Portland Thorns FC extend first-place lead with 2-1 win over Gotham FC, remain unbeaten in past eight matches

Portland Thorns FC extended their first-place lead in the standings with a 2-1 win against fifth-place NJ/NY Gotham FC. Sophia Smith and Christine Sinclair recorded goals for Portland in the win as both U.S. and Canadian international players made their return to Providence Park in NWSL action. The win was their 10th of the regular season.

Carli Lloyd scored for Gotham FC.

The home side got off to a quick start against Gotham FC, applying pressure and trying to connect in the final third. Though the team was slightly disjointed in the opening 15 minutes as its Olympic players were integrated back into the starting lineup. Lindsey Horan tried to connect with Smith, and Rocky Rodriguez served a cross into the box for Crystal Dunn that forced a save from Kalien Sheridan.

The Thorns ultimately began to exploit the space given in Gotham’s three back, as Smith recorded the opening goal in the 29th minute with pressure against Gotham defender Erica Skroski.

The goal was Smith’s fifth for the Thorns this season as the forward has been a key piece in the attack for the club in the absence of their international players during the Olympics. With their return, Smith is likely to continue her impressive streak in front of the goal. But the striker said she is more focused on her team, which is riding an eight-game unbeaten streak.

“It’s an honor to play alongside everyone, regardless of who’s out on the field,” Smith said after the match.

“We just have a collective mentality that we want to win. We want to give everything that we have, and put everything on the line for each other. So honestly, it’s just amazing to play with everyone on this team.”

Smith’s breakthrough reignited Portland’s attack as the team continued to effectively counter press and create more chances, including an additional attempt on goal from Smith that was ruled offside just a few moments after her opening goal. Smith’s relentless pursuit in the final third continued to pay off as she was fouled in the box and a penalty was called after a foul from Estelle Johnson. Sinclair converted the penalty to give the team a two-goal lead before the half. 

Second half shift

Despite the Thorns dominating the first half in offensive stats, Gotham coach Freya Coombe made some tactical adjustments after the break, ditching the initial three back and bringing on Imani Dorsey to replace Skroski. 

Gotham’s midfield continued its ball movement through the midfield, with Lloyd getting an early chance on goal in the opening 10 minutes of the second half that went just wide. The overall effort eventually paid off in the 78th minute as Lloyd pulled Gotham FC within one after connecting on a header. 

Look Ahead

The win gives Portland a five-point cushion in the standings with 32 points, as the team is currently unbeaten over the past two months. The club has had four games in the past 11 days including competing in the WICC tournament. They have another quick turnaround and will face their pacific northwest rivals OL Reign on Sunday. Gotham FC remain in fifth place with 21 points and host Orlando Pride on Sunday.

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