The Thorns played three games in a week and garnered six valuable points. But they also dropped three points you’d reasonably expect them to get.
At the Chicago Red Stars
The first match was at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. The Red Stars were in second place in the standings with the Thorns one point back. The Thorns took the match 3-2, reversing the standings. The Red Stars, in their fifth season, have still never beaten the Thorns in Illinois. Full match highlights here.
Portland came out running in high gear. Hayley Raso got a particularly fast start, scoring after only two minutes. And she scored in spite of being fouled in the Chicago box. You’d hope that, had she missed, the penalty kick would have been awarded. As it was, no yellow card was issued but nobody much cared since Portland had the early lead.
Six minutes later, Christine Sinclair made it 2-0 with a lovely team goal. Ashleigh Sykes sent Amandine Henry to the goal line. Her cross found Dagny Brynjarsdottir who touched it perfectly into the captain’s path who made no mistake. But it took Chicago less than ten minutes to respond as Christen Press banged in a rebound off the crossbar from point-blank range. And then in the 37th, Emily Menges couldn’t get the ball out of her feet to clear the box and Sofia Huerta equalized.
In the 29th minute, a contested header in the Portland box resulted in this bad look for Kathleen Naughton.
For a while, it looked like Naughton was going to continue in spite of an obvious broken nose, but she did sensibly sub out.
The second half started with another Portland goal, this time by Emily Sonnett for her second in as many games. Just three minutes later was this excellent sequence that very nearly gave the Thorns the insurance they eventually proved to not need.
The notable moment of the match came six seconds after Tyler Lussi entered the match. Her first action was to pull Danielle Colaprico down by the hair and then stomp on her wrist. The ref somehow missed it and blew for a regular foul, but the league noticed. Lussi got a retroactive three-game suspension. Colaprico left the match for X-rays which turned out negative – fortunately she has played all the matches since.
The match ended with fireworks. First, there was this incredible skill check by Lindsey Horan in the 81st minute as she left two Red Stars in the dust.
At the 83rd minute literal fireworks started up at some nearby venue, lighting up the stadium sky and sometimes overwhelming the noise from the 4,934 in attendance. The fireworks display ended at the same moment that the referee blew the final whistle.
After leaving the city where they never lose, Portland visited the park where they never win – Kansas City. In five years, the Thorns had never won there in the regular season – a streak that continues after lowly FCKC beat Portland 2-1. This was also the first time this year that Portland failed to win after leading in a match. Full match highlights here.
The match started after a more than two-hour rain delay. Unlike in Chicago, Portland came out slow and sloppy in this match. The delay, the travel, the muggy conditions – all of it conspired to sap the Thorns of their usual energy and precision.
Kat Reynolds was particularly bitten. In the 16th minute, she rushed to the ball in the Thorns’ box only to block Emily Sonnett’s clearance. This resulted in a wide open shot for Sidney Leroux which she only narrowly missed.
And two minutes later, poor Kat this time stepped in front of Adrianna Franch who had an easy pickup of the rolling ball. The mixup again resulted in an FCKC chance.
The first half of the first half was especially bad with constant turnovers by both teams. In spite of the uninspiring play, the Thorns managed to score first when former Thorn Becca Moros tripped Christine Sinclair in the box. Marco Vega called a penalty! The call was obvious, but we all remember how poor Vega was at calling obvious fouls last year in the semifinal match. Well, at least I remember – and yes, I am still bitter. In any case, the half ended with the Thorns up 1-0.
The second half started with better play from the Thorns. In the 48th, Hayley Raso picked off a bad clearance and sprung Dagny Brynjarsdottir who rushed her shot. Five minutes later, it was Dagny again. This time, she opted to pass to nobody rather than take the open shot.
