Kansas City proved they are title contenders tonight, fighting hard from the start of the match in order to produce a goal through the partnership of Leigh Ann Robinson and Renae Cuellar in the second minute. Pressure built up in the Portland camp over the next half, but they could not break FCKC's back-line until an unfortunate blunder in the box with Danielle Foxhoven dragged down, presented the visitors with a penalty kick, enough to salvage a 1-1 draw.
To say the first half of the match was eventful is an understatement as Kansas City picked up the lead two minutes in when Robinson sent a pass to Cuellar, who capitalized on Karina LeBlanc stepping off of her line. In the moments leading up to the goal, after Robinson shipped the ball up-field, it is unclear whether or not Kristie Mewis got a touch on the ball before Cuellar scored. The first quarter of an hour of the match was controlled by FCKC, and the hosts had a chance to extend their lead in the 15th minute: Cuellar ran with the ball at her feet but shot wide of the goal, missing a golden opportunity as LeBlanc yet again stepped out of her line.
Later in the first half Christine Sinclair attempted to gain possession and on a few occasions would find the ball at her feet, but generally didn't get far before Desiree Scott intervened. The defender was on-point as she kept Sinclair in her line of view throughout. She made it difficult for Sinclair in the early portion of the second half as the pace of play slowed down for both teams tried to push out of their midfield. Alex Morgan and Sinclair ended up droping back in an attempt to gain possession, which mitigated their attacking theat.
Lauren Sesselmann had some highlight performances in the first half, but her shining moment came when she and Nicole Barnhart collided with Alex Morgan up top. Morgan ran into Barnhart and Sesselmann as the back line thwarted any opportunities for Morgan to score. Shortly thereafter Morgan cruised down the wings in hopes to set up a cross into the box but she was ambushed by three FCKC defenders. Clearly, Morgan and Sinclair were marked targets.
The most threatening Thorn on the field was Allie Long -- she was not only a play-maker but a reliable defender working overtime for the squad. After FCKC had a second chance on goal, Long picked up the pace by getting Sinclair and Morgan involved. She would later commit a risky maneuver tackling Kristie Mewis from behind, fortunately for Long the call was not given and the ball was sent back into play. Mewis was got feisty on the field in the 40th minute when she kicked away a ball intended for a Thorns throw in which resulted in Mewis being issued the first ever NWSL yellow card.
Kansas City wouldn't have kept a 1-0 lead for an entire half if it wasn't for Barnhart shutting down a far out strike from Sinclair that was on target. Portland needed to apply more pressure if they wanted to equalize. The Thorns break came at the 66th minute when a penalty kick was awarded to the Thorns after Foxhoven was taken down in the penalty box. Sinclair took the kick and gave the Thorns the equalizer. The play remained consistent throughout the next 25 minutes as both teams used up their three subs.
Becky Sauerbrunn had a strong first half performance but faded in the second half as most of the play was controlled by the midfielders. Morgan had one promising attack in the 73rd minute as Long made a break down the middle and passed to Morgan who took a low shot that landed at the bottom of Barnhart's hands. Neither side, however, was able to make the breakthrough.
Portland's downfall proved to be the amount of space they gave Cuellar. Their defense consistently failed to close her down when she ran down the wings, and she found herself in the box often enough to take off target shots. On one occasion the Thorns scrambled to cover Cuellar as they sent three defenders to swarm her at the edge of the box. Later in the second half a similar situation occurred for Cuellar this time five defenders were surrounding her.