The Thorns may have lost to Sky Blue, but it wasn’t due to a lack of quality play or effort. My WOTM was (yet again) Lindsey Horan. Her “beast mode” may be permanent, as she was both controlling the midfield and leading much of the attack. By the numbers, her positive-to-negative meaningful touch count was 15:3. She had a goal and a couple good scoring chances wrongly called back. In the last minute of stoppage time it was Horan who was “fouled” in the box for the penalty kick which denied Sky Blue a clean sheet. Merely mortal players might have given up by that time.
Allie Long also had a good match with a touch ratio of 18:4. As has become the norm for her, she stepped into the attack in the second half. Unfortunately, the poor call bug bit her also. She was once called for a foul in Sky Blue’s box when there was zero contact. She was clearly not impressed with the team in black.
The best numbers for the match (22:4) belong to Amandine Henry. Unhappily, she lost her cool late in the match and pulled Sam Kerr down by the ponytail. The last time this happened the offender (Merritt Mathias of Seattle) was given a one-game suspension by the NWSL Disciplinary Committee. Amandine will probably face the same sanction – the video is indisputable.
In spite of giving up three goals, the defense was generally excellent. Emily Menges was outstanding with a touch ratio of 12:1. Emily Sonnett was partly on the hook for the first concession and kept Kerr onside for the third. Her ratio was 8:4 which included several fine long entry passes. Meghan Klingenberg on the left posted 13:5 touches with several crosses into the box, especially late. She also took most of the corner kicks. Celeste Boureille (11:1) was less involved in the offense as she stayed further back most of the night.
Adrianna Franch (14:5) had a decent outing. Her distribution was good all night as were her long kicks. She may have been culpable in the first goal for not calling for the catch on the original cross. But she had no chance on the actual shot, nor on the second goal. However, she was over-aggressive on the third goal leaving the box (and therefore not able to use her hands) too soon and too far when facing the fast and nimble Samantha Kerr.
Oh, what could have been for Christine Sinclair! She missed an early equalizer by inches when one-on-one against Sheridan. She was very active in the first half with an 11:2 touch ratio, less so in the second (3:3).
Both Thorns wide players had rough outings. Some of this has to be credited to the Sky Blue defensive core of the veteran Pearce and the two youngsters Mills and Freeman. Compared to the last match, these three were stellar. And Mallory Weber (7:8) and Hayley Raso (15:13) felt the effects. They also both appeared slow by their high standards and, unusually, clumsy with many bad first touches, slips, falls, and poorly executed dives (by Raso). Weber was replaced by Ashleigh Sykes (2:1) who made no real impact.
Was Mark Parsons out-coached in this match? The Thorns played well throughout the match and were dangerous to the last minute. There’s nothing he can do about injuries although Nadia Nadim was sorely missed. But ultimately, the answer is probably “sorta, yes”. Sky Blue came out on fire while the Thorns were untidy. Perhaps the Thorns were not truly respectful of Sky Blue’s capabilities, having beaten them at home last match. Had Emily Sonnett been a bit less rash and cleared the early cross out of bounds, the game likely would have been completely different.
Clearly Christie Holly had worked on Sky Blue’s defensive posture for the past two weeks. Most of the time they played three in the back with O’Hara only occasionally dropping in. The improvement from Mills and Freeman in just two weeks was remarkable. Portland had almost no uncontested crosses from the wings all evening. With Nadim out, Parsons didn’t have two wide threats to keep Mills and Freeman nervous.
Why wasn’t Dagny Brynjarsdottir used in this match? She was on the bench, but Parsons only made one substitution. Perhaps she wasn’t 100% but subbing her in for Raso around the hour mark could have a made a big difference. Dagny’s height and directness would have forced Sky Blue to change things. Plus, Raso was having an off-night, to be nice about it.
Parsons spent a lot of time working the officials. The center referee seemed fairly intimidated by the end of the match which may be why Amandine didn’t get the straight red card she deserved for her foul on Kerr, and why the final PK was given. On the other hand, Kelly O’Hara was not shown her second, or arguably third, yellow card for fouling Klingenberg.
I’m afraid we’re downgrading to Max Planck for this week. The Thorns seemed slightly out-of-sync and unprepared at the start of the game, some key players didn’t bring their A-games, and the team’s weaknesses were not addressed by substitutions or tactical changes.
Match report: Still All Even
The Hammered Rivets article: Tons of Pride
By Richard Hamje