When the Portland players stepped out onto the pitch this evening, to a beautiful evening in Seattle, there was hope. The players were excited; they had momentum from Wednesday’s Kansas City game. They could win.
90 minutes later, with a score of 2-0 against the Thorns, you can only ask: what happened? The obvious answer is Megan Rapinoe. But although Megan Rapinoe is truly on fire, and a great player, she alone can not pick apart a 11 player squad. It took 11 players on the pitch tonight to mistime their cues, just barely miss their runs, and make mistakes. The Thorns’ backline tonight was bad; their mistakes were as embarrassing as the Spring Invitational game against the u23 US National in March this year. The Thorns midfield, despite the addition of Mana Shim, was slow and sluggish. The Thorns forwards, despite an amazing game on Wednesday, were just unable to connect. All of it lead to one unmistakeable result: a loss.
The worst thing about this loss, for me, is that the Thorns didn’t even play that badly. Yes, they made mistakes, but their timing wasn’t awful. The team wasn’t disjointed. The refs weren’t terrible. The Thorns registered 12 crosses, and 14 shots on goal. It wasn’t bad. It was simply not enough.
The first half began slowly. There was a lot of back and forth on the ball, and several promising moments from both sides, though neither turned into anything. It very much looked like familiar rivals testing each others limits. Moments like the multiple consecutive Seattle corners in the 16th minute served as a reminder of just how wonderful Franch is on set pieces.
But then, in the 29th minute, Fishlock sustained an injury. Fishlock, who scored two goals in the last Seattle-Portland match up (one for us, one against us), was considered key to the Seattle midfield. After a strange collision with Henry in the midfield, Fishlock’s knee buckled, and she screamed in pain. Immediately, medical attention was brought to her, and she was subbed off.
Although it's a weird thing, the Thorns get a lot of momentum from Fishlock's injury. In the 34th minute, Raso crosses into the box after a long run nearly to the endline. Her cross is alights right before the goal, and nearly gets an own goal from Seattle defenders. The momentum snowballed; in the 43rd minute, Horan passed the ball back to Sinclair, who ripped a shot outside the box. It goes just slightly wide, but Kopmeyer dived for it, and it was a truly great Seattle chance.
Just before the half, however, things began to go south. The ball was backed back again in the 45+1 minute, and Emily Sonnett, unaware that Rapinoe was behind her, gently nudged the ball toward Franch. Rapinoe cut in and kicked the ball right there, sinking it into the back of the net, allowing the Reign to walk off the pitch into half time with a 1-0 lead.
The Thorns had 45 minutes to make up for Sonnett’s defensive error. They couldn’t. Just like in the Sky Blue home game, the Thorns were unable to stop their mistake get to them. The second half began, and the team immediately looked disjointed and weak. This wasn’t the game that had walked onto the pitch at the beginning. Henry and Horan did their best to rally the team with several runs, and a variety of dangerous offensive maneuvers from Horan, but they were just unable to bring anything to fruition.
Sykes got some more time on the ball, and proved in several dangerous moments that with a little bit more time with the team, she could be dangerous. The Thorns don’t need a player who will be dangerous in the future, however; they need a dangerous player now. Hopefully Sykes will be able to step up to the plate and act as that person in the coming weeks.
While the Thorns continued to struggle in the second half, Rapinoe scored an excellent goal, sealing the Reign victory in the 80th minute. Although the Thorns tried to inject the last minutes of the game with pace and rigor, they simply couldn’t convert, and the game ended without a Portland goal.