Sinclair and Morgan goals lead Thorns FC to victory

A crowd of 12,474 at JELD-WEN Field watched Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan lead Portland Thorns FC to a 2-0 victory over the Washington Spirit.

Thorns FC took the lead late in the first half when Sinclair settled an Allie Long cross and calmly sent a bending left-footed shot to the far post eluding Spirit keeper Chantel Jones.

Morgan iced the match for Thorns FC in the 86th minute when Courtney Wetzel intercepted a Robin Gayle pass and sent a perfect through pass ahead to Morgan, who dribbled into the penalty box and struck a hard right-footed shot past Jones.

The victory put Thorns FC’s record at: (5-1-1, 16pts). They’ll travel up I-5 next Saturday to take on Seattle Reign FC in a 6 p.m. PST matchup at Starfire Sports Complex.

THOUGHTS ON THE MATCH:

* First, the positives…

– Coach Cindy Parlow Cone had lots of good things to saw about Mana Shim (I posted the press conference video below). I thought Shim played her best match for Thorns FC and showed some really nice interplay between her and Christine Sinclair. Shim has some nice technical skills and has made a nice transition to the forward position.

– Christine Sinclair was once again, superb. Sinclair is willing to do whatever is necessary on the pitch and her first-half goal was a perfect example of a player not willing to be denied.

– Karina LeBlanc didn’t have much to do really, but got another clean sheet. Those who have followed LeBlanc throughout her career know her quality and the leadership she is providing to the defense has been excellent.

* In the end, it’s always the 3 points that matter most, but I think there’s some things needing improvement which if not taken care of, will come back to haunt Portland when they play some of the better NWSL clubs (Kansas City and Boston for example).

* In the post-match presser, Cindy Parlow Cone again talked about the club’s “possession-based style.” I think it’s fantastic that this is a style the team wants to emphasize and play, but in reality, the team is far from meeting that goal. I didn’t count but there were way too many long balls for a team which likes to talk about playing possession-style soccer. It seems when the players are out of ideas, the default option is to launch the ball up the pitch and let Alex try and track it down.

Another thing I noticed yesterday was the lack of off-the-ball movement. At one point, I saw each of the Thorns FC players literally almost at a standstill while one player (Nikki Marshall) had the ball and was dribbling. No one flashed to an open space to become available, no one made a run into the box, and when Marshall ended up dribbling up the left flank, even Alex Morgan was still just standing there watching as Marshall tried to make something out of nothing before losing the ball out of bounds.

Now, I know fatigue was definitely an issue yesterday (Thorns FC were playing their 3rd match in 8 games) so I’m willing to accept that, and for the record, I believe the coaching staff noticed the above-mentioned play as well because things improved right after that. Still, those are moments which tactically make Thorns FC look a bit lost out there.

MATCH STATS:

Portland Thorns FC (5-1-1, 16pts) vs. Washington Spirit (1-3-3, 6pts)

May 19, 2013 – JELD-WEN Field (Portland, Ore.)

Goals by Half               1          2          F
WAS                              0          0         0
POR                               1          1          2

Scoring Summary
POR: Sinclair (Long), 41
POR: Morgan (Wetzel), 86

Misconduct Summary
POR: Marshall (Caution), 65
WAS: Gayle (Caution), 82

Lineups & Stats

POR: GK Karina LeBlanc; D Marian Dougherty, D Rachel Buehler, D Kathryn Williamson, D Nikki Marshall, M Becky Edwards, M Allie Long (Jessica Shufelt, 90), M Meleana Shim (Angie Kerr, 79), M Nikki Washington (Courtney Wetzel, 71), F Christine Sinclair (capt.), F Alex Morgan

Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay, D Jazmyne Avant, M Elizabeth Guess, F Danielle Foxhoven

TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Morgan, 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (Morgan, 3); FOULS: 7 (Marshall, Long, 2); OFFSIDES: 3; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 3

WAS: GK Chantel Jones, D Domenica Hodak, D Tori Huster, D Robyn Gayle, D Ali Krieger, M Julia Roberts, M Lori Lindsey (capt.), M Diana Matheson, M Ingrid Wells (Jasmyne Spencer, 71), F Tiffany McCarty (Caroline Miller, 65), F Stephanie Ochs

Substitutes Not Used: GK Ashlyn Harris, D Candace Chapman, D Kika Toulouse, M Holly King, F Colleen Williams

TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Three players tied, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Three players tied, 1); FOULS: 9 (Gayle, 2); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 6

Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referees: Cory Richardson, Andrew Deuker
Fourth Official: Andrew Brooks
Attendance: 12,474
Weather: 57 degrees, partly cloudy

All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial

CINDY PARLOW CONE PRESS CONFERENCE:

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS:

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14 thoughts on “Sinclair and Morgan goals lead Thorns FC to victory

  1. I also noticed the Nikki Washington solo play. Did not like that no players presented a passing option. Also looked like she was either playing injured or extremely tired– seemed to have a limp.

