The Portland Thorns started off their 2015 season with a bang in a 4-1 win over the Boston Breakers Saturday night at Providence Park in front of 13, 386 fans. Midfielder Allie Long scored in the season opener for a second-straight year, notching two goals after midfielders Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim had opened the scoring for Portland. Shim also tallied both assists for Long’s goals.
Opening an NWSL season at home for the first time, Portland took the lead in the 21st minute. After Long had an opportunity controversially cleared off the line, Farrelly was on hand to finish from the ensuing corner kick. Long whipped in the cross and Kat Williamson rose to flick the ball to Farrelly at the far post to make it 1-0. The goal marked Farrelly’s first as a Thorn, while Williamson tallies her first NWSL assist.
Playing in an aggressive 3-4-2-1 formation, Portland was able to find space down the flanks, with midfielder Kendall Johnson often the beneficiary. Her low cross in the 38th minute was dummied by Long to a wide-open Shim, who buried her first-time shot into the bottom corner, past a diving Alyssa Naeher in goal.
While Portland took the 2-0 lead into halftime, Boston was first to strike in the second half. Forward Stephanie McCaffrey picked up a pass at the top of the box and cut back to the middle for a shot that she curled into the far corner in the 63rd minute. The goal is McCaffrey’s first in the NWSL after being selected 5th in the NWSL College Draft back in January.
After that the game belonged to Long and the Thorns. Portland’s high pressure enabled them to cut out passes throughout the night, which helped in the buildup to the third goal. Midfielder McCall Zerboni picked out Shim for an improvised chipped pass to feed Long at the top of the box in the 71st minute. Cutting back to her left foot, Long blasted a shot into the upper left corner to restore Portland’s two-goal lead.
It was the Zerboni-to-Shim-to-Long connection again that finished things off just a minute and 13 seconds later. Shim released Long down the middle with a first-time through ball after a pass from Zerboni. Driving at her defender, Long shimmied to her right and curled the ball inside the right post for her brace and Portland’s fourth of the night. Long is now tied with forward Alex Morgan for career Thorns goals at 14 and only one behind leader Christine Sinclair, who has 15.
Portland racked up double-digit shot attempts in both halves, holding a 23-9 shot advantage on the night and forcing Naeher to make five saves. Starting Thorns goalkeeper Michelle Betos made six saves. Four players made their first Thorns appearance in the match. Johnson and Zerboni earned their first starts, while midfielder Sarah Robbins and forward Jodie Taylor were second half subs.
The Thorns have scored 10 goals in their last two matches against the Breakers at Providence and improve their record against Boston to 3-4-0. Portland plays host to the Western New York Flash next Saturday, April 18.
Thorns FC head coach Paul Riley speaks to the media following his team's 4-1 win
Allie Long's post game comments after the win
Mana Shim gives her thoughts on Portland's season opening win and the great chemistry in the locker room