katie Stengel got the match started with a third-minute goal to set the tone. Reign FC were able to pull one back with a goal from Shea Groom in the 41st minute.

However, one goal from the Reign was not enough.

The Royals came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. Lo’eau LaBonta snuck in a goal past Casey Murphy in the 59th minute, giving the Royals the lead. Then, Amy Rodriguez tacked in her seventh goal of the NWSL season to produce a game-winner.

After the match, Harvey said halftime came at the perfect time. She wanted to talk with her side that they needed to specifically be better at throughout the match.

“We had a game plan that we were sticking to in the first half, but it wasn’t working the way we wanted it to,” Harvey said. “We stuck with the same game plan in the second half, but we just tweaked a few things to make it more difficult for the in certain areas and I felt that that enabled us to get Amy and Christen [Press] and Stengel and Vero [Boquete] in the areas that we wanted to get them into.” 

Drama ensues down in Florida

For the first time ever in NWSL history, the Orlando Pride had two players sent off in a regular-season match. Against the Houston Dash, tempers flared and ejections were given out.

Julie King made her return to the NWSL for the first time since late 2017. However, her return didn’t happen the way she wanted it to. Instead, King received a straight red card in the 61st minute for a foul on Kristie Mewis. However, a penalty was not given, since the foul happened right outside the box. Sofia Huerta blasted her shot over the crossbar.

However, disaster ensued late in the match.

Marta was shown her second yellow card after pushing Rachel Daly. In the 85th minute, Marta left the pitch to a standing ovation and with plenty of anger. Daly took a minute to compose herself, but eventually slipped her penalty past Ashlyn Harris.

Orlando played with nine players for the rest of the match. Meanwhile, Houston picked up three points on the road to help shake up the standings. After the match, James Clarkson said he thought his team was fantastic against Orlando.

“I think we were excellent in the second half and we got what we deserved,” Clarkson said. “It was a really exciting game. I’m so pleased with getting another win on the road. Now, we have to back this up with some wins at home. I’m proud of the team and the ladies – they were fantastic.”

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