I thought it was brilliant commentary on the match that the halftime show at Jordan Field last Sunday was a martial arts exhibition.
Because the Breakers took the field having decided on doing a little kung-fu fighting. They pressed high and marked tight, chopping Thorns up and chopping them down, and between feinting, and a slip, and a-kickin’ Hayley Raso’s hip for over an hour Boston made the Thorns look slow and ugly and unlikely to lock down that home semifinal that night.
A lucky against-the-run-of-play goal meant that the visitors took all three points and secured the home semi.
But…damn. Thorns FC sure didn’t fight with expert timing, and it was lucky that they picked Boston to play a crap game against and not Chicago, Carolina, or Orlando.
It now seems like ages ago, but it was only a little more than eleven months this past Saturday, that the Washington Spirit was within seconds of winning the NWSL championship.
When they came to Portland for their final meeting with Thorns FC, last season’s runners-up were a burnt-out shell of the glory of 2016; ravaged by injuries, bereaved by transfers, and gutted by losses.
And yet, for about a quarter of an hour of that sultry summer afternoon, the Spirit reminded us that once they were lovely and pleasant in their lives; swifter than eagles, and stronger than lions.
Aussies glow and Thorns plunder…
…and finally break the Curse of Memorial with a gritty 1-2 away win crafted from relentless pressure and some horrific Seattle defending.
The military philosopher Sun Tzu (or perhaps it was von Clausewitz. Or Napoleon. One of those guys, anyway…) is supposed to have warned against engaging the same enemy too often because of the danger that repeated contact would allow that enemy to become familiar with and, eventually, master their opponent.
This past weekend I was worried that 1) the third encounter with Thorns FC meant that the Houston Dash might have learned dangerous lessons from the first two, and that 2) the midweek win over Boston meant that the Texans might have figured out how to use Beckie and Hagen to create an effective attack in the absence of Carli Lloyd.
Saturday’s 2-nil home win made it clear that 1) they hadn’t, and 2) they hadn’t.
Well. It was a nice four-match win streak while it lasted.
Unfortunately Thorns FC picked a bad time and a bad place to have a very unimpressive game. PTFC has never had much luck in Kansas City and this past Wednesday didn’t break with that form.
Thorns FC now sits alone in second place on the NWSL table, two points clear of now-third-place Chicago, five behind league-leading Carolina.
Because Saturday evening PTFC had a hell of an opening ten minutes, Chicago couldn’t find the back of the net with a rangefinder and GPS unit, and Emily Sonnett headed ten feet to her right, not eleven.
The week before Thorns FC whipped Houston all over Providence Park. This weekend? Well…it was a win on the road, okay? I’ll take it.
The Portland Thorns last met the Houston Dash about a month ago. On that hot night in Texas Portland were stymied for an hour and a half; what professional cyclists call un jour sans, a “day without” and only snatched the road point on a second-half-injury-time Lindsey Horan free kick goal.
Last Saturday was also uncomfortably hot but otherwise the match, the teams, and the result were utterly different.
Last weekend Thorns FC came back from a mid-second-half concession to beat the visiting Washington Spirit 2-1.
I really wanted that win to whisper secrets about this Thorns team to me. I really wanted to use it as insight into whether this is the team that stonewalled Carolina or the team that collapsed in Seattle. I watched the match in Saturday’s heat and again on the screen in the evening dark looking for clues. Hints. Suggestions.
And after all that watching and guessing and thinking?
I still have no idea.