Interesting weekend for Portland soccer, eh?
Saturday we had perhaps the oddest Timbers comeback yet, nicking a point in a wild, bizarrely-officiated 2-2 drawn match at Vancouver that our C.I. DeMann recounts here. Suffice to say that my son is still bounding around shouting “Trencito!” at random moments as he did when we watched the wild finish from our couch. There are draws, and draws that feel like losses, and draws that feel like wins. That one felt like a win.
Sunday it was the women’s turn. Trying to shake off their first ever loss – to a visiting Sky Blue FC that had clawed up next to them top of the league table – Thorns FC ran out against the Washington Spirit.
I had a lovely recap of the match but, like a Christine Sinclair strike from distance, my friend Chris Singer zinged his terrific match report past me into the back of the net! Arrrgh! So rather than post my own I wanted to add some of my observations and comments about Sunday’s match.
1. Thorns FC fielded the same side that had lost to SBFC Thursday but it appeared that Coach Parlow Cone had talked to the squad about the sterility of their attack in the earlier game. The most visible result seemed to be that Christine Sinclair was released to do more direct attacking and less distributing, and it was her 41st minute goal that broke through a rather disjointed first half. Still, there were real issues with movement off the ball that Chris’ report addresses well and you should read.
2. The Thorns FC’s still has issues in midfield. In particular, Nikki Washington’s play was unhelpful…and I am trying to be diplomatic about it. I complained about her tendency to drift inside on Thursday and we saw that again Sunday. She looked sharp in the early matches but has grown less effective recently, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s picked up a knock or is just out of synch with the rest of the Thorns midfield. Whatever the cause her play had a lot to do with sucking the danger our of Thorns FC attack.
My wife was nearly sitting on my head to stop my roaring “Get her off!” at the Thorns bench by the 40th minute; I still believe that Parlow Cone gave her far too much time before subbing Wetzel on for her at 71′. At the moment her form has not been particularly good, and perhaps it is worth Parlow Cone considering another option at right winger.
3. One observation that came as an unpleasant surprise to me was how relatively slow Allie Long looked; she was beaten to the ball several times and generally looked less than effective though not quite as overwhelmed as Washington.
4. Thorns FC had difficulty putting the Spirit away until after Washington went out for Wetzel and Kerr came on for Shim at 79′; suddenly the Thorns midfield began to click. Spirit keeper Chantal Jones did well to save from Kerr within a minute of her entrance, and six minutes later it was Wetzel whose theft of a Spirit pass started the buildup to the second goal. Wetzel slotted a lovely ball forward to a running Morgan, who in turn calmly carried the ball into the 18 and drove it past an onrushing Jones for the quietus.
5. Sky Blue shellacked the hapless Seattle Reign 3-nil to pull back even with Thorns FC atop the table. A measure of the parity at the top is that both teams stand at +7GD. There is not a sliver of daylight between them outside head-to-head record; there SBFC holds a one-game advantage.
6. One last thing I have to say here; we as Thorns supporters really need to consider which of the traditional Timbers songs we sing.
What I’m speaking directly about is the “what’s it like to see a crowd” song that rained down on Washington in the second half.
For the Timbers Army to sing that to another MLS side is a nifty little piece of snark; a crafty reminder of the rollicking atmosphere of Portland compared to the sterile bowls of FC Dallas or the empty seats in Kansas City.
But to do that to the women’s teams like Seattle and Washington, which play in tiny venues barely capable of holding the contents of Portland’s North End…well…it’s like singing “Would you walk if you could?” to some poor devil in a wheelchair. It just seems mean to me, and cruel. When the league is in it’s fifteenth year and the other clubs are playing in MLS stadiums and potentially drawing MLS-size crowds, then, hey; taunt them all you want.
But now? Let’s taunt them for living in Jersey as we did with SBFC and leave the crowd-sizes out of it, K?
Do I sound carping? I’m not, really. Sunday was a delight. Thorns FC was winning, the crowd was humming and the Rose City Riveters were roaring. The Rose Girls awarded their tributes to the three Thorns who had earned a bouquet. Even the afternoon cooperated; late in the second half the louring skies cleared and the pitch brightened as jackets and fleece came off and sunglasses and caps went on, as the happy supporters basked in the glow of a sunny Sunday and a Thorns FC win.
And when the Thorns win it’s always fair weather.