My mother had accumulated a trove of sayings from HER mother, born near the turn of the last century.
One of her gems was reserved for times when she’d catch me trying to get away with spiffing up the visible part of something while doing the bare minimum of scuffling to cover up everywhere else.
You know what I’m talking about; your girl/boyfriend is due over and there’s crap all over the place so you run out to the yard and cut some flowers, dunk them in a vase, clear everything off the couch and the coffee table and put the lovely flowers right there.
Then stuff all the junk in the oven and hope he/she wants to go out for Chinese.
The flowers on the coffee table were, in her terms, the “Queen Anne” – the visibly beautiful and inviting – part up front.
The “Mary Anne” part, the common trailer-trashy part, was the shoes, magazines, and pizza boxes hidden in the back.
That was the story of Sunday’s match against the visiting Chicago Red Stars.
Up front the Thorns Queen Anne attack, led by Christine Sinclair with a brace and Meleana Shim with a third, was a thing of beauty.
Yes, there were some wasted opportunities; yes, we should have had four, or even five. Perfect example; early in the second half, up 1-nil, Christine Sinclair took a ball in alone through the 18, beat the Chicago keeper and with MacLeod sprawled on the turf squared up three yards from the left post with two Chicago defenders standing in front looking like those cut-out free-kick practice dummies. 2-nil?
No. Chris hit left side netting.
But call me a believer in the Heath Factor; after a bit of a slow first half the Heath-led midfield began reading the spaces between the tight-marking Red Stars and putting passes to those spaces. The Thorns attackers – Morgan, Sinclair, and Shim – looked dangerous all match, and Chicago’s goal was in constant danger from the thirtieth minute until the final whistle.
Thorns even scored on nifty execution of an obviously pre-rehearsed setpiece in the first half, Sinclair running through the Chicago defense onto a quickly taken free-kick to score the first goal of the match and put Portland up 1-nil at the half.
A lovely Shim strike off of a deflected Morgan cross put Thorns up 2-nil at 55 minutes and the match looked like a threepeat of the first two Chicago-Portland scorelines. Chicago was locked down, the Thorns midfield and backline looked comfortably in charge, and it was hard to see how Chicago could play themselves back into the match.
Then things came apart in back.
The first crack in the wall was the right side of the backline failing to mark Alyssa Mautz. At about the hour mark Mautz received the ball outside the top corner of the area and carried it inside, dancing along the top right-hand edge of the 18 without a PTFC defender closer than two yards.
From there she launched a golazo into the far upper A with Karina at full stretch.
That was not good. But, worse, after their first goal Red Stars – who had look incapable of scoring through much of the entire first hour – suddenly looked dangerous. The match – which until this point had been a scrappy business replete with tight marking and some ugly fouls but of which Portland had largely been in control – began to open up and not in a good way.
First, though, Thorns had another piece of pretty attacking; a through ball from Heath found its way past Shim, whose run froze the central defenders, to Sinclair, who knocked it home for the brace, 3-1 Thorns. If there was a queen of the Queen Anne attack Sunday it had to be #12; she looked more deadly in front of goal than she has all season. That’s the Christine I’ve been wanting to see, and she was glorious.
Then the Red Stars opened the oven door and all those damn defensive embarrassments came spilling out.
First was another Mautz goal, a simple knock-in off a cross from the Portland left wing. Kat Williamson had to chose to mark one of two Red Stars in the box with her, tried to mark both and ended up marking neither.
I will say this; Mautz looked offside to me.
But she didn’t to the linesman, and that’s what counts.
Before the final sneaker dropped out of the broiling pan Thorns FC had one last piece of beauty up front; a lovely Tiffany Weimer shot at about 78 minutes curled into the upper right-hand corner of the Chicago net! 4-2?
No. Weimer was offside when she received the pass.
Several minutes later – about 83 or 84′, I think – Chicago had a terrific opportunity when substitute Inka Grings lofted one high in the air with LeBlanc well off her line. Karina either misread it, thought it was in the net, or safely over the bar, and froze.
Instead it clanked off the crossbar and down for Mautz to take another shot on goal; only Kat Williamson’s body saved the three points.
Not for long.
Those points were gone three minutes later when the Portland defenders failed to clear their lines, sending a looping ball no further than Chicago’s Julianne Sitch standing just about 16 yards from goal.
Sitch hit a bullet, LeBlanc was completely unsighted, and the Red Stars had snatched a point at Jeld-Wen.
I’ve been hard on Coach Parlow Cone here in the past. But I cannot in honesty place the failure to gain the full points from Chicago – a team we have beaten, a team we SHOULD have beaten again Sunday – on Parlow Cone.
I will say that I thought that some of her substitutions didn’t help. Not Weimer for Morgan; Morgan had already earned a yellow, was looking angry and we need her for the four-games-in-ten-days we have coming up starting this week and couldn’t afford to get sent off. But up a goal with ten minutes to play why not Wetzel for Shim? You need to protect a lead, why not bring on a better defender?
And there was the usual troubles we get into because we don’t and, apparently, can’t hold possession; needing a goal with four minutes plus three minutes injury time to play Thorns FC managed little attack and only one shot, a Weimer effort that was not on frame.
Those were coaching issues, yes. Not critical to this match, in my opinion.
The draw – and make no mistake; this was one of those draws that felt like a loss, having been up 2-nil and 3-1 – was largely on the team – and of the team, on the defenders. Failure to mark. Failure to clear. This wasn’t doctoral-level soccer. This was just what we talked about last time; the team that is hardest for the Portland Thorns to beat is the Portland Thorns themselves.
Here’s what I said back in June:
“Of the ten matches left five are to teams we should beat handily; three to the only moderately-awful Boston Breakers (which with any sort of decent play probably means at least four points and probably five), one more match with the woeful Chicago here and the final meeting with sad-sack Seattle at Tukwila for another six.”
We have taken four from Boston and with any decent luck should take at least another and possible three more.
But – only one from Chicago instead of three.
Sky Blue – our next opponent at Jeld-Wen this Wednesday – lost today to FCKC today, dropping them down to a second-place tie with Portland. You can bet they’ll be fighting for the full points when we see them.
And then the league leaders, KC, come to visit next Sunday.
Then it’s Boston and Western New York away before the regular season wraps up in Tukwila against a Seattle Reign that is no longer a sort of frequent-flier-miles “points giveaway” operation.
There’s no slack left in the schedule.
We can no longer afford to let these kinds of matches slip away. We can’t afford to be all Queen Anne up front if we’re going to be Mary Anne at the back. We can’t stuff the dirty socks and old issues of Sports Illustrated into the backline and hope nothing falls out on the floor in front of the guests.
We have GOT to be the sharpest Thorns in soccer for the next month if we want home-field advantage and a straight shot at the final match.
Hang on. It’s going to be a hell of a month of August.