Wednesday night Portland hosted Gotham FC and swept all the points off the table, winning 2-1.
Except…it’s not quite that simple.
What actually happened is that the Thorns came out of the chute like the baddest critters in the rodeo, bossed the batwomen like a boss, and drove a 2-nil, thump-down, good-old-back-alley hammering down on them. Ran them off the pitch. Out shot Gotham 15-1, including 7-1 on goal.
Sophia Smith went utterly mad on Gotham’s backline, forechecking her way to a goal and setting up another with a strong run that forced Erika Skroski to haul her down in the box. Captain Sinclair coolly slotted the penalty home inside the left post and that was pretty much that.
Smith came off for Morgan Weaver at halftime. The forechecking pressure stopped. The entire team sagged back, and Gotham found a way back into the game. Carly Lloyd pulled a goal back in the 78th minute, and then four minutes later damn near had an equalizer. Gotham outshot Portland 8-5 after the break, 2-2 on goal,
Gotham pretty much won the second half 0-1, and it’s fortunate that the two halves get counted as a single game, because otherwise the two sides would’a split the points for this one.
One big reason that Portland was able to escape because even when they took their boot off Gotham’s neck the batwomen weren’t worth a lick going forward.
Portland got two goals out of damn near 3xG, Gotham 1 goal out of barely over 0.6xG…and could easily have nicked another in the 82nd minute on the freakish ping-pong in front of the goalmouth.
So. Win 2-0 and lose 0-1?
Against Gotham that’ll work just fine.
I’m not sure that’ll work so well against Tacoma, or the Damned Courage…so (checks the schedule) let’s keep that in mind, eh?
This time OPTA and I agree; the Thorns won five corner kicks; all long into-the-box variety
|16′||Klingenberg||Long||Cleared, but Westphal gained and recycled, Rodriguez put a nice cross onto Dunn’s head, but Sheridan saved the good header.|
|25′||Salem||Long||Went way over everyone to the far edge of the 18, Kling put it back but it was cleared, then Westphal ran hard at goal and won another corner.|
|26′||Salem||Long||Went in to Sinclair, whose header was way over.|
|86′||Westphal||Long||Cleared, recycled, but without a shot before possession was lost.|
So Dunn with the strong header in the 16th minute but not much else. Kind of all of a piece with this match; one decent chance out of the five (but Sheridan comes up big, also sort of a piece with this one). Okay, fine.
PLAYER RATINGS AND COMMENTS
Smith (45′ – +13/-1) I don’t know how to express how insane this rating is. Projected out to ninety minutes it’s the first time in months that a Thorns has had a positive net PMR above 20. Smith was purely and simply a monster in the first half, and between her, Salem, and Rodriguez pretty much won this match for Portland before halftime.
Weaver (45′ – +8/-0) After Morgan Weaver came on Freya Coombe made a bunch of changes for Gotham, in particular yanking off Gaëtane Thiney, who had been a dumpster fire in the first hour, for So-dam Lee, who was terrific. I think that had a lot to do with Weaver not playing at the level Smith did despite her usual huge engine.
But I think the other part of the problem is that 1) Weaver missed her strike partners Smith and Charley, and Sinclair just can’t play at Weaver’s frenetic pace, so 2) the burden on Weaver was to play a front-running striker the way she did in college.
Except we’ve seen that Weaver isn’t that player; she’s not the fire. She’s the accellerent that makes the flames around her burn hotter. She’s the wrecking ball that opens space for others.
Yes, she damn near got a Smith-goal in the 73rd minute when she tackled Kailen Sheridan for loss – hard luck that the ball bounced the wrong way – but other than that she just wasn’t set up to succeed that way she has been succeeding in the recent past. Good enough, but just made me want to see better.
Sinclair (73′ – +6/-0 : +2/-1 : +8/-1) After a solid opening half Sinc faded badly and probably should have come off at the hour. As noted above…not the ideal partner for Weaver. Converted the penalty nicely, but overall I have to say that although she looked better than the other three internationals Sinclair injected a sort of hesitation and slightly disjointed misconnection to the attack.
Hopefully that was just rust, and the squad will mesh better this coming weekend. They’re going to need to.
