Portland Thorns FC defeat Chicago Red Stars to pick up second NWSL Challenge Cup win

Portland Thorns FC defeated Chicago Red Stars 1-0 on the road, to notch their second win in the west division of the 2021 Challenge Cup. Thorns striker Morgan Weaver scored the lone goal of the match. 

Both teams played to an even tempo to start the match on a chilly night at SeatGeek Stadium, with Chicago dominating the statistical side of the game during the first half. Portland welcomed the return of Weaver to the match after a red card she was issued from the previous game was later rescinded.

The Red Stars regained control of possession and attempted to play balls through, though struggled with pace to keep up with the looks on goal as they ended the first half outshooting Portland 6-3 with three shots on target. The best attempt of the half came from Chicago’s Kealia Watt.

Second half shift

Portland made second-half adjustments, subbing out midfielder Rocky Rodriguez, who despite having a productive game for the Thorns, had been playing with a lingering right foot injury. Portland started the second half on the front foot, putting Chicago under pressure and leveling the shot attempts as the game approached the hour mark.

Just past the hour mark, Weaver made a long run into Chicago’s box where her shot beat Red Stars keeper Cassie Miller and nicked the post to dribble in.

Red Stars made offensive substitutions to try and generate more in the attack, bringing on Katie Johnson and Rachel Hill into the match in place of Tatum Milazzo and Sarah Woldmoe. A quick link up between Vanessa DiBernardo and Johnson failed to find the back of the net, as the match approached the final 15 minutes. 

Johnson forced another save from Thorns keeper Adriana Franch in stoppage time, as Portland held on to the narrow lead and picked up their second win. 

Chicago scoreless in two games

Chicago’s home debut left much to be desired in front of goal as the team, once again, struggled with its finishing in the final third. Solid wing play from Watt aside, the team has struggled offensively since last year’s Challenge Cup. The Red Stars have a platoon of forwards on their roster, but lack that killer instinct. Who will be the target forward for Chicago has been a question since the 2020 offseason.

Look ahead

Portland now lead the Challenge Cup west division with six points as it faces Cascadian rivals OL Reign on April 21. Chicago Red Stars host Kansas City NWSL on April 20. 

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