Match Story: Portland Thorns FC @ FC Kansas City

USA TODAY Sports

Portland's 2-0 loss was awkward from the start.

As Portland Thorns FC prepared to do battle against FC Kansas City at Verizon Wireless Field on Sunday afternoon, game faces were set and the pregame ceremony began...and then promptly fizzled into disaster as the poor soul chosen to sing "The Star-Spangle Banner" completely botched the job. In front of 4,774, he nervously warbled, forgot the lyrics, and finished off with a final stanza that was gloriously off-key.

It was just the beginning of an afternoon full of sour notes for Portland.

The Thorns entered the game with a chance to grab a place alone at the top of the NWSL standings. Instead, they left with a disheartening 2-0 loss (their first road loss of the season), a tenuous hold on second place, and --perhaps most worrisome-- a continued pattern of lackluster play.

The last few stanzas of the garbled anthem had barely faded when FCKC midfielder Lauren Cheney burned the Thorns with a goal 10 minutes in. Cheney, who has been on a complete tear the past few games, now leads the league with eight goals. Three of those have come against the Thorns.

So why Cheney was left so alone at around 28 yards away from the goal will remain one of the many mysteries of this match. There Cheney was, receiving the ball unchallenged at midfield. There Cheney was, given a boulevard of space to race through for 25 yards. And there Cheney was, untouched, with plenty of time to apply the deftest of touches to a ball that volleyed just over Thorns keeper Karina LeBlanc, upper 90. LeBlanc could do little to stop it.

The second goal came at 71', when Kansas City's Leigh Ann Robinson served the ball from the right side of her offensive third. Portland's Angie Kerr, who had come on at 62' for Nikki Washington, threw a foot up to block the ball, but instead of clearing it, she popped the ball up and back toward the Thorns goal. LeBlanc realized the danger and scampered off her line to corral it, but it was too late --KC's Merritt Mathias pushed Thorns defender Kat Williamson out of the way and easily booted the ball home. Both LeBlanc and Williamson hit the deck after running into each other and lay there for a moment.

Who could blame them for wanting to stay prone on the pitch for a bit? It was a dopey way to give up a goal, and a metaphor for how hapless the Thorns appeared from the first whistle. Throughout the match, Kansas City dominated the run of play while Portland exhibited what is looking more and more like the norm: Disorganized play, tenuousness, and a midfield that can't deliver the ball to two of the best forwards in the world, Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair.

All this against a team that had the Thorns figured out to a T. In the two teams' last meeting, which Portland won 4-3 in a crazy back-and-forth game, the Thorns were able to exert a bit of a gameplan, stretching Kansas City's defense, which allowed them to make more connecting passes to Morgan and Sinclair. In Sunday's match, the Blues kept their backline tight and hammered at Portland's midfield. Instead of focusing on Morgan and Sinclair, Kansas City focused on making sure the ball never got to them in the first place.

It's arguable that Kansas City needn't have bothered exerting such effort. Even when Portland's midfield managed to eke out a bit of room to maneuver, the group addressed its task with all the urgency of someone filling out a driver's license form. After a while, I had to figure out a different way to say "Thorns midfielder gets dispossessed" in my notes. Which one? Which time? The team as whole looked uninterested in stepping to meet the ball; instead, Thorns players were content to wait for the ball to reach their foot, until a Blues player swooped in to relieve them of the burden altogether.

The only bright spot was LeBlanc. Sure, a pair of shots got past her, but there was absolutely nothing she could have done about Cheney's shot, and Mathias's goal was more a product of weird error than a keeper mistake. LeBlanc collected seven saves and prevented the score from reaching pile-on level. The most spectacular stops came at the 60th minute. Kansas City began building from the back, but Portland allowed them such open channels, they simply raced upfield and connected a pair of passes, the last of which slotted in front of Cheney. Full-stride, Cheney flew toward the net, and LeBlanc raced off her line. Cheney tried another volley shot-this one with some pace-but LeBlanc's cat-like reactive save cut it off mid-flight. The rebound went to Cheney, who tried to slot it far post, but LeBlanc managed to just get a toe on it and push it wide, barely missing the goal line.

