(in which the Riveters get stuck in for the final regular season match and prepare for the Playoffs)
The first sellout of the season set a new NWSL record for total season and average game attendance, breaking the record we already held. The Thorns average attendance was greater than four MLS teams’, and the most in the world for women’s club football.
This was also our first nationally televised match of the year. Despite being on Fox Sports flagship channel the match only drew 60,000 viewers, trailing the UCLA/Princeton Men’s Water Polo game on ESPNU. The average Thorns match drew about 45,000 views on YouTube this season, so this is not good.
As per usual, the walls at Providence Park were adorned with banners. Here are closer looks at several.
Our anthem singer was Hailey Kilgore, also a Riveters capo. This was likely her last appearance as a capo and anthem singer, as she’s off to college out of state shortly. There was a loud cheer when she was announced and a few tears as she sang.
Following Ms. Kilgore’s appearance, a huge tifo was raised honoring the Thorns. The quote is from chapter 21 of La Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of the most-translated books of all time. The tifo art is in the style done originally by Saint- Exupéry.
The Riveters had a fine party in the middle half of the match, singing the new Madness chant three times. In the nervous moments toward the end of the match, the support from the entire crowd was crucial to the result. Both Nadim and Dagny talked about how important it was to help them squeeze out their last energy at the end. In stoppage time, the P-T-F-C chant was echoing throughout the stadium for nearly the whole four minutes.
Author’s digression: We need to handle the player chants better. In the 60th minute, Nadim came out for Raso. Instead of belting out the N-A-D-I-A chant for our leading scorer and scorer of the then-game-winning goal, we chanted the Raso, Raso chant for her substitute. In my opinion, the chants and cheers should be for the departing player first – to recognize her contributions – and only then for the incoming player. As it was, Nadim never heard her name from the crowd despite our obvious appreciation for her work.
After the normal rose ceremony, the team stormed the capo stand for some Madness dancing. A beaming Emily Menges received the 2016 Riveters’ Player of the Year trophy. Her teammates demanded a speech; she responded by starting the “Build a Bonfire” chant. The trophy is voted on by Riveters members. This is the first time that the trophy has gone to a defender and also the first time that the voting was not lopsidedly in favor of one player. Perhaps this is an indicator that the team is more balanced, or complete, than in the past.
The player’s gifts this year were hand-sewn books. The coaching staff and Merritt also received copies. The books contain images of all the player banners displayed on the walls throughout the season. Other pages showed the protest banners, major tifo art, and some photos of the tifo painting work-in-progress. Here are a couple work-in-progress photos of the bookbinding.
The Thorns resume play September 25 at Sky Blue in New Jersey at 4:00 pm. The match will be broadcast on YouTube and shown at Bazi Bierbrasserie (SE 32nd & Hawthorne). Should the Thorns win, and Washington Spirit not, we win the league. Otherwise the game has no meaning as both the Spirit and Thorns have their home playoff games locked in. In his postmatch comments, Mark Parson hinted that he is not planning to rest players for this match. He feels it is important to continue playing winning soccer leading up to the playoffs. Jim Gabarra of the Spirit apparently feels otherwise as he rested his stars for the Seattle match and likely will do the same again in Chicago (who also are already in the playoffs). Time will tell whose strategy is better.
There are two meaningful matches on the final weekend. The Flash host Boston and must get at least a draw to make the playoffs. Should they falter, and Seattle win in Houston, then the Reign will be the fourth seed. The Flash match is Saturday the 24th at 4:00 pm on YouTube; the Reign play on the 25th on Fox Sports 1 at 6:30pm.
In the intervening week, the Thorns international players are off for fundraisers friendlies. The USWNT will be playing Thailand in Columbus on Thursday the 15th at 5:00 pm on ESPN2, and then host the Netherlands in Atlanta on Sunday the 18th at 4:00 pm on Fox Sports 1. All five US Olympians have been called up for these matches.
Dagny will be playing for Iceland versus Slovenia on the 16th and Scotland on the 20th. Nadia is playing for Denmark versus Moldova on the 15th and Sweden on the 20th. France plays Brazil on the 16th and Albania on the 20th. [thanks to bfredrix for the corrections] None of these matches are broadcast in the US, so it’s off to the underbelly of the Internet if you dare. The Canada WNT has no matches scheduled in this window.
Although the opponent is unknown, the Thorns semi-final match is set for Sunday October 2nd at 2:00 pm at Providence Park, and broadcast on Fox Sports 1. Some tickets may still be available.
And finally, Riveters away travel planning is well underway for the NWSL Final in Houston on October 9th at 2:00 pm (Pacific), 4:00 pm local. So far several dozen are making the trip, Thorns or not. The Riveters have purchased a block of tickets for the match, some of which are still available. There is also a group of rooms reserved at the Embassy Suites Downtown Houston, a short walk from the BBVA Compass Stadium. A Facebook group has been established here with all the details.
If you were at Providence Park on Sunday, you saw the apogee of women’s club soccer. But the October 2nd game may put even that to shame. Prepare for a good time!
by Richard Hamje
Photos by Jeanette “Bitmangler” Hamje (except trophy photo credit: Rose City Riveters)
P.S. The detailed match report is here.
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