Thorns @ Breakers: Boston Wrong

USA TODAY Sports

Thorns stumble into playoffs as Morgan is injured

First, let's all exhale a giant sigh of relief that Alex Morgan does not have a severe knee injury, after she went down awkwardly in the sixth minute of Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Boston Breakers.

Ready?

...

OK. Good.

Now let's talk about how awkwardly the Thorns went down in that loss.

Morgan's injury certainly cast a pall over the game. After she crumpled to the (subpar) turf at Boston's Dilboy Stadium in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,012, she lay there for six minutes, obviously in pain, until she was stretchered off. Official sideline reports indicated that things didn't look good, that Morgan had that I know what this is look on her face. That she was being given ACL and PCL tests.

It was one of those times where you sit there thinking Oh no. ACL ACL ACL ACL ughhhhhh. Later the Thorns FO announced that Morgan had something much less scary: A 1+ grade MCL sprain. Bullet dodged.

But the Thorns didn't didn't know that at the time, so the star forward's dramatic departure set the stage for the kind of emotional win that can bring a struggling team back from the brink, giving them the type of boost that can carry them through the playoffs.

Instead, the Thorns squandered a 1-0 second half lead by giving up two late-game goals to Lianne Sanderson and Heather O'Reilly. Instead, the Thorns lost, 2-1, relinquishing what little agency they had left in controlling whether or not they could earn a home playoff game.

Before the collapse, it was Tiffany Weimer who gave everyone hope. The forward, who had come on for Morgan, tallied her first goal of the year in the 52nd minute. After receiving a long ball, Christine Sinclair spotted Weimer even with the Breakers' backline. Weimer timed her run perfectly, and Sinclair slipped the ball through to her. Weimer finished far post to make it 1-0.

Up to this juncture, the Thorns, while not playing spectacularly, had been preventing the Breakers from imprinting their stamp on the game (Portland's first-half shots totaled six to Boston's four, and the Thorns shots on goal were three to the Breakers' two), and some of Portland's chances proved as close as you can get to scoring without actually scoring. Case in point: At 26', Christine Sinclair was the beneficiary of a lovely through ball from Mana Shim. Sinclair neatly sidestepped Breakers goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for a clear shot at the net. At the last possible second, however, Breakers player/interim head coach Cat Whitehill slid in to barely poke it away with her leg.

And again: Near the end of the half, the Thorns earned a fistful of chances all at once, when Boston failed to clear time after time as what seemed like the entire Portland squad cracked off a shot with AK-47 rapidity. Boston finally cleared, but it looked like the Breakers were content to give the Thorns plenty of chances to pile up goals.

All that changed after Weimer's goal. It did nothing but awaken the bear --suddenly, the Breakers found their legs, ripping off 11 second-half shots, while the Thorns could only scrounge up four. Still, the 1-0 lead would have held were it not for yet another defensive breakdown.

Boston's equalizer came at the 68' mark, when Rachel Buehler left her mark to take on Sydney Leroux, who, inexplicably wide open, had received the ball on Boston's left flank. This left Sanderson open, so Leroux simply passed it to her, and Sanderson beat Thorns keeper Karina LeBlanc for her fifth goal of the season.

The game-winner came at 84', when Whitehill found Heather O'Reilly and went over the top to get the ball to her. O'Reilly then tallied her fifth goal of the season. It appeared that LeBlanc might have been indecisive about whether or not to come off her line, but really, she never should have been put in that no-man's land in the first place.

The loss also was marred by an odd substitution. In the 86th minute, with the Thorns chasing an equalizer, Portland head coach Cindy Parlow Cone subbed in newly signed defender Tina Ellertson* --who has yet to train with the team--  for Shim, who at that point had scored four goals in her last four games. So jarring was the move, it proved less a question mark and more an interrobang.

