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Written by Oluwaseun Oyediji

Portland Thorns earned a 1-0 victory over the North Carolina Courage thanks to a second-half penalty goal from Sophia Smith and a shutout performance from Shelby Hogan and the team’s defense in front of 21,025 fans at Providence Park on Pride night.

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Throughout much of the first half the two teams battled in the trenches of the midfield, alternating possession, with both sides struggling to find clear opportunities in front of goal. North Carolina had arguably the best opportunity in the 42nd minute, but a joint effort from goalkeeper Shelby Hogan and defender Marie Muller stopped Ashley Sanchez’ shot.

In first-half stoppage time, forward Sophia Smith looked to have the Thorns’ best chance at goal, rocketing off a one-touch shot, but North Carolina’s Casey Murphy was able to punch it away, leaving the match scoreless heading into the halftime break.

Defender Becky Suaerbrunn made history in the 57th minute, becoming the 8th player in National Women’s Soccer League history and the first member of the Portland Thorns to play 15,000 regular season minutes.

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The second half proved to be a physical clash, with consistent start-stops making it difficult for either team to find their rhythm. Midfielder Olivia Moultrie looked to try her hand at goal in the 61st minute, weaving through several Courage defenders inside the penalty box, but her shot missed just wide of the near post.

In the 79th minute the Thorns finally broke the stalemate after Video Assisted Review awarded Portland a penalty kick for a foul on Hina Sugita inside the 18-yard-box. Smith stepped up to the spot and confidently slotted her kick into the back of the net, marking her ninth goal of the season. The foul on Sugita served as Ryan Williams’ second yellow of the match, leaving North Carolina with 10 players for the remainder of the game.

The Thorns would go on to hold onto the 1-0 lead, earning their seventh victory of the season.

Meanwhile...

Washington Spirit edged Utah Royals 1-0 in another early Sunday morning match as Washington Spirit make its first visit to America First Field since the Return of Royalty.

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It is the second meeting between the two sides following a 2-1 Spirit win at Audi Field on matchday three. Utah looked to pick up three points this time around with its three new acquisitions adding Amandine Henry (FRANCE), Ana Tejeda (SPAIN) and Macey Fraser (NEW ZEALAND) to the squad since the March 31st matchup.

The first goal of the match belonged to Kate Wiesner in the 26th minute after a misclear off of a Washington Spirit corner kick led to her receiving the ball with back to goal, she was able to turn and get her shot off which went straight into the bottom right corner of Haught’s goal.

The Royals were not able to produce anything in the attacking third ending in a goal, coming up short in a 1-0 loss at home.

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