Tag Archives: Washington Spirit

Blue Skies Return

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.

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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:

Thorns FC remain unbeaten with 2-1 win over Washington

Thorns FC got goals from forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Nikki Washington to lead Portland to a third consecutive victory with a 2-1 win against the Washington Spirit.

and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made six saves as Portland Thorns FC earned their third consecutive victory with a 2-1 win against the Washington Spirit on Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,011 fans at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md.

Match Notes:

  • With a goal on Saturday, forward Alex Morgan has earned at least a point in three straight matches.
  • Midfielder Meleana Shim made her NWSL debut for Portland, earning her first start of the season.
  • Defender Jazmyne Avant made her NWSL debut, entering the match as a 64th minute substitute for injured defender Nikki Marshall.
  • All three of Portland’s road games have been witnessed by sellout crowds.

Here’s a few quick thoughts on the match:

  • Portland has a defense too. While much of the talk about Thorns FC has to do with their offensive talent (and for good reason obviously), Coach Cindy Parlow Cone has her club playing some solid defense. Washington forced keeper Karina LeBlanc to come up with six saves, but to be honest, none of those really ever challenged the veteran.
  • Speaking of defense, Rachel Buehler played her best match of the season. It took a few matches but we got a glimpse of the Rachel Buehler we’re used to seeing with the United States Women’s National Team. The ‘Buehldozer’ was everywhere and was a big factor in spearheading a defense which rendered Washington’s attack pretty futile in the final third.
  • Unsung hero: Allie Long. I mentioned it in another post, but I’m waiting for the league to partner with Opta Stats or someone similar, because I’d love to see the passing stats and heat map for Allie Long. Yeah, she can be a dodgy tackle sometimes and seems on the brink of getting a yellow card every match (she’s the Thorns Diego Chara maybe). However, Long makes the right pass almost 100% of the time and yesterday she had another stellar effort.

Quotable: 

Head coach Cindy Parlow Cone
On forward Alex Morgan being the team’s focal point:
“Alex is a true professional in every sense of the word. She may be a young player, but she’s wise beyond her years and she understands the position she is in and has embraced it. She has been great for our team and great for this game. We’ve been to Kansas City and Chicago and everywhere we’ve been people are shrieking Alex’s name.”

On Washington’s defense:
“They’re a fantastic team. Their backline is very good with Robyn Gayle, Tori Huster, Ali Krieger and Hodak with Ashlyn Harris in goal. That’s a very strong back line. In front of them having (Lori) Lindsey and Julia Roberts, that’s tough to play against. I said it before the game that that’s going to be a tough block to break down because they are a very good defensive team.”

On Portland’s defensive pressure forcing miscues:
“We’re sorting out our defensive pressure. We want to be a high-pressing team and we saw moments of it tonight. The one turnover we were able to get a goal on was Nikki Washington’s in the second half (while Morgan hit the post after a turnover in the first half).”

Match Stats:

Portland Thorns FC (3-0-1, 10pts) vs. Washington Spirit (0-2-2, 2pts)
May 4, 2013 – Maryland SoccerPlex (Boyds, Md.)

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

Scoring Summary
POR – Morgan (penalty kick)                       12
POR – Washington (unassisted)                  51
WAS – Matheson (penalty kick)                   86

Misconduct Summary
WAS – Harris (caution)                       13
POR – Long (caution)                        70
POR – Edwards (caution)                   82

Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Karina LeBlanc; D Marian Dougherty, D Rachel Buehler, D Kathryn Williamson, D Nikki Marshall (Jazmyne Avant, 64), M Becky Edwards, M Allie Long (Courtney Wetzel, 83), M Meleana Shim (Danielle Foxhoven, 90+3), M Nikki Washington, F Christine Sinclair (capt.), F Alex Morgan

Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay

TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Sinclair, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Sinclair/Morgan, 2); FOULS: 7 (Edwards/Shim, 2); OFFSIDES: 4; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 6

WAS: GK Ashlyn Harris; D Domenica Hodak (Jazmyne Spencer, 75), D Robyn Gayle, D Tori Huster, D Ali Krieger, M Lori Lindsey (capt.), M Diana Matheson, M Ingrid Wells (Tiffany McCarty, 46), M Julia Roberts, F Caroline Miller, F Stephanie Ochs

Substitutes Not Used: GK Chantel Jones, D Candace Chapman, D Kika Toulouse, M Colleen Williams, M Lupita Worbis

TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Three players tied, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (McCarty, 2); FOULS: 7 (Hodak, 4); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 3

Referee: Christina Unkel
Assistant Referees: Shannon Poplstein, Danielle Chesky
Fourth Official: Hagan Barnett
Attendance: 5,011
Weather: 66 degrees, clear and breezy

All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial

Match Highlights: