Thorns extend road unbeaten streak with 0-0 draw

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made a season-high seven saves, including two in second-half stoppage time as Portland Thorns FC played to a scoreless draw against Sky Blue FC before 3,002 fans at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J., on Saturday night.

The result helped extend the club’s league-best road record to 4-0-2 this season. Thorns FC (8-2-2, 26pts) are the last remaining club in the eight-team National Women’s Soccer League yet to concede defeat on the road. With the draw, Portland registered its second consecutive shutout, marking the second time this year that Thorns FC have earned back-to-back clean sheets. Thorns FC are unbeaten in three straight games.

Forward Tiffany Weimer, who made her first career NWSL appearance for Thorns FC on Saturday, registered a team-high four shots (3 on goal). Weimer saw a chipped effort to the far post glide just wide in the 19th minute. Forward Alex Morgan attempted three shots, hitting the side netting after rounding Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron in the 17th minute. Thorns FC finished with 10 shots (5 on goal).

LeBlanc put in a productive 90 minutes of work on the defensive end. The Canadian international made four saves in the first half, including a finger-tip reaction save on a close-range header from midfielder Katy Freels in the 25th minute. Off a corner kick, LeBlanc was able to jump and tip the ball over the crossbar, keeping the match level in the early stages.

Sky Blue FC registered 20 shots (7 on goal) in the match as forward Lisa De Vanna attempted a team-high five shots. De Vanna, a speedy Australian striker, sprinted behind the Thorns FC back line numerous times throughout the match. Early in the second half, LeBlanc went to ground quickly in the 60th minute on a De Vanna shot, coming up with a kick save to direct the ball wide of the right post. LeBlanc was up to the task again in the 83rd minute, alertly closing off the lane when De Vanna took a heavy touch inside the box.

Earning her co-league leading sixth shutout of the season (tied with Sky Blue FC’s Cameron), LeBlanc kept Thorns FC in the match during the late stages. Sky Blue FC (8-2-2, 26pts) midfielder Taylor Lytle, who provided the late game-winning goal on May 16 in the first meeting between the two clubs at JELD-WEN Field, ripped a shot from the edge of the penalty box in the 90th minute. Lytle’s effort struck the crossbar and was cleared out of danger by the Thorns FC defense.

Moments later, Lytle played a ball into the box for De Vanna, who was able to redirect the pass to Freels at the top of the box. Freels unleashed a right-footed shot from near the penalty spot that LeBlanc was able to turn wide of the right post with a clutch save.

Less than a minute following Freels’ shot, midfielder Sophie Schmidt delivered a right-footed shot that LeBlanc was able to parry away, but not out of danger. The goalkeeper recovered in time to kick away any chance at a rebound.

Portland’s best scoring chance late in the match came in the 86th minute when Weimer tried her luck from outside the penalty box, but Cameron had a good look at the shot the whole way and came up with the save. Cameron made five saves in the match for Sky Blue FC.

Along with Weimer, defender Casey Ramirez made her first career NWSL appearance for Thorns FC as a second-half substitute for defender Emilee O’Neil. O’Neil made her first professional start on Saturday for Portland.