Match Report

Still All Even

(In which the Thorns lose at home for the first time in a long time)

The second leg of the Thorns’ home and home series versus Sky Blue took place at Providence Park during Pride Night on Saturday. The first leg held two weeks ago was a 2-0 win for Portland, so given the Thorns strong home record, most everyone was expecting a repeat. But, as they say, this is why you play the games. The Thorns lost 3-1; their first home defeat in very nearly a year and only their fourth in three years.

The festive atmosphere suffered a dent from the opening whistle, as Rocky Rodriquez scored for Sky Blue at the 24-second mark, tied for fastest goal in NWSL history. The play started with regular midfield possession, but Hayley Raso stumbled and gifted the ball to the SBFC attack. Still, the Thorns were in good shape until a soft cross by Sam Kerr was poorly dealt with by Emily Sonnett. She headed the ball gently back to Kerr who passed to the penalty spot. Rodriguez was there to hammer a low hard shot past Adrianna Franch who was trying to regain position.

Defensively, the blame falls either to Sonnett, who could have easily directed her header out of bounds for a corner kick, or to AD Franch, who should have called Sonnett off and made the simple catch. As it was, Sonnett blocked Franch’s path to the ball which left the keeper out of the position for the shot. I was standing directly behind the Thorns’ goal and I heard no shout from Franch. Portland defenders tend to keep the ball in play when they can, to their detriment this time.

Regardless, it was only one goal and there was still 89-1/2 minutes remaining to play.

The Thorns should have drawn level eight minutes later. Christine Sinclair was sprung free in the Sky Blue box and poked the ball narrowly right of the post. It was a near-clone of her miss in the Boston Breaker match, only this time to the opposite side. Her frustration was clear, as was Sky Blue’s unhappiness with their defensive effort.

GIF

The pace of the match was frantic and Portland had chance upon chance. Nadia Nadim was not in the lineup due to a hamstring pull which meant Mallory Weber and Hayley Raso were playing the wings. Raso, on the left, was facing up against Mandy Freeman while Weber had to deal with Kayla Mills on the right. In the previous matchup, Mills had been given an early yellow card which made her a bit cautious. Not so this day, and it soon became clear that Weber was no match for her. Around the half-hour mark, Raso and Weber switched sides in the hope that Raso’s superior pace would make life harder for Mills. This didn’t work out, as Mills was simply outstanding – arguably Sky Blue’s WOTM.

In the 31st minute the referee injected himself into the match, giving Sky Blue a penalty kick for a foul that never happened. Watch Boureille’s (#30) foot.

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The league’s leading scorer, Sarah Killion, stepped to the spot against AD Franch in a repeat of the prior game’s big moment. And once again, she failed to score. This time, Franch guessed wrong but Killion missed the post wide left. Pressure may have been a factor as the PK was taken at the north end goal and the Riveters were going bananas.

Despite the poor refereeing, and Timothy Ford did a generally dreadful job all night, the Thorns were no worse off. The same cannot be said for the far side linesman, JJ Blodgett, who could not keep up with the pace of the match and seemed to have only a vague concept of the offside rule.

In the 62nd minute, Ashleigh “Ash” Sykes made her Portland debut replacing Weber. She had a touch on the ball immediately, generating a scoring chance, but didn’t contribute much thereafter. It would be a lot to ask of a player just off the plane, but she did win the Golden Boot in the W-league as Australia’s leading goal scorer for Canberra United.

With the substitution, the Thorns began pressing higher up the pitch. Both Emily Menges and Sonnett regularly crossed midfield in a mostly successful attempt to keep the pressure on Sky Blue. Amandine Henry and Allie Long largely ignored their defensive role in the press to score an equalizer. The goal just would not come for Portland, but it did for Sky Blue as Sam Kerr got behind the defense, rounded AD Franch in the box and slotted in the second goal.

In the 88th, with the Thorns still pressing, Kerr struck again. This time, she would have been offside on the entry ball except Emily Sonnett was slow stepping up. Franch came very far out of her box to challenge and was easily beaten by the speedy Kerr for Sky Blue’s final tally.

Finally, in the last minute of stoppage time a penalty was called in Portland’s favor. It wasn’t much of a foul, perhaps a tiny hip check by Mills on Lindsey Horan. Maybe a make-up call? In any case, Christine Sinclair stepped to the spot and unleashed…a weak and poorly placed kick that was easily stopped by Kailen Sheridan. Something, again maybe that crowd pressure, caused her to give up a silly rebound which Sinclair pounded into the roof of the net. Christine walked back to the center circle shaking her head in disgust with her initial kick while Sheridan pounded the turf mourning her clean sheet.

It was a consolation goal, but it still matters. For one thing, the team got some reward for all their hard work. The Thorns have only ever lost one home game by more than two goals – a 5-0 thumping by the Flash in the misery year of 2014. And that is still the case. For reference, the only other home matches lost by two goals both came in 2013. And the goal makes Portland’s goal difference +4 and Sky Blues’ only +1 – something that may yet matter come the end of the season.

This week I am adding a new feature: “You Make the Call”. Here are five situations that occurred in this match. Pretend you are the assistant referee.

1. Sky Blue attacks the Portland net.

#1

a. How many players for Sky Blue are offside on this play?
b. Was the flag raised?
c. Was the AR properly positioned in line with the last defender?

 

2. Lindsey Horan receives a lovely pass from Amandine Henry.

#2

a. Was Horan offside?
b. Was the flag raised?

3. Lindsey Horan again receives in the entry pass, this time scoring a goal.

#3

a. Was Horan offside?
b. Was the flag raised?

4. Allie Long receives the pass this time.

#4

a. Was Long offside?
b. Was the flag raised?
c. Was this play in any way different than #3?

5. Lindsey Horan receives a long ball from Emily Sonnett. We don’t have good angles for this one.

#5, the ball is kicked
#5, the ball arrives. AR is trailing the defensive line.

a. Was Horan offside?
b. Was the flag raised?

Answers:
1.  a. Two
b. No
c. Yes (!)
2. a. No. O’Hara, at the top of the screen, is holding her on.
b. Yes
3. a. No. Level is not off. Ties go to the offense.
b. Yes
4. a. No. Really not even that close.
b. No
c. No
5. a. Can’t be definitive, but highly unlikely unless Kelly O’Hara (19) suddenly sprouted wings so she could run faster than Horan. Watching it live, this play looked onside the entire way.
b. Yes

It’s hard to quantify exactly how many goals were taken from the Thorns by this poor work. Certainly one (instance #3), which would have been an immediate answer to Sky Blue’s second goal. Quite possibly one or two more. Blodgett needs to go to AR school, preferably in Japan or someplace else far from Portland.

Next up for the Thorns is another cross-country trip (what is with NWSL scheduling?), this time to our nation’s capital to face the somewhat resurgent Washington Spirit with Mallory Pugh. After that, it’s derby day as we visit Seattle on Canada Day.

Who did what? Providence Park Power Ratings

The Hammered Rivets article: Tons of Pride

By Richard Hamje

Video and still editing by Jeanette “Bitmangler” Hamje

Richard Hamje

Hander-out of Riveters chant sheets, electric car enthusiast, fan of Thorns, Timbers, Chelsea and only lately, Leicester City.

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