Except for the goalkeeping, this Thorns team didn't look all that evolved from the one that had to come back to defeat the Portland Pilots in their preseason match. If this summation sounds harsh, it's a product of frustration. Some of Portland's players are better than others, but they are all, to a woman, better than this. And over the season, we've seen proof: We've seen them play with passion, and we've seen them show flashes of playing with form and strategy. We've seen them play with joy. But we've never once seen them come out looking fully prepared. Whether that's due to the players not executing Cindy Parlow Cone's gameplan, or Parlow Cone not providing the right gameplan, or some combination of the two, one thing is for sure: The season is beyond halfway over and the Thorns, whose record now stands at 8-3-3 (26 points), have devolved in the past few games, and other teams are only getting better.

GOALS

1

2

F

Portland (8-3-2)

0

0

0

FC Kansas City (7-4-2)

1

1

2

SCORING SUMMARY

Goal

Time

Team

Goal Scorer

Assists

Note

1

10

FC Kansas City

Lauren Cheney

Leigh-Ann Robinson

2

71

FC Kansas City

Merritt Mathias

Leigh-Ann Robinson

CAUTIONSANDEJECTIONS

Time Team ## Player Card Reason

None

SUBSTITUTIONS

Time Team OUT IN

46 FC Kansas City #8 Courtney Jones #9 Merritt Mathias

46 Portland #19 Tiffany Weimer #9 Danielle Foxhoven

62 Portland #21 Nikki Washington #8 Angie Kerr

72 Portland #20 Courtney Wetzel #6 Meleana Shim

83 FC Kansas City #2 Melissa Henderson #10 Renae Cuellar

SHOTS

1

2

F

Portland

3

6

9

FC Kansas City

7

5

12

SHOTS ON GOAL

1

2

F

Portland

1

5

6

FC Kansas City

5

4

9

SAVES

1

2

F

Portland

4

3

7

FC Kansas City

1

5

6

CORNER KICKS

1

2

F

Portland

2

3

5

FC Kansas City

2

0

2

OFFSIDES

1

2

F

Portland

1

0

1

FC Kansas City

0

1

1

FOULS

1

2

F

Portland

2

3

5

FC Kansas City

4

2

6

Officials:
Referee:
Christina Unkel

Asst. Referee: Jennifer Jones; Adrienne McDonald
Fourth Official: Kyle Atkins

Attendance: 4774

Portland Player Stats

##

1

Name(*forstarters)

Karina LeBlanc*

Min

90

G

0

A

0

Sh

0

SOG

0

YC

0

RC

0

CK

0

Off

0

FC

0

FS

0

12

Christine Sinclair*

90

0

0

4

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

Marian Dougherty*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

16

Rachel Buehler*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

13

Alex Morgan*

90

0

0

3

1

0

0

0

1

0

2

10

Allie Long*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

5

Kathryn Williamson*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

7

Nikki Marshall*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

20

Courtney Wetzel*

72

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

1

21

Nikki Washington*

62

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

9

Danielle Foxhoven

45

0

0

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

19

Tiffany Weimer*

45

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

8

Angie Kerr

28

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

6

Meleana Shim

18

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

TEAM TOTAL 990 0 0 9 6 0 0 5 1 5 6

PortlandGoalkeeperStats

## Name(*forstarters)

Min

GA

Sh

SOG

Sv

D

1 KarinaLeBlanc*

90

2

9

6

4

L

TEAMTOTAL

90

2

9

6

4




FC Kansas City Player Stats

##

18

Name(*forstarters)

Nicole Barnhart*

Min

90

G

0

A

0

Sh

0

SOG

0

YC

0

RC

0

CK

0

Off

0

FC

0

FS

0

4

Becky Sauerbrunn*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

Jen Buczkowski*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

13

Leigh-Ann Robinson*

90

0

2

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

14

Lauren Sesselmann*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

12

Lauren Cheney*

90

1

0

4

3

0

0

1

0

1

0

15

Erika Tymrak*

90

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

3

11

Desiree Scott*

90

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

19

Kristie Mewis*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

0

2

Melissa Henderson*

83

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

9

Merritt Mathias

45

1

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

8

Courtney Jones*

45

0

0

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

1

10

Renae Cuellar

7

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

TEAM TOTAL

990

2

2

12

9

0

0

2

1

6

5

FC Kansas City Goalkeeper Stats

## Name(*forstarters)

Min

GA

Sh

SOG

Sv

D

18 Nicole Barnhart*

90

0

8

5

5

W

TEAM TOTAL 90 0 8 5 5

SB Nation Featured Video
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Stumptown Footy

You must be a member of Stumptown Footy to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Stumptown Footy. You should read them.

Join Stumptown Footy

You must be a member of Stumptown Footy to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Stumptown Footy. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9353_tracker