clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Portland Thorns Match Story: Signs of Life

New, 5 comments

Heath arrives and LeBlanc saves a 1-1 draw against WNY

USA TODAY Sports Images

There was a sundry assortment of tidbits from which to pluck a storyline about the Portland Thorns' 1-1 draw on Sunday with the Western New York Flash, but none was as sweet as Karina LeBlanc's spectacular 84th-minute penalty kick save.

With the score knotted at 1 after goals from WNY's Abby Wambach and the Thorns' Mana Shim, referee Ted Unkel called Thorns midfielder Allie Long for a foul in the box. Unkel pointed to the spot, and Wambach --You know, the top international goal-scorer of all time?-- stepped to it.

With that, the Thorns' third loss in a row seemed inevitable. Up to this point, Portland had been peppering WNY's keeper Adrianna Franch with quality shots all night, but the young goaltender had her line on lockdown. A betting woman would have laid down her life's savings on this impending narrative: Wambach's gonna make this shot. Franch is gonna seal off her goal. The Thorns are gonna lose, 2-1.

But, as the Timbers had proven just 18 hours before, there is always hope at Jeld-Wen. Barely recovered from the previous night's cacophony, the rafters of the North End echoed with noise, as 13,021 rose to their feet and, led by the Rose City Riveters, bellowed the "PTFC" chant. LeBlanc crouched. Wambach stepped to the line. LeBlanc jiggled her right leg in anticipation. Wambach sprang toward the spot. LeBlanc saw something; she switched her momentum to her left. Wambach shot, a soft, knee-high, slightly arcing ball headed to the back post. LeBlanc dove and sprawled, her gloved hand meeting the ball at the lower near post, inches from the line. She shoved the ball wide before it crossed. It was done. KK had fended off a legend, and the score remained 1-1.

The crowd lost its mind. LeBlanc unleashed a bleacher-rattling scream. Her teammates mobbed her.

It was the save of the season. And it might have saved the season altogether.

"In my head I was just like ‘I got this, I got this. It's what the team needs,'" LeBlanc said after the game, her voice almost completely gone. "And that's what a keeper needs to do, they have to do what the team needs them to do."

You bet they needed it. A draw ain't great, but a loss against the Flash would have knocked the Thorns (8-4-3, 27 pts.) back to fourth place in the standings, seven points off-pace from first-place Sky Blue FC (9-3-4, 31 pts.), and barely clinging to the playoff bubble. Perhaps worse, it would have sent the Thorns -already off-balance and struggling with a four-game winless streak and a three-game scoreless streak- tumbling down an existential hole.

Instead, the Thorns remain in second place, with, of all things, a little momentum.

"We haven't been getting the results we're looking for, but we are playing much better soccer," Shim said after the game. "I think our fans can see that, and our team can see that, our coaches can see that."

While most pregame hype focused on the matchup between Wambach and her USWNT protégé Alex Morgan, it was Shim who was the answer to Western New York's star. After Wambach scored in the 37th minute, it only took the spunky midfielder 90 seconds to answer. The scoring sequence began when Portland defender Nikki Marshall found an open Christine Sinclair on the left side of the offensive third. Sinclair carried a bit, and then with some nifty penalty-box footwork got enough separation between her and the defender to fire a crossing pass. Morgan let the ball slide by, and it landed at the foot of a streaking Shim, who buried it in the near corner of the net.

"We had some good ball movement, had a couple of great passes, combination play. Sinc got end line and played a great ball back to me, and you get a ball that great, it's an easy finish," Shim said.

Wambach's goal had come just moments before, when the forward, in her classic, physical fashion, wrestled rookie defender Kat Williamson to the ground before booting a perfectly arced ball over a leaping LeBlanc.

It was one of the few times Williamson let the international superstar get the better of her. For most of the match, the Thorn's defender met Wambach's physicality straight-on, at times clearly frustrating her.

"Gosh, our defense was solid tonight," LeBlanc said. "Abby is one of the best finishers in the world...Kat stood up to her like a veteran, and I loved it."

There was more to love. The game marked the Thorns debut of midfielder Tobin Heath, who has been away playing in France. Pre-game fan chatter suggested Heath would be the cure for this team's much-troubled midfield --and, hence, a cure for the team's difficulties as a whole. Considering the lull that preceded her arrival, it seemed a heavy burden. But Heath delivered. "She makes a huge difference," Shim said. "She's just very dynamic, keeps the ball very well. She's a very skillful player. She's fun to play with."

Not only did Heath facilitate some creative, strong linkage between the midfield and the attack, she also almost scored twice. It took two excellent saves from Franch to fend off the newcomer's shots.

"I don't like to lose or tie, so that was kind of a bummer," Heath said, in her usual understated style. "There were a couple of really good balls that Sinc played me in that I need to do better with, though [Franch] had a fantastic game, so I gotta give that to her."

Heath's presence also allowed for the unleashing of Sinclair, who was released from the bondage of the midfield and returned to her usual spot at the top. The changes -along with some much improved play from midfielder Tiffany Weimer- provided a dramatic improvement for an attack that hadn't scored in three games, despite having two of the top three strikers in the world on the roster. Portland cranked off 20 shots, half of which were on-goal, many of which were quality. More importantly, most of the shots came off of developed, well-connected play. The only thing that thwarted them was the impossibly stellar play of Franch, combined with slightly off finishing.