The referee then missed a handball in the box by Meghan Klingenberg that should have been an FCKC penalty kick. FCKC made a double substitution in the 62nd and things started to pick up for them. They scored on a free kick conceded by Ashleigh Sykes in the 74th minute. Watch as the ball sails to the right of the Portland wall and into the left side of the goal. This should never happen – the wall was setup too far left (from the shooter’s perspective) by at least two bodies. As a result, the left side of the goal was not protected and Franch could not get over in time. Setting the wall is Franch’s job and she just got it wrong.
About fifteen minutes later, Menges missed her mark in the box and Sidney Leroux had an uncontested header from seven yards. This marked the first time all year that Portland had blown a lead. As stoppage time neared, Lindsey Horan almost pulled off another miracle equalizer as she had in Houston a few weeks before. But this time her free-kick was ever-so-slightly misaimed, grazing the outside of the post.
At home, versus the Houston Dash
The tough week ended with the Houston Dash visiting Providence Park. This was the fourth, and hopefully last, time the Thorns faced Houston this year. The Dash were missing Carli Lloyd to an ankle injury and this proved to be crucial to the result since it freed up the Portland midfield to attack. Portland dominated the Dash in all facets of the game – the 2-0 scoreline flatters them. Watch the full highlights here.
Portland scored as many goals as Houston had shots on target. In the 13th minute, Lindsey Horan opened the scoring with a fine header off a long Klingenberg cross. Amandine Henry closed the scoring in the 47th on a fine header off a Nadim cross.
But the game was characterized by Portland failing to finish their chances. Truly this match should have ended 6-0 or more. Here’s the list:
1:27 Amandine Henry misses a wide-open header from 4 yards
4:40 Christine Sinclair misses an open shot from inside the box
13:08 Lindsey Horan scores
23:12 Dagny Brynjarsdottir is in on goal alone and misses the frame
40:35 Sinclair shot crashes off the crossbar, then ricochets off Dagny’s knee but right to Campbell
47:35 Sinclair sets up Henry whose shot is too close to Campbell who parries
47:40 Nadim collects the save and this time Henry scores
50:20 Ashleigh Sykes sets up Sinclair whose shot is blocked
60:40 Nadim misses on an uncontested shot
61:28 Hayley Raso misses the net from close range
82:09 Nadim misses from point blank
83:47 Sinclair has the ball on the penalty spot but her shot is blocked by Allie Long
84:52 Long’s shot on goal is scuffed and easily saved
86:54 Long’s shot from close range is blocked
87:52 Long’s shot is a foot over the crossbar
92:15 Mallory Weber blazes over from inside the box
The most notable of these was the Nadim chance in the 83rd. You’d have to say that she simply should not miss this shot.
The other noteworthy event in this match was a straight red card issued to Rachel Daly in the 79th minute. Her hand grazed Email Sonnett’s mouth while they were grappling in the Portland box. Sonnett added some histrionics and referee Cristina Unkel took the bait.
In truth, Daly was long overdue a second yellow card in this match – she had been committing cheap little fouls all night long. In that regard, the red card was not undeserved. But as a single act in isolation the actual call may have been harsh. As we learned a few weeks ago, the NWSL does not have a red-card appeal process so Daly will miss Houston’s next match.
This may not be good for the Thorns. Houston’s opponent is North Carolina and we would prefer that the Courage face a full-strength Dash squad.
The week in review
Overall, the three-game stretch was a good one for the Thorns. Going into the week, I was hoping for seven points but would be pleased with six. As it turned out, the match I suspected we might draw or lose – Chicago – turned out to our favor. And when Chicago went on to lose their next match, the dropped points in Kansas City were inconsequential. Since then Chicago lost another at home, to FCKC, bolstering our chances for a home semifinal match.
Next up is Seattle. The Reign suffered a demoralizing 5-4 defeat on the road at Sky Blue after leading 3-0 at the half and again 4-3 with one minute remaining in regulation. They are two points from the playoffs. Megan Rapinoe is gone but Jess Fishlock is back. The Thorns have never won at Memorial Stadium but if ever there was a time to break the curse, this coming weekend is that time.
