Tag Archives: Seattle Reign

Thorns FC: Level One Complete

levelone


The regular season is over and Thorns FC will play in Kansas City next weekend.

This is because the Thorns ran their season record over the Seattle Reign to 4-0 on Saturday, and because FCKC couldn’t hold off Chicago ninety minutes on Sunday, long enough to win the league and go top into the playoffs.  Instead Western New York took the top spot with their win over Boston the day before.

Can we agree that this has been a turbulent and rather intriguing August for the NWSL?

As for Thorns FC…

Well, the match in Tukwila wasn’t exactly the dominating performance I’d hoped to see out of PTFC going in to the postseason.  The defense was caught asleep in the third minute and Megan Rapinoe began what turned out to be a 90-minute schooling of the right flank of Portland’s backline by skinning Kat Williamson  – with Marian Dougherty pulled out of position – and slotting the ball past Karina’s outstretched leg and inside the far post for the 1-0 lead.

Let me say for the record; Rapinoe is a hell of a great player and I wish we had her.  She’s one of those players who look liable to score nearly any time that they have the ball at their feet, and she did that all night on Saturday.

But Saturday the Defensive Derps TM had a conscience and five minutes later the Reign were caught on a similar long ball, this one a perfectly weighted lob from Allie Long onto the feet of a running Sinclair.

Sing, oh Muse, of the wrath of Sinclair.

Christine’s fierce desire to score, and to win, were huge elements of the Thorns’ win Saturday.

Collecting the ball, Christine had a defender closing down on her and the USWNT keeper in front of her.  But…Hope Solo then made the inexplicable decision to come all the way out of her 18 and missed the tackle.  She was left chasing Christine like a Brittany spaniel pursuing a street dragster.  Sinclair went to her right, cleared the Reign players, and deposited the ball neatly into Solo’s abandoned goal.

In many ways Christine has had a frustrating and disappointing season, but every match – one way or another – she does something that reminds me what a hell of a great player she still is, and of how badly she hates to lose.

If Alex Morgan cannot return next weekend I hope Sinclair can somehow infuse that hatred into the rest of the Thorns.

Meanwhile, back in Tukwila Chris’ strike was the end of the scoring for the next seventy-odd minutes; the two teams spent the remainder of the first half and most of the second trying to create another goal and failing.

If you forced me to be honest I’d admit that Seattle had by far the better and the more numerous opportunities.  Fishlock and Rapinoe were constant menaces to Portland’s goal, and both Nairn and van Egmond had good opportunities that they either whiffed or couldn’t finish.

Seattle largely won the fight for control of the midfield, while Portland’s attack dried up; Weimer and Foxhoven were not effective most of the match and Shim was energetic but unable to create a really decent chance.

Portland’s backline was…well, Portland’s backline; controlling their penalty area and Seattle’s attack for much of the first half.  Until someone missed a mark, was caught ballwatching, or stabbed and missed.  At that point a free-for-all would break out, with panicked Thorns racing about trying to recover their marks and clear their lines.

Fortunately for Portland when Portland was panicked and out of position – Seattle was unlucky.

The Thorns defense looked more composed in the second half, and Coach Parlow Cone’s defensive substitutions – Ramirez for Dougherty at 51′, Ellertson for Williamson at 73′ – were, if not inspired, at least effective.  I had my particular doubts about pulling Williamson, who had largely done good work throttling down Fishlock, but Ellertson continued to contain the Welsh Rarebit.

No, the substitution that puzzled and frustrated me was Wetzel for Foxhoven at 82′.

For all that she hadn’t been spectacular Foxhoven had rattled the crossbar at 56′, had been doing at least no worse than the other Portland forwards, and didn’t look gassed or out of ideas.  Wetzel has not been a particularly effective attacker this season, and to me, at least, the move suggested that Parlow Cone was content to see the draw out and take the away point, a choice – if that was her reasoning – I didn’t and still don’t understand.

Yes, Western New York had already clinched the second home semifinal, so the win wouldn’t have secured a home game.  I get that.

But still…here was the final regular match, against the rival Reign, for the chance to go into the away semifinal with a victory if you can score a late goal…and you pull one of your forwards for a defensive midfielder?

I don’t get that, Coach.

Whatever CPC’s plans were, fortunately for Thorns FC she didn’t bother to brief Christine Sinclair who latched onto a long lob from Weimer – less than a minute after the Wetzel sub – and flat outran the entire Reign defense to slap the ball past Solo for the 2-1 lead.

Have I mentioned lately what a terrific player Sinclair can be?  How badly she hates losing?

Sing, oh muse, of the wrath of Sinclair..!

After that Seattle kept pressing but the defense held on, and Thorns FC ended their season with a win.

To my mind Saturday’s result in Tukwila vindicated the notion of refusing to settle for a draw whenever possible, and especially when a match is critical, whether its for league standing or team morale.

