For nearly 93 minutes, the Portland Thorns and Seattle Reign showed why their rivalry is the most ferocious in all of the NWSL. Unfortunately, for both sides, they don't have any bragging rights to show for it. After Allie Long's header in the 81st minute, the teams would engage in 12 minutes of wild, back-and-forth action, with the Thorns squandering numerous opportunities before the teams settled for a 2-2 tie on Saturday night in front of nearly 16,000 fans at Providence Park.
"I had to fight to get up and get that ball. I didn't even know if it went in or not, but I was really happy when I saw it crossed the line," said Long.
Allie's goal, in a random set of events, was the only goal truly kicked in by the Thorns; the team's first goal, which was credited to Hayley Ruso, went in after it ricocheted off the leg of Jessica Fishlock of the Reign, igniting a fever-pitch reaction from the stunned home crowd. Fishlock, a member of the Wales Olympic team, scored the match's first goal less than a minute in, which Thorns coach Mark Parsons said threw his squad off.
"When you concede in the first minute - and it was a great strike - but it was weird how it came about, and it shakes most teams. I thought we actually managed it well, but it took our foot off the gas a bit. We didn't have as much pressure on the ball that we would have liked to have. And we were a little cautious with our passing in the first half.
"In the second half, I felt like it was in third, fourth, fifth gear. We turned it on."
Every time the Thorns threatened to steal momentum, however, the Reign went right back to work. No time was more of a blow than after Ruso's goal, when the Reign's Merritt Mathias scored less than three minutes later, grabbing a 2-1 halftime lead.
When Long tied the game late, and when the Thorns didn't back down from the rugged - and sometimes dirty - play of the Reign, it sent a message loud and clear to their coach.
"(The second half) started to feel like some of the good soccer we played last year when we were full throttle. I think it's going to take us another 2-3 games to kind of reach the stride we did in the second half, but that's just the way this league works. It's great that we saw that."
The tie drops the Thorns to 2-1-1 on the year, second place in the NWSL. The Reign move to 1-1-2 and are currently in 6th. The Thorns will play at FC Kansas City next Saturday, before returning home to face the Boston Breakers the following Friday.