Sky Blue FC (2-10-3, 9 points) earned a hard-fought road point against the Portland Thorns FC (7-2-6, 27 points) late Saturday night, drawing 1-1 with the 2018 runners-up in front of 19,070 fans at Providence Park.
Portland captain Christine Sinclair scored from the spot in the opening half to give the Thorns the lead, but Imani Dorsey scored the late equalizer to snatch an important point in what is undoubtedly the most hostile venue in the NWSL.
“Disappointing night,” Thorns head coach Mark Parsons told team writer Richard Farley after the match. “We’re at home, where a few more chances should be putting that match out of reach for Sky Blue. But credit to them. They’ve done it again, to us,
“We had patches where we were very good creating chances, managing transitioning, not taking some of those chances. And then we had patches where Sky Blue got into it, [we] probably gave up one too many looks [and] they managed to put one home.”
Saturday night isn’t the first time in recent years that Sky Blue has managed to earn points against the Thorns at Providence Park, the NWSL’s most intimidating stadium for visiting teams. Sam Kerr led Sky Blue to a 3-1 win over the Thorns in 2017, and Carli Lloyd scored the equalizer in last year’s 1-1 draw at Providence Park.
Saturday night’s draw wasn’t enough to lift Sky Blue out of last place, though, as they continue to trail the Orlando Pride, who had a bye this weekend, by two points.
The draw also wasn’t enough to keep the Thorns atop league standings, as the North Carolina Courage’s win over the Washington Spirit earlier in the day (postponed from the night before because of inclement weather) put the reigning league champions back in first place.
Both teams were without their U.S. women’s national team stars, as the U.S. kicked off its 2019 World Cup Victory Tour on Saturday night as well. Sky Blue was also without Raquel Rodriguez, as she is away on international duty with Costa Rica at the Pan American Games, something that no doubt played a factor in the scoreline.
The visitors also had to finish the match with only 10 players after second-half substitute Amandine Pierre-Louis, who entered the match in the 71st minute, picked up two yellow cards in her 21-minute shift and was ejected from the match.
As suggested by Pierre-Louis’s quick yellow card accumulation in the match, the game was a physical one from practically whistle to whistle. That played into a Portland goal in the 39th minute, following a foul inside the area by Sky Blue center back Estelle Johnson on Hayley Raso.
Sinclair stepped to the spot and cooly put her shot past fellow Canadian Kailen Sheridan in goal for Sky Blue. The goal is Sinclair’s fourth in as many matches, bringing her 2019 total to seven goals in eight appearances.
Despite fighting hard for the equalizer, Sky Blue was unable to bring the score back level until the 69th minute, when Dorsey, pushed back to left back from her usual attacking position, was able to score from the top of the 18.
On the play, midfielder Liz Eddy notched the assist after sending a low diagonal pass from the near corner through traffic, right to Dorsey’s feet at the top of the box. Dorsey then one-timed a low shot through the Portland defense and past goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom for the equalizing goal.
Portland, though, will no doubt feel they were robbed of the full three points, as there were two controversial non-calls in the match, both on Thorns forward Midge Purce.
The first came in the 33rd minute, when Purce was shoulder checked off the ball Sky Blue defender Gina Lewandowski inside the box.
The second came in the 85th minute, when Purce was tackled from behind by Dorsey while making a run towards goal. Although Dorsey did successfully get the ball, the contact with Purce on the play left her writhing on the field in pain, and Sky Blue was lucky the Thorns again weren’t awarded a penalty kick.
Reporters at the game tweeted that in both cases penalties were not awarded because the official, Mark Allatin, did not determine either challenge to be a foul.
Sky Blue concludes its three-game road stretch in Sandy, Utah, where they will take on Utah Royals FC on Wednesday, Aug. 7. That match kicks off at 10 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on Yahoo! Sports.
Full highlights of #PORvNJ are below.