For example:

Sky Blue’s draw to Washington dropped them emphatically into fourth, while FCKC’s loss to Chicago handed Western New York the “Sahlen Meat Products Supporter’s Shield” or whatever the heck the NWSL calls the regular-season championship.

To make things worse for FCKC, Chicago’s unheralded striker Jennifer Hoy scored two of the three goals that she would score in the 2013 season in the match, including the winner deep in second half injury time.  That has to be gutting for Kansas City who enters next week’s semifinal on a tw0-game losing streak.

But…Portland’s form hasn’t been outstanding this month either.

The semifinal could be anyone’s match, and we’ll talk about what we might expect in Kansas City in the coming week.

Portland Thorns: Starless vs Seattle

Once again Portland Thorns FC played a visiting team without several of their biggest stars.  Once again the U.S. Women’s National Team called up Alex Morgan and Rachel Beuhler, and the CWNT required the services of Christine Sinclair.  Once again an opponent came to Jeld-Wen Field looking for their first win against the Thorns and hoping to take advantage of the depleted Portland side.

That’s where the similarities ended.

The last time Chicago’s Red Stars cruelly exposed the failings of a PTFC that had used its national team players like a club to beat less-gifted opponents and a crutch to prop up weaknesses on their roster.  Without the stars Thorns FC looked badly adrift, underprepared, and lost badly 2-nil.

Sunday the scoreline was the same but the numbers were reversed, and it was the hapless Seattle Reign that walked off victims of two splendid Portland goals.

Why?

1.  Portland’s midfield continued to show the vastly improved organization and individual creativity that enabled Thorns FC to defeat KCFC last week.  What was more impressive about this win is that it came without Becky Edwards as defensive organizer and all-around chara* and Allie Long forced back into a more defensive midfield role.

Obviously we will miss Edwards; she’s a terrific player and has been a rock as DM.  But, in my biased opinion, Long’s shift back was a nifty piece of organizing by Parlow Cone and Long rewarded her by playing one of the best games I’ve seen her play all season.  Until we get Tobin Heath (from my keyboard to the Gods of Soccer’s ears…) I think she will manage quite well there.

Another standout from Sunday was Angie Kerr.  Angie has had some problems this season and has drifted in and out of the starting XI.  But Sunday personnel needs pushed her “in” and she was rock solid.  Her assist on the Shim goal alone was poetry in a size 7 soccer boot, and she controlled her portion of the pitch well all match, tackling neatly and distributing accurately.

Danielle Foxhoven, too, lived up to her “super-sub” reputation with a solid second-half shift as well as the clinical looping shot that produced Portland’s first goal.  Wetzel and Guess were useful; in fact, this was perhaps the first Thorns match I’ve watched where I didn’t swear more than once at one of our midfielders.

Well played, middies!

2.  Mana Shim finally had the game we’ve been waiting for her to have.  She was a pest in the Seattle backline all match, made several nice runs, and her goal was a thing of soccer dreams.  She should probably spend some time this week with Diego Chara going over 1 v 0 scoring because her run was perfect and her outside-of-the-foot chip shot couldn’t have been sweeter.  Well played, Mana!

3.  Karina LeBlanc owns Christine Nairn, or something.  I’m still not sure if she guessed right, read Nairn’s approach, and/or cheated off her line just enough to save the PK, but save it she did and kept the clean sheet.  Other than that she was her usual reliable self.  Well played, Karina!

So it was all sunshine and rainbow sparkle ponies Sunday, right?  Another boring ho-hum Thorns FC win, right?

Mmmmmm…not quite.

The one place that Thorns FC really showed the hurting in the absence of their national team players was in back.  Seattle had several dangerous opportunities when Portland Thorns defenders clumped around the ball and failed to clear their lines or gain control and pass out of danger.  And let’s not forget; this was a Seattle without Fishlock.  Had she not been off getting in touch with her Welsh roots away the scoreline might not have looked so pretty.

Jazmine Avant played a reliable game and Marian Dougherty provided quality wing play as well as steady defense, but as a unit the backline had the same problems they showed against KCFC; without Beuhler there to take them in hand they have a tendency to lunge and stab, miss their marks, fail to clear cleanly, and generally look like a group of players who are missing leadership.  LeBlanc does what she can but she’s no Schmeichel.

If we’re going to win the league this defensive unit needs to find a workaround needing the Bacon-saver to save their bacon.

So for all that I kid about the Thorns FC “Death Star” crushing all enemies we still have work to do and a long season ahead.  We are not destined to stroll to the championship because we have two of the greatest strikers in women’s soccer.

Destiny is something we’ve invented because we can’t stand the fact that everything that happens is accidental.

Or the result of damn hard work.

Sunday the Thorns proved convincingly that – without the bag stars – they can do the hard work to make themselves a team that can be dangerous from front to back, from the top of the roster to the tail.  The question before us now is; will they, and can we continue that effort through the remainder of the season?

