Allie Long scored the game's decisive goal in the first half and goalkeeper
Nadine Angerer helped register a shutout as defending-National Women's Soccer
League champions Portland Thorns FC opened the 2014 regular season with a 1-0
win on the road against the Houston Dash before 8,097 fans at BBVA Compass
Stadium on Saturday night.
Thorns FC (1-0-0, 3pts) did well to manage the early pressure and energy from the NWSL expansion Dash (0-1-0, 0pts) playing in their inaugural match at home. Portland secured the lead in the 24th minute as Long headed home her first goal of the season. The Thorns FC defense held Houston to just three shots on goal during the match, and Angerer recorded two saves in her team debut to help Portland head coach Paul Riley record the victory in his first match at the helm.
Opening the campaign on the road for a second consecutive season, Thorns FC out-shot the Dash, 12-10, and Portland's defense held firm through several dangerous chances by Houston throughout the match.
Long took a team-high five shots, four of which were on frame. Nine players overall, including seven starters, made their Thorns FC debuts on Saturday in Houston.
Portland staked the lead midway through the first half after winning a throw-in deep in its offensive third. From the right side, forward Jessica McDonald's throw-in found Long cutting back toward the ball in the middle of the box. Long headed the ball from close range past Dash goalkeeper Erin McLeod and inside the left post.
Thorns FC endured seven corner kicks and a series of set pieces by the Dash in the first half, yet allowed only a single shot on goal. From a free kick, Houston midfielder Jordan Jackson put an early look from inside the penalty area over the mark. Six minutes later, Jackson settled a cross into the area, but again lifted her effort over the target.
Long nearly doubled Portland's lead deep in first-half stoppage time. She worked the ball along the top of the area and got off a clean shot on goal. McLeod made a kick save to keep Long's shot from finding the back of the net.
Early in the second half, Long blasted a shot from just beyond the top right corner of the box off the crossbar in the 48th minute, sparking a dominating run of play by Thorns FC. In the 60th minute, Long had another shot on frame batted away by McLeod. Off the ensuing corner kick, defender Rebecca Moros then had a bouncing shot from distance saved by McLeod, who finished the match with four saves.
One of Houston's best chances on the night came in the 76th minute, when forward Stephanie Ochs settled the ball near the penalty spot, but sent her effort over the target. Ochs' shot started a late push by the home side, and Thorns FC defender Nikki Marshall was called upon in the 90th minute to block a shot by Dash forward Tiffany McCarty on the left post after the ball flashed across the goal mouth.
Angerer made one of her two saves in second-half stoppage time, making a diving save to parry the ball wide of the goal. On one of the final plays of the match, Houston midfielder Becky Edwards knocked the ball into the back of the net off a long free kick from midfield, but Edwards was ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.
Thorns FC continue their two-game road stretch to open the regular season on Saturday, April 19, against Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Field; kickoff is set for 4 p.m. (Pacific). A live webcast of the match will be available at www.portlandthornsfc.com.