And yet, in the end, everything ended up on a weirdly level plane. Morgan's injury was not the knife to the gut it first looked to be, and The Thorns still managed to slink into the playoffs, courtesy of the Washington Spirit's win over the Red Stars later that night. But...remember in grade school, when you didn't study for the big test, and then at the last minute it got cancelled via some luck of the draw, like a snow day, and you were simultaneously relieved and ashamed?

It felt like that.

*For whatever reason, Ellertson was left out of the stats below, which I get from NWSLsoccer.com.

GOALS

1

2

F

Portland (10-6-4)

0

1

1

Boston (7-7-6)

0

2

2

SCORING SUMMARY

Goal

Time

Team

GoalScorer

Assists

Note

1

52

Portland

Tiffany Weimer

2

68

Boston

Lianne Sanderson

Sydney Leroux

3

84

Boston

Heather O'Reilly

Cat Whitehill

CAUTIONSANDEJECTIONS

Time       Team                                            ##       Player                     Card                   Reason

None

SUBSTITUTIONS

Time       Team                                                         OUT                                     IN

13            Portland                                             #13 Alex Morgan                  #19 Tiffany Weimer

61            Portland                                             #9 Danielle Foxhoven #20 Courtney Wetzel

66            Boston                                               #7 Rhian Wilkinson               #18 Maddy Evans

81            Boston                                               #11 Joanna Lohman              #12 Katie Schoepfer

87            Boston                                               #17 Kyah Simon                   #19 Carmelina Moscato

SHOTS

1

2

F

Portland

6

4

10

Boston

4

11

15

SHOTS ON GOAL

1

2

F

Portland

3

4

7

Boston

2

6

8

SAVES

1

2

F

Portland

2

3

5

Boston

2

3

5

CORNER KICKS

1

2

F

Portland

3

0

3

Boston

5

3

8

OFFSIDES

1

2

F

Portland

3

0

3

Boston

0

1

1

FOULS

1

2

F

Portland

2

5

7

Boston

3

2

5

Officials: Referee: Elvis Mahmutovic

Asst. Referee: Albert Calise; Russell Wolf
Fourth Official: Mounir Idmalak

Attendance: 3012

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

3

2

0

0

0

1

0

0

16

Rachel Buehler*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

10

Allie Long*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

7

Nikki Marshall*

90

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

2

6

Meleana Shim*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

5

Kathryn Williamson*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

15

Casey Ramirez*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

17

Tobin Heath*

90

0

0

1

0

0

0

3

0

3

0

19

Tiffany Weimer

77

1

0

5

4

0

0

0

1

0

0

9

Danielle Foxhoven*

61

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

20

Courtney Wetzel

29

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

13

Alex Morgan*

13

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

TEAM TOTAL 990       1        0          10            7        0           0        3        3          7        5

PortlandGoalkeeperStats

##  Name(*forstarters)

Min

GA

Sh

SOG

Sv

D

1      KarinaLeBlanc*

90

2

14

7

5

L

TEAM TOTAL 90           2        14             7        5






Boston Player Stats

##

9

Name(*forstarters)

Heather O'Reilly*

Min

90

G

1

A

0

Sh

5

SOG

4

YC

0

RC

0

CK

6

Off

0

FC

0

FS

0

1

Alyssa Naeher*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

Jazmyne Avant*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

8

Julie King*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

Sydney Leroux*

90

0

1

3

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

10

Lianne Sanderson*

90

1

0

3

1

0

0

1

0

1

0

14

Kia McNeill*

90

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

Cat Whitehill*

90

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

17

Kyah Simon*

87

0

0

2

2

0

0

1

1

2

1

11

Joanna Lohman*

81

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

7

Rhian Wilkinson*

66

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

18

Maddy Evans

24

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

12

Katie Schoepfer

9

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

19

Carmelina Moscato

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

TEAM TOTAL

990

2

2

15

8

0

0

8

1

5

7

Boston Goalkeeper Stats

##  Name(*forstarters)

Min

GA

Sh

SOG

Sv

D

1      Alyssa Naeher*

90

1

8

5

4

W

TEAM TOTAL

90

1

8

5

4

X
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