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.
Thorns FC had a tough task to bounce back from the dispiriting loss to Washington away. Two straight losses, short rest, some genuinely poor individual performances (although the team had lost two earlier matches in both Carolina away and Sky Blue here most of the Thorns played well, or at least respectably. Not so in Maryland) and a Kansas City that always seems to play PTFC tough coming in seemed like a very difficult wall to get over.
Then the center referee done went and pissed Sincy off.
OK, I’m kidding. Portland won the match with a combination of early and prolific scoring and a swarming defense that started with the forwards…helped by some pretty poor FCKC finishing. It was terrific to see the attack look dangerous and creative and the defense look sturdier than recently.
But I won’t kid you; worth the price of admission was watching what happens when the Big-Boned Gal from Southern Alberta, Officer Sinclair of the Order of Canada, gets seriously, furiously, genuinely stomp-down pure-D no-I’m-NOT-kidding honked-the-eff-off.
After a to-and-fro quarter hour FCKC opened the proceedings; Dagny Brynjarsdóttir got skinned to the byline and then a cross and succession of failed clears by Sonnett and Shim let the ball run to Newfield, but her weak shot went right to Franch.
Two minutes later, though, it was KC’s turn to do Crap Clear when Sauerbrunn coughed up a heavy touch right to Long at the top of the 18. Allie’s hammer came off Barnhardt’s left post to Sinclair, who calmly cleaned up the trash to put Thorns FC up 1-nil.
The teams traded half-chances for about another quarter hour, perhaps the best of them coming for the visitors in the 26′ when Averbuch outjumped a flatfooted Klingenberg and headed strongly down and across the goal but A.D. Franch was just as strong, diving hard to her right and shooting out her bottom hand to parry away.
Then at 32′ Hayley Raso made one of her trademark runs down the right flank, looked up and hit…a shot? A cross? Hayley called it best though; regardless of what it started out as it ended up a goal, chipping Barnhardt and settling into the far-side netting for 2-nil Portland at the half.
The second half continued back-and forth. Portland owned the first five minutes. Then FCKC pushed up dangerously. Leroux beat Sonnett only to head wide at 58′. Six minutes later Leroux scored with a powerful header over Franch’s failed take…except she didn’t; she was called offside.
Then in the 71st minute Horan slid a nice diagonal ball to substitute Hayley Raso, whose run to the byline and cross could only be cleared out weakly to where Sinclair stood inside the corner of the 18. Sinc chested the ball down and drove it past Barnhardt to put the game out of reach at 3-nil.
Except referee Chipalo Street called the handball on Sinclair and waved it off. Christine was…umm…you still mad, sis?
Oh, yeah. Guess so.
So five minutes later, after another late scare where Leroux beat Sonnett again but this time shot tamely at Franch, this happened:
That’s a thing of beauty, pure rage and fire. That’s Sinc looking Mr. Street in the eye and saying without a word “Wave this one off, jackhole.” That was the brace, the third goal, and that – after a last FCKC spate in the closing minutes – was that.
Now Thorns FC has to take all that lovely attacking and sturdy defending and go beat Seattle in Seattle.
Player ratings and PMRs:
Sinclair (+6/-3 : +4/-2 : +10/-5) Woman of the Match. Officer of the Order of Canada. Portland soccer legend. Possibly the Greatest of All Time.
Raso (+10/-5 : +5/-3 : +15/-8) You shot (I think…) and you scored, Hayley! See! It can happen! Yay, you!
Other than that her usual active, dangerously fast self; runs, passes, crosses. Had some clumsy touches for loss but usually in the KC third so less of a problem. Nice assist on Sinc’s second to go with her own.
Shim (62′ – +4/-5 : +3/-1 : +7/-6) Put in a decent shift and did what she had to when she had to. Horrible shooting; what, are the goals twenty-five feet high in Hawaii, wahine? But otherwise she was what she is, and for that match it was enough.
Sykes (28′ – +2/-2) Had some nice touches, had some not-so-nice. Seemed principally intended to play deeper than her usual frontrunning position and did – both her “pluses” are for timely tackles.
Horan (+8/-7 : +6/-3 : +14/-10) Very involved, generally useful…but somehow the Beast Mode Horan of Boston away seems a very long time ago. Passing was hit-or-miss, and committed a foolish foul to pick up a caution in the second half. Good outing, I just want to keep seeing better.
Henry (79′ – +9/-2 : +3/-1 : +12/-3) As usual, the best of the midfielders. I wonder if it’s boring to be so good at what you do all the time. Hein, Amandine?
Cox (11′ – +1/-0) Not much impact but helped see out the win, so, fine.
Long (+6/-3 : +4/-1 : +10-4) Much better, Allie. Set up Sinc’s first goal, lots of tough defending, generally a good night’s work for La Blanquita.
Dagny (67′ – +11/-8 : +3/-0 : +14/-8) Didn’t have the hate for her defending that I’ve read elsewhere. Not a polished fullback but that’s no surprise, is it? Some excellent passing, as well as generally a nuisance around the KC goal; her initial entry ball was what ‘Brunn couldn’t settle and coughed up to Long for the first goal. I’m not sure that I’d hate to see her come on as a fullback again. Unfortunately gone for the Euros within a week or ten days at most.
Boureille (23′ – +4/-0) Excellent shift in place of Dagny to lock in the win.
Sonnett (+8/-3 : +3/-5 : +11/-8) Very effective in the first half, a defensive tire fire in the second. Had a terrific attacking run at 62′ which doesn’t excuse the number of times Syd Leroux beat her like a redheaded stepchild. Still needs to get better working with Menges; they’re just still not on the same page back there much of the time.
Menges (+6/-9 : +2/-5 : +8/-14) A turnover machine against KC; Nine of her 14 “minuses” are passes that went directly to a white shirt. Played decent enough in back, but was terrifically ineffective trying to pass forward. Looked better as a pure defender, but lacking the offensive skills she had last season.
Klingenberg (+6/-4 : +5/-3 : +11/-7) Good match from Klingenberg; nothing flashy, just solid defending and some nice passing. Still gets beat to the outside, though, and I’d like to see her try and use her head to overcome her loss of footspeed.
Franch (+4/-2 : +2/-2 : +6/-4) Save of the match in the 26′, good save off Groom in the 37′, and great takes late at 80′ and 87′. But a couple of poor decisions late in the match, especially the failed take at 64′.
Distribution: a total of 24 clearances. 12 goal kicks: 6 won, 6 lost, 2 of those resulted in dangerous KC opportunities. 9 clears: won 2, lost 7 (including 2 straight into touch), 2 dangerous giveaways. 3 punts: won 1, lost 2, no dangerous giveaways. So 4 of 24 clearances, or almost 17%, resulted in giving FCKC a better look at the Thorns’ goal than they should have. That’s not good.
Coach Parsons – Successful experiments with the lineup paid off. Had a tactical vision of the match and made it happen. Timely substitutions and game management.
And now he knows what kind of things happen when you made Christine Sinclair mad, so I’m sure he’s going to play that YouTube thing from South Park in the dressing room before every match from now on just to see if he can make that happen again.