My player of the matches and player of the week was Lindsey Horan. In fact, I am going to stick my neck out and say now that, barring an epic meltdown, Lindsey Horan is my vote for Thorns 2017 MVP and Supporters’ Player of the Year. I counted positive-to-negative meaningful touches for all three games. Lindsey’s were the highest on the team in all three! She assisted the first goal in Chicago, scored the first versus Houston and was charged with marking the opponent’s key players. Her ratios were 32:4, 20:5, and 31:1.
Next highest honors, unsurprisingly, go to Christine Sinclair. Her ratios were 20:4, 15:5, and 22:2. She scored the second goal in Chicago and drew the penalty kick in Kansas City. As always, she is both a calming and motivating influence on the team and always plays hard defense. As the “old lady” on the team, she played ninety minutes in all three games. How could the others not look up to her example?
In spite of conceding four goals in three games, the defensive fivesome was mostly steady and good. Adrianna Franch was the best of the bunch with one glaring exception – the failure to set up her wall correctly for the equalizer in Kansas City. She was helpless on the other three concessions and made plenty of outstanding saves, notably in Chicago. Her distribution was generally excellent. And she now holds the team record for clean sheets in a season with eight. Overall, her ratios were 17:7, 9:5, and 9:2. Emily Menges and Emily Sonnett did well. Menges’s ratios were 10:4, 15:4, and 5:2 while Sonnett’s were 13:1, 11:4, and 5:0 plus she scored the winner in Chicago. Kat Reynolds struggled in Kansas City as mentioned previously. Her ratios were 15:5, 7:9, and 9:2. Meghan Klingenberg also had a bad outing at FCKC with ratios of 11:2, 17:14, and 13:1. But then she also assisted the game winners against Chicago and the Dash.
Ashleigh Sykes has been an enigma. On one hand she plays good defense and has plenty of energy. On the other, her touches, crossing and shooting do not seem like the work of a golden boot winner. Perhaps she is still adjusting, or maybe the talent needed to excel in Australia is merely average here. Her ratios were 10:5, 12:8 and 11:5. She was involved in a strange play in Kansas City where she fell down along the Thorns’ goal line. The ball hit the prone Sykes on the top of her head and bounced to Kat Reynolds who cleared.
Amandine Henry has been contributing consistently since her return from the Euro’s. She assisted the second goal in Chicago, bagged the penalty kick at FCKC and scored the second goal versus Houston. Her ratios were 22:3, 20:2, and 10:1 (54 minutes).
Dagny Brynjarsdottir’s contribution has been less significant since her return. Sometimes she seems timid to shoot as at FCKC while other times she is too rushed as at FCKC and versus Houston as she snapped off volleyed shots when she had time to settle and aim. But she did make a nice assist on the second goal in Chicago. Her ratios were 8:0 (61 minutes), 5:6 (63 minutes), and 9:2 (45 minutes).
Hayley Raso had probably her worst game as a Thorn in Kansas City after scoring the opener in the Chicago match. Back home, she terrorized the Dash defense and had multiple opportunities for glory. Her ratios were 16:6, 18:16, and 11:4 (78 minutes).
Mallory Weber substituted in all three matches. Her best chance came in the Houston game when she shot over the crossbar. Her ratios were 1:2 (16 minutes), 2:4 (18 minutes), and 4:3 (12 minutes).
Nadia Nadim came on in the 63rd against FCKC but contributed very little (3:2). She then had the second 45 versus Houston and did much better (8:3) but spurned three scoring opportunities including one gilt-edged one. Allie Long got 36 minutes against Houston after missing the road trip on an excused absence. She had several looks at goal and played tight defense with a ratio of 10:1. Celeste Boureille had a token appearance in Chicago during the fireworks display with only two touches. Finally Tyler Lussi had 30 minutes (lucky for her it wasn’t only one minute) in Chicago with a ratio of 3:2. She will be next available on September 2 for the Washington Spirit match.
