When my metal hip set off the barrier at Gate 3 Saturday morning I had more on my mind than worrying about that usual nuisance.
I was worried about the Thorns’ recent run of poor form going into a match with the league leaders and that that might lead to yet another loss just like this season’s first meeting or, worse, like last season’s semifinal.
I was worried that the center referee’s penchant for letting rough play go would play into the North Carolina Courage’s physical game and get into the Thorns’ heads as it had in the past.
I was worried that a blowout loss might be lights-out for the Thorns’ 2017 season.
When I walked back out that afternoon I was right about one thing; Koroleva sure did let ’em play. You can argue about whether that’s good or bad. But that’s how she usually calls her games, and she didn’t change that day.
But I was wrong; deliciously, gloriously, wonderfully wrong about everything else.
My Basic Training drill sergeant, SFC Harris, had a very practical approach to life, and that carried over into his outlook on military tasks. He was always willing to let us try something a little different from what the manuals specified to see if it would work.
“If it’s stupid and it works,” he’d comment, “it’s not stupid.”
For about 90 minutes of the away game in Houston the Portland Thorns’ attack looked pretty damn dull, tepid and, well…stupid. Then at 90+change Lindsey Horan lined up over a free kick and struck a stunner for the 1-1 equalizer and that suddenly it wasn’t stupid.
But with North Carolina coming in this next Saturday Thorns FC’s gonna have to get a lot smarter most quick smart. What worked against Houston ain’t gonna work against the league leaders.
It was only almost a week – but it seems like almost an eon – ago that Thorns FC put a lickin’ on FCKC through intelligent, aggressive attack and swarming defense.
Three days later the team traveled north to Seattle and, it seems, completely forgot how to do all that.
It wasn’t just the stadium clock that made time seem to run in 86-second minutes. The Thorns looked slow, too; slow, predictable, and, most damningly, thoroughly beatable from the start and were, 2-nil.
In all of recorded human history there are three classic blunders.
Getting involved in a land war in Asia.
Going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.
And making Christine Sinclair mad.
The weekend before last Thorns FC struggled through a tough loss. Defensive lapses, scoring difficulties, and an…unhelpful, shall we say?…center referee handed the team a real stinker of a home defeat.
When it’s tough at home, what’s a team to do?
Unfortunately, sometimes even those turn out…suboptimally.
So far this season Thorns FC and Sky Blue FC have played four halves of soccer. The aggregate score is 3-3. But there are halves, and there are halves, and, unfortunately for PTFC the Joisey Goils have had the better of three of the four.
Almost two weeks ago Thorns FC nicked an away win at Sky Blue by hanging on through a brutally ugly second half on strength of A.D. Franch going into Insane Keeper Brute Mode and the inability of SBFC to find the location of the big rectangular frame with the net thingie inside it.
Last Saturday it was Portland’s turn to lose track of that goal thingie, and Sky Blue’s turn to deal out the punishment.
With some help from the Man in Black.
When last seen by the Portland Thorns, referee Marco Vega was lolling about the pitch letting the Western New York Flash get away with what, had they done it at a MAX station instead of inside Providence Park, would have been aggravated assault and battery.
He showed the same disinterest in punishing brutal play in his stroll about the Rutgers pitch in New Jersey this past weekend (why the hell was Kayla Mills still on the pitch after her pithecanthropicene tackle on Horan in the 53rd minute, Marco..?) and it was only the luck of the soccer gods that prevented a hockey game from breaking out.
The good news is that the Thorns both survived, and got all three points on the road.
The bad news is…well, let’s talk about the good news first.
Last week I predicted that Saturday’s home game against the Boston Breakers was likely to come down to which head coach had best learned the lessons offered by the 2-2 draw in Boston and had best planned for the rematch.
Then between 7:00 and 7:05pm Pacific Daylight Time Amandine Henry created two goals and whatever Matt Beard had learned and planned went completely to hell.