    1. I thought it was a pretty poor game from Nikki. She sprayed some passes all over too. Maybe fatigue like you said. Cone made a point of mentioning fatigue in the presser so…

  2. I was really impressed by that kid Angie Kerr. Came in late and was just a fireball out there. I wonder if she earned herself some more playing time.

    1. It was nice to see Kerr back after being benched for a few matches. That shot was impressive. With the way Cone talked about Shim, not sure Angie is getting back into the starting lineup right now.

  3. I was very impressed with the Spirit keeper Jones. She played very well and stoned Morgan on a breakaway (true it wasn’t the best touch, but that can’t be a sight a keeper wants to see).

    1. If Jones was somehow able to keep a clean sheet, she’d be player of the week. Harris not playing was a surprise to everyone but Jones showed very well for the Spirit.

  4. I have to say, I thought that the critical point of the match was between 70 and 80 minutes; Kerr for Shim and Wetzel for Washington. I wanted to like what those two starters were bringing but it looked pretty obvious that Washington has been having a string of subpar matches and I thought that Shim wasn’t particularly effective. Sometimes what frustrates me is that I see some very Spencerian traits in Parlow Cone, and one of those is her tendency to stay with her starters long after they are clearly ineffective.

    And I agree that you’ve pointed out a problem that is now after two matches fairly clear; the Thorns tend to be static in offense and depend way too much on Morgan’s runs to get them space. Against teams like Washington and Chicago you can get away with that. Against SBFC and Kansas City, not so much. June will be an interesting month as the national teamers will be gone for much of it and the role-players will have to step up. I wonder how well the Thorns can do that..?

    1. Interested you mentioned the Spencerian traits because a few of us in the pressbox also mentioned that at times watching the Thorns was very much reminiscent of the ’12 Timbers i.e. tons of empty space on the pitch with no one moving to said space; the appearance of no tactical changes after the half; etc…

    2. I think Washington is best being a winger, but the tight, close-in game they’ve been playing does not suit that.

      I couldn’t agree more about the standing around – but I don’t think it’s just fatigue, because they did the same thing on Thursday. My friend kept saying, “You’re on the *national team*, Alex. That means you *run*!” Another reason to think it’s not just fatigue – Sinc was still everywhere on the pitch, even on Sunday.

      Alex may be really talented, but she’s been lousy about moving, creating openings, and breaking down the defense. She’s got great footwork, but seems to choke every single time she gets double teamed, and there’s no good reason for it. She’s definitely got the moves to break out of that – but she doesn’t.

      1. I find Alex very frustrating to watch. Obviously a wealth of talent, but terrible movement off the ball. Seems completely content to just chase the ball instead of working into a good position to break down the defense. That moment I mentioned in my post really drove me crazy: Morgan standing there while Marshall is trying to go 1v2 alone on the sideline.

  5. It was terribly aggravating to see how many times the Thorns turned away from open space ahead in the wings and tried to force it back into the middle of the field. From my vantage point, it seemed like we held up play in the midfield, creating space between our midfield and forwards and then tried to chip it into the penalty area.

    Also, it seemed like Becky Edwards could be a real ball winner if she would stop one-touch poking the ball away from the opposition and start trying to actually control the stolen ball and pass it.

    I liked what Wetzel and Kerr brought to the match. Seriously confused at whey they both did not start given the fatigue of the first team.

    1. That’s a good point about Wetzel and Kerr. I think w the international break coming up (we’ll be missing Sincy, Alex and Buehler), this would have been a good match to give Wetzel and Kerr more minutes.

  6. Interesting note about the Spencerian tendencies. I would also point out that this is very much “old school” football. Find a skilled forward, make them a target, and focus the rest of the team on getting the ball to wherever they are (or might be).

    It took a lot of work to put together this league, and my impression is that many members of the national team (especially Morgan and Wambach) were at the center of things. I wonder if this foray into the Front Office took some of the wind out of Alex’s sails, some of her focus on playing.

    Or whether it really is the coach encouraging the rest of the team to “provide better service” to a static Morgan. After all, it is easier to hit a target if it is not moving!

    What is your take on the back line? Is this group up to facing the league’s elite strikers?

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