In my last match report, I promised that Mark Parsons would move up to Newton with a win in Chicago. Accordingly, Newton it is. But that was last Sunday and in the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” mode of a supporter, he fell back to Einstein with the unexpected loss at Kansas City. The team looked tired and disorganized that night. Some of that was surely the travel, the rain delay, and the muggy conditions. But also the Thorns didn’t play to their strengths. For example, with Dagny in the box you would expect to see high balls raining in from corner kicks, free kicks and the run of play. Instead virtually everything was on the ground. With only two serious FCKC threats (Leroux and Groom) you would expect to see Amandine in the attacking half and Horan near the top of the FCKC “D” but they mostly hung back.
In an aside, I wonder if Parsons is aware that calling Kansas City “Kansas” is an insult, akin to people mispronouncing Oregon. He uses the term exclusively as do many of the players. I cannot tell if he’s dissing FCKC and hiding behind the naivete of a recent immigrant, or if he has no idea.
The Houston win restores the genius level back to Goethe. But I promise that a crisp Thorns win at Memorial will bring Newton off the shelf.
The Chicago game was well-attended by their standards: 4,934. Significantly fewer showed up the following weekend’s match hosting FCKC: 3,314. Is it possible that there were 1,620 Riveters in the crowd for our match? Perhaps – from the broadcast I could identify at least 50 people in the visitors’ section and another 2-3 dozen in scattered among the first few rows. Also, when Portland scored their goals, particularly the third, there was a very clear loud roar. Someone hung a Portland flag on the base of the wall at the visitors’ section, behind the southeast corner of the pitch.
The two+ hour rain delay on a weeknight hurt FCKC’s attendance badly. Only 428 people braved the late hour. Again based on a few broadcast crowd shots, my guess is that the attendance was possibly 1/3 Portland fans.
No such concerns back home! This was the Thorns highest attended match of the year at 19,672. This pushes the season average to 17,154 – the first time the team has crossed the 17k figure. It felt like a full house as well: there were long lines at the concessions and the women’s restrooms, and notably louder-than-normal chanting.
The Tyler Lussi foul at Chicago drew an immediate reaction on Riveters social media. It is clear that Portland fans do not want to see such behavior from the Thorns. Several commenters correctly pointed out that Lussi had only two yellow cards in her entire college career and none in her senior year. The team put out a quote and explanation from Mark Parsons, making it clear that her actions are not acceptable for the Thorns. They also said that Lussi was not attempting to pull Colaprico’s hair, or hurt her. The league then imposed a three-game suspension and Lussi did not travel to Kansas City. So now we wait and see if she can earn herself a place in the fans’ hearts. I do expect her on-field actions to be closely scrutinized but can only hope that she doesn’t lose her edge in an effort to mollify the fans and coaches. We don’t want Thorns that back out of challenges any more than we want hair-pulling.
On a lighter note, the Riveters hosted a banner-painting party. Several new wall banners and two-sticks were produced. Here is one of the new two-sticks.
Several of the folks had never done this before. A family of four came by and produced the idea and execution for this banner that graced the wall on Saturday.
Another family came up with this gem, and then someone else added a subtitle.
For the second home match in a row there were camera crews roaming the grounds. This time they were filming for a documentary on supporter culture in the women’s game. And for the second match in a row, a couple Riveter wags attired the fuzzy microphone in appropriate swag.
Last year former anthem singer and Riveters capo, Hailey Kilgore, retired from our stage to attend theater school in New York City. This week it was announced that she was awarded the lead role of Ti Moune in the Broadway revival of “Once On This Island” after a global search. The play opens on November 9th. The Riveters commemorated the occasion with this special banner.
Next up is Seattle away. The buses leave on Saturday morning and return in the early evening. There are still some seats left on both the beer and cider buses. It’s a wonderful way to spend a day! Details are here: http://rosecityriveters.org/seattle-takeover-weekend/ There is funding available to cover the cost if you need financial help to come along.
Come on you girls in red!
By Richard Hamje
Video and still editing by Jeanette “Bitmangler” Hamje