"Obviously the hardest thing to do in this game is to score goals," said Portland head coach Cindy Parlow Cone. "We're creating great chances, we were having great mobility off the ball...but we're unable right now to put them away, for whatever reason."

LeBlanc noted the team might be on the cusp of a change. "It'll come...We just didn't get that finish, and that's gonna come. Having Alex and Sincy up top makes us that much more dangerous. Our whole offensive threat was a bit better this weekend."

Indeed, it was, but once again, LeBlanc's stellar performance saved the Thorns bacon -and stole the show. Besides the PK, LeBlanc came through with a handful of stunning saves tailor-made for the highlight reel, matching Franch's performance. And so it was on an afternoon when the world's best goal-scorer loped into town, when the Thorns' supposed savior sailed in from France, and the offense finally got clicking, it was a veteran goalkeeper who heard her name chanted by the crowd.

Not that anyone seemed to mind. "The crowd's so awesome," Heath said at the press conference podium. "It's just great so to hear them...that huge KK save, with the crowd just reacting --that was a pretty special moment."

GOALS

1

2

F

WesternNewYork(6-4-6)

1

0

1

Portland(8-4-3)

1

0

1

SCORING SUMMARY

Goal

Time

Team

GoalScorer

Assists

Note

1

38

Western New York

Abby Wambach

Samantha Kerr

2

39

Portland

Meleana Shim

Christine Sinclair

CAUTIONS AND EJECTIONS

Time

Team

##

Player

Card

Reason

23

Western New York

20

Abby Wambach

Yellow Card

Reckless Foul

86

Portland

17

Tobin Heath

Yellow Card

Dissent

91+

Western New York

6

Angela Salem

Yellow Card

Reckless Foul

SUBSTITUTIONS

Time Team OUT IN

68 Portland #19 Tiffany Weimer #9 Danielle Foxhoven

83 WesternNewYork #4 Samantha Kerr #23 Jodi-Ann Robinson

85 WesternNewYork #14 Sarah Huffman #9Ingrid Wells

88 Portland #6 Meleana Shim #8 Angie Kerr

SHOTS

1

2

F

Western New York

9

5

14

Portland

9

11

20

SHOTS ON GOAL

1

2

F

Western New York

5

2

7

Portland

5

5

10

SAVES

1

2

F

Western New York

4

5

9

Portland

4

3

7

CORNER KICKS

1

2

F

Western New York

3

0

3

Portland

1

7

8

OFFSIDES

1

2

F

Western New York

0

2

2

Portland

2

0

2

FOULS

1

2

F

Western New York

8

6

14

Portland

5

6

11

Officials:
Referee:
Ted Unkel

Asst. Referee: Andrew Evangelos; Farhad Dadkho
Fourth Official: Andrew Deuker

Attendance: 13021

Western New York Player Stats

##

20

Name(*forstarters)

Abby Wambach*

Min

90

G

1

A

0

Sh

3

SOG

3

YC

1

RC

0

CK

0

Off

0

FC

6

FS

3

16

Katherine Reynolds*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

17

Veronica Perez*

90

0

0

4

2

0

0

1

0

0

1

2

Alex Sahlen*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

Angela Salem*

90

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

7

McCall Zerboni*

90

0

0

2

1

0

0

2

0

5

1

13

Brittany Taylor*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

12

Estelle Johnson*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

24

Adrianna Franch*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

14

Sarah Huffman*

85

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

1

4

Samantha Kerr*

83

0

1

2

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

23

Jodi-Ann Robinson

7

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

9

Ingrid Wells

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

TEAM TOTAL 990 1 1 14 7 2 0 3 2 14 10

WesternNewYorkGoalkeeperStats

## Name(*forstarters)

Min

GA

Sh

SOG

Sv

D

24 AdriannaFranch*

90

1

20

10

9

T

TEAMTOTAL

90

1

20

10

9





PortlandPlayerStats

##

Name(*forstarters)

Min

G

A

Sh

SOG

YC

RC

CK

Off

FC

FS

1

Karina LeBlanc*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

12

Christine Sinclair*

90

0

1

2

1

0

0

0

0

1

1

2

Marian Dougherty*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

16

Rachel Buehler*

90

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

2

0

13

Alex Morgan*

90

0

0

10

4

0

0

0

2

1

1

10

Allie Long*

90

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

2

3

5

Kathryn Williamson*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

17

Tobin Heath*

90

0

0

3

2

1

0

1

0

3

3

7

Nikki Marshall*

90

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

Meleana Shim*

88

1

0

2

1

0

0

2

0

0

1

19

Tiffany Weimer*

68

0

0

1

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

9

Danielle Foxhoven

22

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

1

0

8

Angie Kerr

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

TEAM TOTAL

990

1

1

20

10

1

0

8

2

11

14

Portland Goalkeeper Stats

## Name(*forstarters)

Min

GA

Sh

SOG

Sv

D

1 Karina LeBlanc*

90

1

13

6

5

T

TEAM TOTAL

90

1

13

6

5