My Woman-Of-The-Match award goes to Adrianna Franch for her outstanding performance. Start with her meaningful positive-to-negative touch ratio of 36:7. Five of those 7 negative touches were long balls not recovered by Portland – she only made two “mistakes” in the 90 minutes.
Next, consider saving the penalty kick. This is AD’s second PK faced this season and she’s saved both. For comparison, no goalkeeper in the English Premier League who faced two or more PK’s last season saved them all. The great Petr Cech of Arsenal, for example, faced four and saved none.
Then consider Franch’s distribution, which was excellent all night long. Perhaps it was the lovely weather, but she was booming her kicks. Often they were seventy yards on the fly. Once such kick started the sequence that led to the second Portland goal. Her good-to-bad kick ratio was 9:3 in each half.
One area that AD needs to work on is her time-wasting. In the second half with a two-goal lead, she was still rushing to get her kick off within a couple seconds. Slow down please! Fall on the ball when you catch it, then rise slowly to your feet. Knock the dirt off your cleats before taking the goal kicks. Go search for your water bottle before every restart. Until the ref gives you a yellow card, you’re not doing it right!
Honorable mention goes to Lindsey Horan for her brace and all around excellent play. For a couple weeks now we have seen her play advance in giant leaps. The breakthrough was coming so nobody should have been too surprised that she bagged two. Her touch ratio was 26:4, evenly split between halves.
In the first half, Nadia Nadim really lit up the stats with a touch ratio of 16:6. She was a quieter in the second with 10:7.
The midfielders were not much involved in the first half play (except Horan) but much more active in the second. Amandine Henry’s touches were 5:0 in the 1st, 15:4 in the second. Allie Long’s touches were 4:2 and 3:1, as you might expect of a player feeling ill. Her replacement, Meghan Cox recorded 12:2 in thirty minutes.
Similarly, Mallory Weber’s numbers look like those a sick person might post, 4:1 in each half. Dagny Brynjarsdottir had a 5:2 ratio in 25 minutes.
Christine Sinclair had a subdued performance. Her touches were as excellent as ever (13:2) but she seemed to be acting more as a decoy than a threat for much of the match. When Kendall Johnson came on for her as a stoppage time-wasting maneuver, Christine seemed resigned. Perhaps I am reading too much into a moment, but I do hope she is happy with her role and performance.
The defense was solid. Neither centerback came forward during the run of play. As a result, they were not caught out often at all – Menges once on a missed interception and Sonnett once coming back from a failed corner kick. Emily Menges’ ratio was 13:2 and Emily Sonnett’s was 14:0.
The fullbacks did get forward and both of them had a hand in the goals. Meghan Klingenberg (21:4) had the assist on the first goal, Celeste Boureille (17:6) made the initial run that opened up Sky Blue’s defense for the second.
Mark Parsons also had a fine match. His team was well-prepared and motivated. Defensively, the determination to keep Sam Kerr and Rockie Rodriquez off the scoresheet was well executed. It’s perhaps a bit easier to defend a team with limited threats – focus on the key players and essentially forget the others. Even with the focus, keeping the clean sheet required heroic efforts from Franch.
As we’ve seen repeatedly this season and last, the Thorns play best with a lead. That means they must be ready play from the opening whistle. The past couple games have seen just that.
Parsons was not impressed with Mr. Vega’s refereeing. Perhaps he remembers last year’s semifinal match, or maybe it really was the perceived inconsistency on Saturday. Whatever, expletives were flying for most of the second half.
I do question bringing Tobin Heath on the trip. As a person with occasional back trouble, I cannot imagine a treatment regimen much worse than 12 hours in airplanes. Maybe Parsons felt that her presence was needed to bolster the team and get her re-integrated into the matchday routines. But the risk seems hardly worth the potential reward.
For now, we’ll stay at the Einsteinian level. But Newton looms over a smooth integration of Heath into the starting eleven, a second successful home rematch, the slotting-in of Ashleigh Sykes, and then one more road win. Is that too much to ask?
By Richard Hamje
Video editing by Jeanette “Bitmangler” Hamje