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.
Thorns FC put together a solid effort that resulted in a 0-2 road win over what had been a streaking Sky Blue. Kerr and Rodriguez were kept off the scoresheet by a combination of aggressive midfield pressure and swarming backline defense.
Oh, and Adrianna Franch playing out of her freaking mind…but that’s part of the “bad” we’ll talk about later.
In the first forty-five minutes PTFC generally did good work controlling the pace of the match, and continued the intelligent movement off the ball and precise passing that have featured in the past two matches. Although the Joisey Goils saw more of the ball much of SBFC’s possession was harmless booting around the back or up the flanks and back; shots were 6-5 Portland at the half.
Portland put together seven good attacks in the first half, including the two goals, to only three for Sky Blue.
Nadia Nadim created both goals; first with a drawn foul and precise free-kick that floated onto Lindsey Horan’s head for a nice diving finish. Then picking out Klingenberg’s left-side run that gave Kling a simple tap-cross for Horan to dink over the oncoming ‘keeper.
When they kicked off the second half it looked like Portland just had to do enough to keep the match underfoot to see out the road win.
Then, holy hell, did the wheels come off Thorns FC.
Things were going sideways within two minutes of the restart. Long just flat-out gave away a pass to Rodriguez within 20 yards of goal. Lucky for Portland Tiernan’s shot sailed harmlessly over.
At 49’ Menges was tackled for loss on her own 18-yard line; the resulting pass to O’Hara caught Kling out of position and forced a huge save from Franch to keep the clean sheet.
Seven minutes later Webber fell on Rodriguez – who had thoroughly beaten her to a through-ball – from behind inside her own penalty area. Franch saved the weak Killion penalty shot…and then Klingenberg absolutely skated on giving up an immediate second penalty as Vega was buffing his nails or birdwatching or something when she shoved Kerr down two-handed from the back.
It got worse.
Between 58′ and 59′ Sky Blue had several half-chances that went wide or couldn’t find a boot.
At 69′ Menges lost track of a running Tiernan, whose free header was grabbed pointblank in Franch’s gloves.
Between 81′ and 82′ Franch dinked an awful clear straight to Lytle, whose good cross to Kerr was belted far over the bar…then another good SBFC attack ended with the ball at an unmarked Corboz’ feet, but the substitute couldn’t turn and shoot.
Finally, in in the 92′ Rodriguez skinned Klingenberg down the Portland right-side channel but her 8-yard hammer was parried away by Franch.
See what I mean?
That’s bad. That’s the bad. That’s bad defending, bad individual and team play, and bad match management. Having two starters deathly ill was surely part of the problem, as they effectively collapsed in the second half and had to be subbed off.
Even with the bedpatients replaced Portland was outshot 13-2 in the final period, including 4-2 on goal. Franch had to make four saves, almost all of them exceptionally difficult, and Vega swallowing his whistle helped get her off having to make a fifth. Portland was under the cosh for most of the second half, and only luck, and piss-poor Sky Blue finishing, and A.D. Franch, hung on to the three points.
As frustrating as the second half was…the good first half, and a hell of a lot of luck, and a madwoman with gloves on meant a Happy Ending. Three points on the road, even kinda scary, iffy three points?
I’ll take that.
In about two weeks, though, we’re going to see Kerr and Rodriguez and Company again. And we’ll see then if Thorns FC can put the hammer down on the Joisey Goils without needing a Gatorade jug of DayQuil and a goalkeeping clinic from Ms. Franch.
Sinclair (88′ – +5/-1 : +6/-0 : +11/-1) Another night of doing the grunt work for Cap’n Sinc, and seeing her teammates get the glory…but when you have a Sinclair toiling humbly in your soccer vinyard your wine is likely to be a damn fine, heady drink.
Nadim (+10/-5 : +7/-3 : +17/-8) My Field Player Woman of the Match. Tireless, creative, dangerous. Started/created both goals. Her usual ferocity on both sides of the ball, taking away Sky Blue attacks before they started and relentlessly pressuring the Sky Blue goal in the first half.
Webber (66′ – +5/-2 : +2/-2 : +7/-4) Not a factor, and I understand that both she and Long were violently ill for this match, and Raso was too sick to start. If so, an understandably quiet performance from Mallory.
Dagny (24′ – +2/-1) Did what she needed to see out the match and, as such, a worthwhile shift.
Johnson (2′- no rating) Pure timewasting.
Long (62′ – +5/-1 : +0/-2 : +7/-3) The look on her face when she came off said it all; sick as a cat, and her game showed it.
Horan (+5/-4 : +9/-1 : +14/-5) Active and useful all match. Pretty finishing, especially the diving header. Best of the Thorns midfielders in this one, and continuing the good play that began in Boston.
Henry (+4/-2 : +6/-2 : +10/-4) Her usual solid match, though I suspect that she had a harder time without her partner Long helping her out. A lot more defensive than usual, especially in the second half, but the whole team was at that point.
Cox (28′ – +4/-0) Good shift from Meghan; did what she needed, no obvious errors, and partnered well with Henry.
Klingenberg (+8/-2 : +7/-5 : +15/-7) I’ve gotten used to Kling by now, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t do bad things to my blood pressure all the same. I see Kling as the Thorns FC equivalent of the Little Girl With The Curl; when she’s good she’s quite good, but when she’s bad she’s horrid. Great cross on the second goal, some terrific passing, some solid defending…and then she gets caught out of position on the O’Hara run at 49′ or the Rodriguez run at 92′ like a high school sophomore.
Menges (+10/-6 : +6/-3 : +16/-9) Still not Last Year’s Menges; some good, some meh, some not-so-good, but good enough overall. Not a Great Wall, but now at least worked back up to a Pretty Darn Good Spite Fence.
Sonnett (+6/-3 : +1/-1 : +7/-4) Disappeared in the second half after a strong first and at the worst possible time. Not her worst match, but didn’t look particularly great, either. Still needs to work on coordination with Menges.
Boureille (+8/-3 : +1/-2 : +9/-5) Celeste picked a bad time to disappear, too, especially since she was doing good work going forward in the first half.
Franch (+5/-3 : +8/-3 : +13/-6) My Goalkeeper Woman of the Match. Just incredible. Couple of awful clears, but the insane saves more than made up for them. Huge, huge game from A.D., and hopefully this will put all the early season jitters behind her.
Coach Parsons Another match where it’s hard to tell whether the coach planned this one or it just sort of “happened”. I tend to think that Coach planned this game to be more like the first half and then, in the second, two of his players got violently ill and a couple more got tired and drifted out of the match and then everything went sideways. Still managed to get enough of a piece of the second half to hang on for the win, and, sometimes, that’s the best you can do.
And now we’re off for a couple of weeks for the first international break. See you after the 17th.