For the second time in a fortnight, the Portland Thorns were able to notch a 2-0 win against an North-Eastern team. The Thorns have won every game against Sky Blue in the 2016 season, so there was a lot of confidence going into the game. Portland played with the intensity and integrity that fans have come to expect from players in the 2016 season. This success looked very different to the Thorns’ success over Boston though; Sky Blue played incredibly well. Portland just played better.
The game started well. Lindsey Horan got a brace; her two goals were well set up, and well deserved. The speed of play pattered out in the second half; Portland became less concerned with attacking with 2 goals already under their belt, and worked more on maintain possession. This by no means made a boring second half; Sky Blue upped their intensity, and almost the entire Portland midfield dropped back to help their defenders. When, in the 56th minute, Franch was able to save a PK, Portland really began to look like the Portland Thorns of September 2016; the team we all know and love.
The first 10 minutes of the game, though, were rough; the players were finding their feet. The Thorns players, who have travelled nearly 3,000 miles to play on this field, had a hard time getting into the game at first. There were some missed passes, some clumsy testing out of the defense. The fact that Mallory Webber was starting instead of Raso meant that some players passed the ball forward expecting Raso’s explosive speed from Webber. Webber is fast, but not that fast.
Once the game got going though, the players seem to find their groove. Amandine Henry started the shots on goal in the 11th minute, with a rocket on goal. Christine Sinclair got the ball off of a cross, but without any passing options or a clear shot on goal in the box, she passed it back to Henry who was at the top of the 18. Henry tried her luck with a right footed rocket. Sheridan was forced to make her first of two saves of the night, but she saved it.
Then, in the 20th minute, Nadia Nadim was fouled by Sky Blue defender Kaya Mills. This drew the first yellow card of the match. Portland got a free kick, which Nadim took. She served it in beautifully, and Horan, with a diving header, scored her first goal of the season.
Sky Blue gained some steam after the first goal with some dangerous counter attacks. The Portland defense was able to handle most of them; Menges and Sonnett are really wonderful at covering players, and cutting down passing options, forcing sloppy shots from the Sky Blue defense. Franch was forced into action with a shot by Sam Kerr, though it was just off target. After that, the game settled down; Portland maintained a tighter defense as Allie Long and Amandine Henry dropped back to help out.
Five minutes before half-time, Lindsey Horan had another amazing chance on goal, which she converted. The ball was passed into the box again, again to the feet of Sinclair. Sinclair was unable to convert; passed it back to Horan, who passed it back to Nadim, who saw Klingenburg making her run down the left side of the field. Nadim passed it to Klingenburg, who delivered a perfect cross outside the goal. Horan was able to just get a foot on it, and suddenly Portland was up 2-0 at half time.
The second half started strong for Sky Blue. The New Jersey team began the half with three strong attacks, but Franch was able to save every shot on goal. The attacking momentum continued until Mallory Webber fouled Rodriguez in the box in the 56th minute. The foul was called, and Sarah Killion put the ball down to prepare for a penalty kick. For the second time this season, Franch was faced with a penalty kick. For the second time, Franch was able to save it.
Franch’s save cut down the attacking momentum. Suddenly, Portland defenders were quick and efficient about their blocks. Although Kerr still logged a shot on goal, and there were a couple of other defensive miscues that ended in dangerous moments, the defending ultimately was what kept the game from equalizing. The Thorns were able to deal with Sky Blue’s pressure in the last thirty minutes, and Franch ended the game with 6 saves logged, while the Portland defense logged 22 clearances.
If this game was played in Providence Park, I don’t know who would have gotten the rose crown: Horan or AD? Horan owned the first half; she was in control of the ball, fast and efficient. But by the second half, Sky Blue was hip to her tricks, and covered her pretty well. Really, AD was the queen of the second half; her goalkeeping was really something. In the end, I would probably give the rose to Franch, while thanking Horan ardently for all her work on the pitch tonight.