The Red Stars hadn’t defeated the Thorns since 2013, until today.
The third seeded Portland Thorns FC traveled to the midwest to play the second seed Chicago Red Stars in the semifinals of the NWSL Playoffs. In the win-or-go-home match, the Red Stars scored early off a long run by forward and NSWL’s leading scorer Sam Kerr in the eighth minute. Kerr’s goal proved to be the difference as Thorns FC was shut out in a 1-0 loss.
At halftime, Thorns FC coach Mark Parsons told the broadcast that his initial lineup “didn’t stretch” the Red Stars like he had anticipated so he substituted midfielder Elizabeth Ball for striker Haley Raso.
The substitution made a difference since Portland created much better chances in the second half. In the 63rd minute Raso made a run in the box but her shot was saved to keep Thorns FC scoreless. Three minutes later, a Portland free kick was on goal but was also saved by Red Star goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Then, in the 67th minute Parsons substituted off midfielder Andressa Cavalari Machry for midfielder Margaret Purce. But it wasn’t enough as the Thorns could not put one in the net.
Only four points differentiated the teams in the standings, but head to head matchups have been dominated by Portland including two 3-0 victories over the Red Stars at home. But, this game was played on the road where the teams tied 4-4 early in the regular season.
Portland Thorns FC entered the playoffs in a slump highlighted by a 6-0 demolishing from the hands of the North Carolina Courage in Providence Park. Their poor play ultimately cost them a home semifinal game. By the game's end, Portland had surpassed over 300 minutes of gametime since their last goal.
The Red Stars will go on to play the NWSL Shield winners, the North Carolina Courage who defeated Seattle Reign FC 4-1 in extra time on Sunday.