The last time the Portland Thorns defeated OL Reign in Seattle, the Thorns had two fewer stars above their crest.
Portland’s 2-0 shutout win at Lumen Field on Saturday was the Thorns’ first NWSL regular season win against the Reign since 2018 and first road win at a Reign stadium since 2017. Since then, the Thorns have added two NWSL championship titles (2017, 2022) and another NWSL Shield (2021) — all while defeating their Pacific Northwest rivals remained a challenge.
“Every time we play them it’s a battle,” said Thorns defender Emily Menges. “The messaging before the game from (head coach) Mike (Norris) was, ‘Yep, come for the battle, but don’t make it a street fight, make it a boxing match.’ … I think we rose to that occasion and I think that’s what we did.”
Sophia Smith opened scoring for the Thorns in the 17th minute, curling the ball inside the right post. It was Smith’s fifth goal of the NWSL season (tying her for first in the Golden Boot race), but first since she recorded a hat trick against the Kansas City Current on April 1.
“I’ve been staying level-headed and not overthinking not scoring a goal,” Smith said of her scoring drought. “At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve still impacted the game in a lot of different ways. But obviously as a nine, as a goal-scorer, I take a lot of pride in helping my team score goals. So my not doing that for a little bit obviously was hard and it was something I had to deal with internally because I didn’t want to negatively affect the team when we were playing well. But to just get a goal in a big game like this, it lights a new fire in me and make me feel like I’m back to being Soph.”
Christine Sinclair closed it out for the Thorns with an 87th minute goal — a nice bookend to the Canadian legend’s decision at the end of last season to continue playing with the Thorns. In a speech announcing her free agency decision, Sinclair received an ovation from Thorns’ fans when she shouted, “F— Seattle.”
Saturday’s game was part of a doubleheader, following an MLS match between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders. Still, there was some disappointment that many of the 42,054 fans who filled Lumen Field for the first game, which ended in a 0-0 draw, didn’t stick around to watch the second.
The dwindling crowd also resulted in some confusion over a longstanding attendance record. Ahead of Saturday’s game, the best-attended women’s club soccer game in the United States was the opening game of the WUSA in April 2001, when 34,148 fans packed into Robert F. Kennedy Stadium to watch the Mia Hamm’s Washington Freedom defeat Brandi Chastain’s Bay Area CyberRays. The NWSL record is 32,000, set during San Diego FC’s first ever game at Snapdragon Stadium in September 2022.
Despite the asterisk on the attendance figure, OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey, who became the first NWSL coach to coach 200 regular season games on Saturday, was impressed by the showing.
“You look out today, I don’t know how many fans stayed around, but to be able to play in this stadium in front of lots of people, we couldn’t probably have dreamed of that in year one,” she said.
A win on the road means so much more.🎥Highlights from tonight’s rivalry win: pic.twitter.com/2Ch6anxSVM— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) June 4, 2023
A win on the road means so much more.🎥Highlights from tonight’s rivalry win: pic.twitter.com/2Ch6anxSVM