The Portland Thorns rallied three times during Saturday’s NWSL rivalry game against the North Carolina Courage at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. By salvaging a 3-3 draw, the Thorns remain undefeated in regular season NWSL competition (3-0-3).
“To find ourselves down three times is probably hard to wrap your head around,” Portland Thorns head coach Mike Norris said post-game. “To get the third one at the end, I’m really happy. I thought we could have pushed for the winner. But still just trying to wrap my head around how we went down three times in the game.”
Competing at home in front of 7,070 fans, North Carolina got on the board just 32 seconds into the game thanks to a cross from Courage defender Ryan Williams that was recorded as an own goal after it deflected off the foot of Portland defender Emily Menges. (A video highlight featuring all six goals is embedded below.)
Portland responded 20 minutes later, with Sophia Smith finding Crystal Dunn open right in front of Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy.
After Kerolin put the Courage up 2-1 just four minutes later, Dunn recorded a brace early in the second half to level the score for a second time. Now with four goals on the season, Dunn is tied for first in the golden boot standings with four other players (Debinha, Ashley Hatch, Alex Morgan, and Sophia Smith).
The Courage responded with a third go-ahead goal, this one from Victoria Pickett. Pickett, who joined North Carolina’s roster just last week via a trade with Gotham FC, reacted to her first home game at WakeMed Soccer Park on Twitter.
“Thanks to all the incredible fans for making it known that #CourageCountry is the place to be,” she wrote. “I love it here.”
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Moultrie, who subbed in for Thorns captain Christine Sinclair in the 67th minute, recorded the third and final equalizer of the night.
“(Natalia Kuikka) drove in and gave me a great pass and saw the space,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to go for it.'”
“If you look at the impact (Olivia) has had the last two games, it’s impressive by any standard,” added Norris. “As a younger player, she’s pushing and challenging for a start. … Given the impact that she’s had the last two games, I couldn’t really ask any more of any player coming off the bench.”
While Moultrie is no longer the youngest player in the NWSL, it’s easy to forget she’s just 17.
When a reporter pointed this out on Twitter, Moultrie replied: “An old 17 though… 😂”
Saturday’s NWSL matchup was just the latest chapter in the fierce rivalry that has developed between Portland and North Carolina over the years.
“Each team steps into this game knowing it’s going to be a fight,” said Dunn, who played for North Carolina before joining Portland’s roster in 2020.
“Anyone who’s new to the NWSL: Welcome. This is exactly what these games are each week.”
Buckle up, this was a wild one 🍿#NCvPOR presented by @Nationwide pic.twitter.com/MBHLAs31Ce— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) May 7, 2023
Buckle up, this was a wild one 🍿#NCvPOR presented by @Nationwide pic.twitter.com/MBHLAs31Ce