It was probably a very cold day in January of 1988 when Nadia Nadim was born in the Afghan city of Herat, in the middle of a vicious war that had been going on for eight years.
That she and her family escaped after her father’s murder is something of a miracle. That from that beginning she grew strong and quick in Denmark to become a professional soccer player is also something of a miracle. Her journey to Portland, to the Thorns, might well be a miracle as well, though perhaps a shadowed miracle, one full of struggle and not without heartache.
Then, this past Saturday night, the young woman from Herat worked another, very different, very public sort of miracle.
Last Friday, after two straight losses and a bye weekend coming on, things looked pretty grim for Thorns FC.
Still top of table…but even with the Washington Spirit (who had two games in hand) on points and just a point ahead of the Western New York Flash (who had a game in hand). The bye-weekend looked like a potential disaster, and a tumble from first to third and out of contention for a home semifinal. I won’t kid you; I opened the NWSL website Sunday morning with a heavy heart.
Not many other ways to describe a 3-nil whipping, are there?
The Girls in Red went to Houston and the second-worst team in the NWSL handed them their collective asses.
Sometimes we don’t always win two-to-one. Turns out, sometimes the Bad Girls win two-to-one.
As the visiting Kansas City Blues proved in a brutally efficient fashion last Saturday night.
Or, at least, that seems to have been how it has worked over the last couple of matches.
Go down a goal early. Scratch back into the match. Score the gamewinner late. Worked like a mechanical ass-kicker against Orlando in Orlando, and it worked just fine against Sky Blue FC here last Saturday.
The Joisey Goils are probably already on their way west while the Thorns’ US players are heading east. Tomorrow we’ll see what happens when our Left Behind Girls in Red get stuck into a Sky Blue that has been looking much more dangerous in the past several weeks than they did back in April.
But that’s not that I wanted to talk about right now. I want to talk about the noise from the North End.
The Riveters signature red smoke to celebrate Portland’s goal.
Remember how last weekend I said that the Thorns’ 2016 “undefeated” run wasn’t entirely convincing, seeing as how the team had only looked really overpowering in one match, the home win over Washington back in May?
Okay, well THAT bullstuff’s over with.
In the space of four days Thorns FC took six points off two games. First they seized the then-league-leading Red Stars by the throat and beat them handily 2-nil to go top of table and announce that, halfway though the season, they are going to come at the rest of the league. Then they traveled to the fever-swamp of Orlando’s “Citrus Bowl” and overcame the heat, humidity, hostile crowd, and a 67′ Jasmyne Spencer goal to win 2-1.
That was the final whistle in Chicago;
The Thorns came out pressing hard and pressuring the Red Stars’ midfield and backline and were rewarded with a ridiculous gift of a goal in the 24th minute. Under some fairly mild pressure Chicago’s Sam Johnson blooped a lazy backpass with Christine Sinclair running hard in on Naeher. Naeher panicked much like Labbe’ panicked when Nadim closed her down and with much the same result; Naeher’s frantic clear just bounced off the Birthday Girl and into the net.
Crap goal #1, one-nil Portland. But…