And for that we will have to wait and see.  Or at least until next Saturday when we travel to meet the team that first best us so convincingly; Sky Blue FC.

Onward, Rose City!


When you think about it, shouldn’t we accept that the man’s name is worthy of adjectivization for “someone or something that causes fearsome disruption and bog-hammers anything around it”?  When you ‘chara’ someone or something you just put the boot in and keep kicking;

“Well, it started out to be a pretty boring staff meeting until Jennifer from HR just got up and chara-ed the #!$#! out of that guy from accounting…”

A Tale of Three Cities

As they did two weeks ago, the two clubs sharing the initials PTFC went 2-o against the respective opponents this weekend.  This weekend the two matches shared more than just the results.

The Portland Timbers fought out a 2-nil win against D.C. United in Washington, while up in Tukwila Thorns FC eked out a 1-nil win against the Seattle Reign.  In both games the Portland clubs looked less than dominating.  In both games, though, the Portland clubs looked very much the way competent soccer teams look; doing what they needed to scratch out a win even when not quite playing their A games.

The Timbers’ win at DC is well covered by the Stumptown Footy crew, and (I hope) that Kevin will have his usual piercing analysis to bear on what was for much of the match a scrappy and – at times – downright scary business.  The seasonal loss of Silvestre is still being felt in back and the temporary loss of Valeri was a problem in midfield.  For all that the new centerback Kah had a solid match the backline looked adrift at times and the midfield was unable or unwilling to help out much.  Against a better team the Timbers might have fared much worse.

But.  The point is that the Boys didn’t fare worse.

One reason is that Rodney Wallace must have heard every word we said about him last season and resolved to make us eat Every.  Single.  One.

Num num, Rodney.  You’re having a Comeback Season to date, and I am happily chewing away.

One other was Darlington Nagbe, who had a terrific match and channeled his Inner Trencito on the goal, a lovely bit of calm skillcraft that impressed me more every time I watched the replay.

The entire side managed to play well enough to turn back a D.C. side that is a rather sad remnant of the glory years of the Nineties.  This is a team in horrible disarray, and having watched our own team break down in similar circumstances last season I have nothing but pity for them.

So long as we can still beat them.

The other PTFC opponent, the Seattle Reign, is perhaps even worse off than United.  Stuck at the bottom of the table with no wins and only a single point, the Reign had the misfortune Saturday to be the better of the two sides for much of the match and certainly the first half and to have come away with absolutely nothing.

Perhaps because of her form the preceding two matches Nikki Washington was dropped from the side that ran out at Starfire on Saturday, Angie Kerr getting the start in her place.  Otherwise Thorns FC played somewhat similarly to the style that had worked against the other Washington club, the Spirit, the preceding weekend; lots of play through the middle of the pitch with Christine Sinclair freed from her trequartista role to do more direct attacking.

However it was the Reign that had the better chances in the first half.  The Portland midfield still hasn’t really found a way to keep possession when pressed, and the Reign could easily have gone ahead in the 62nd minute, when Liz Bogus put a hard diving header on frame that LeBlanc did well to palm away – only to deflect the ball out to Seattle’s  Noyola, whose well-struck shot was likewise saved.  Seattle worked the ball into Portland’s 18 again within a minute and had three rapid-fire shots blocked, any one of which might have gotten past LeBlanc.

On the other end Thorns FC wasn’t able to work the ball into any sort of dangerous position; Solo, playing in goal for the first time this season, made only two saves.  Of Sinclair’s six shots only one was on goal.  This futility was a combination of Portland’s inability or unwillingness to spread the defense and Seattle’s tight marking and opportunistic defending, and the match looked headed for a scoreless draw and Seattle’s second point when one of perhaps the softest penalties I’ve seen in twenty years of watching soccer gave Sinclair a simple sidefoot tap-in for the away points.  Solo contributed to the moment with the mawkish display of time-wasting she put on before taking her line for the PK, her most notable effort of the match.

Against Sky Blue a Thorns side playing this poorly might have lost 3-nil.  Against Kansas City we might have seen no better than a draw.  Against hapless Seattle the team played well enough, just well enough to win with the help of an atrocious make-up call (the referee had missed a painfully obvious Seattle handball earlier) and that was enough.

I have a lot of sympathy for the Seattle Reign supporters.  The “Queen’s Guard” is suffering through a worse version of what the Timbers Army suffered last season.  They, and the Barra Brava supporters of D.C. United, could probably sit on the ground and share some sad tales of the deaths of queens and former MLS kings.  Their cities are suffering the worst of soccer times.

And ours, perhaps shockingly, certainly delightfully, is enjoying the best of soccer times; two teams having seasons of hope, two teams having – so far – seasons of Light.  And its noisiest authorities – the Timbers Army and the Rose City Riveters – happily insist on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

There may be defeats and disappointments ahead, perhaps, but sufficient to the day will be the evil thereof; onward, Rose City!