Ryan (17′ – +3/-2) Missed an absolute sitter in the 76th minute, when Weaver slotted a gorgeous feed into the box, Ryan touched it perfectly to the penalty spot…and then leaned back and blasted that sucker ten feet over the crossbar.
If you’re going to sub on attackers late when up a goal to try and get insurance, the critical part is that the attackers have to get that insurance goal. Otherwise you’re taking some big chances.
Dunn (61′ – +9/-4 : +2/-1 : +11/-5) When I watched this live I was unimpressed by Dunn; she seemed to be running around a lot without doing anything of any real value. But after reviewing tape I realized that Dunn was a big part of the successful forechecking in the first half, and I was being mislead by her poor passing into thinking she wasn’t adding anything.
She did fall off quickly in the second half and was done by the hour, though, so good idea to get her off…
Everett (29′ – +1/-0) …that said, though, Marissa Everett did nothing more in her half hour than Dunn had been doing…so possibly not the right swap.
Rodriguez (+8/-3 : +1/-1 : +9/-4) Another symptom of the second-half swoon; fierce defending and tackling until the break, utterly nerfed afterwards. Some of that – maybe a lot of that – was due to Imani Dorsey replacing Skroski as well as Lee for Thiney.
Salem (67′ – +4/-0 : +0/-0 : +4/-0) This is one the PMR gets wrong, largely because Salem wasn’t beasting it up on her own, but combining with Rodriguez and Lindsey Horan to force turnovers and turnbacks in midfield. She had an excellent match, and should have been higher in the ratings but for the game state and the way the Thorns defend in midfield.
Moultrie (23′ – +1/-1) No real impact. Did cough up a bad giveaway that led to the 82nd minute half-chance, but that’s just sort of a “(bad) luck of the pitch” thing.
Horan (+4/-3 : +5/-6 : +9/-9) Possibly the worst match I’ve seen from Horan all season; slow, confused, and a mess passing forward, and definitely the worst of the internationals in this game. Needs to shake off whatever her issues were and get stuck in at the Clink this weekend.
Westphal (+7/-1 : +2/-0 : +9/-1) Excellent shift (although my guess is that Parsons’ intent in starting her was more to rest Natalia Kuikka for Tacoma this coming weekend than for Westphal’s own qualities) and effective on both sides of the ball.
Menges (+2/-3 : +2/-1 : +4/-4) Might have done better on the Lloyd goal, but Lloyd is a crafty old devil and got both perfect positioning and a brilliant service, so, maybe not. Both Menges and Brunn’s PMRs reflect how little work they had to do until damn near second half stoppage time.
Sauerbrunn (+1/-1 : +0/-3 : +1/-4) Again, not really a bad shift (tho the passing was pretty sloppy, especially in the second half, c’mon, Becks!), just not a lot to do.
Klingenberg (61′ – +5/-2 : +2/-0 : +7/-2) Fine outing, especially both defending and passing in the first half.
Pogarch (29′ – +4/-5) Might be the most Pogarch-y shift yet. I’d no sooner finish bollocking her for her appalling defensive mistakes in the 65th and 75th minutes when she’d come steaming in to clear a Dorsey cross damn near off the goalmouth two minutes later.
I kinda get what the point was; fresh legs, lots of energy, see out the match and maybe nick an insurance goal. It’s just me; Pogarch makes me nervous – I think she’s a high-risk, high-reward player, and we’ve seen more risk than otherwise lately. Hopefully it’s just a growth spurt.
Bixby (+0/-2 : +3/-0 : +3/-2) Misleading, because the two minuses were for poor distribution that wasn’t really dangerous. Rock solid in goal and not at fault on the concession. I’m kinda pissed that her defense again gave up her clean sheet.
Coach Parsons: Well, won the first half, so there’s that. But Coombe’s adjustments worked a lot better than his, and her substitutes did, too, so lost the second half. But, as discussed…they only count as a lump sum, so good on you, coach.
Now, on the other hand…Tacoma awaits this coming weekend, on a roll and looking like the French Connection is finally starting to do what they’re hired to do.
After that, and a brief visit from the Washington Spirit, it’s off to the Seventh Pit of Carolina Hell and a road meeting with the Damned.
No slack there. Gotta win ALL the halves if we want to stay on top and bag the Shield.
Let’s find out.