There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a midweek game. Portland, fresh off a road loss to the Spirit, looked happy to come back home this Wednesday and score in front of an amazing crowd of 16k supporters tonight. They didn’t disappoint; the game ended with a 3-0 win for Portland. A shut-out, as well as a brace for Sinclair, and Raso’s first NWSL goal hopefully will give the team the momentum they need to take Seattle this Saturday.
The first half was one exciting medley of events. The first 10 minutes definitely looked like KC's game. The Portland Thorns had just come off a loss to the Washington Spirit, one of the bottom ranked team in the NWSL, and still looked slightly out of sorts. The ball passing was slow, and the passing accuracy was painfully bad. The possession was pretty equal between the two teams, with Portland at 49% and KC at 51%.
Then, at the 10 minute mark, the Thorns were able to turn it around, partially thanks to Brynjarsdottir. Despite the position of RB being new to her, she was able to evaluate when she was needed in the attacking third, and when she wasn’t, and it was brilliant. The goal happened when Brynjarsdottir passed the ball into the box in the 15th minute. Sinclair back-heeled it, it came to Long's feet, Long ripped one on frame but it hit the post and Sinclair jumped on the rebound and sunk it into the net.
A goal by your captain, especially if your captain is Christine Sinclair, can always be a moral booster. The Thorns began to look like the team we know and love; with 287 passes in the first half, and a 80.5% passing accuracy, the Thorns were definitely find their groove again. With every passing minute, the presence of Brynjarsdottir seemed to increase the quality of the Thorns team. She started the sequence that lead to Sinclair's goal, and she continued to create amazing chances all half.
Portland’s momentum then snowballed, culminating in a second goal for the home team. Raso's first Portland Thorns goal came in the 32nd minute, to loud cheers of “Raso Raso Raso - oi oi oi!” from the supporters section. The goal was a beautiful moment of skill for the young Australian. Raso ran the ball down to the KC defensive third, and then went in for the cross, but then changed the angle of the ball slightly at the end, and just whipped it into the net with a nice swish.
Shea Groom was a force for Kansas City in the first half though. KC's main chances were manufactured by her. First, in the 25th minute she got her head on an Averbuch free kick and was able to direct it at goal. Franch, however, was there, and was able to save the ball. Groom also had several promising shots on goal in the first half, but Franch was always able to come up and defend her territory.
The first half wrapped up 2-0. Once the teams came back from half time, however, it looked like KC was determined to change the score. Although Portland for the first touch on the ball, and Henry drove it to their attacking third quickly, Henry’s shot went over the bar, and Barnard took it for a goal kick. The Away team then started a series of attacks, pushing the edges of the Portland defense, but Portland was able to stay together and defensively compact again. Sonnett, who had a bad game against the Spirit on Saturday, was back to her usual self, and stopped Leroux and Groom from getting any promising shots on goal.
Then, in the 71st minute, the Thorns captain Sinclair tried to get a brace. The sequence started when Henry collected the ball from the Thorns’ defensive third and ran it up the pitch, passing to Horan, to shot it forward to Sykes. Sykes ran it to end line and then tried to slide a low cross into the box. Averbuch was there, but miscleared the ball straight at Sinclair. Sinclair clearly thought she chested the ball down, but the referee thought she used her arm too liberally, and as a result she was called for a handball in the box. Sinc, livid, shouted at him, and as a result was given a yellow card for talking back to the ref.
Sinclair decided to use this momentum for her own gain, and promptly scored another goal in the 75th minute. This one was not disavowed.
In the end, this was the perfect midweek game. Although exhausting, this game will probably help the players get the energy and unity they were lacking in their game against the Washington Spirit. Their passing accuracy and possession, as well as their ability to finish balls all came together in an awesome game. This was some beautiful soccer tonight, and I can’t wait for the team to bring this same intensity against Seattle on Saturday.
Mark Parsons is also excited