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Thorns Down Under: Portland South

Thorns scored 3 of the 7 goals in the league over the weekend!

W-League Rd 1 - Western Sydney v Sydney Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

The W-League’s opening weekend was just as exciting as anticipated for Portland fans, with scoring starts for both Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter. International players are wielding a bigger influence down under than ever before: Not only did visa players score three of seven goals in the league in round one, the other goals were all scored by Australian international players.

Britt Eckerstrom’s Newcastle Jets opened the season with a bye week, and Hayley Raso is still making her recovery from injury, but every other Thorn played 90 minutes.

Weekend in Review

Western Sydney Wanderers 0, Sydney FC 3

The W-League’s curtain raiser ended up not being particularly close, with Sydney FC showing how strong they remain after falling in last year’s final. Sydney’s front three—Lisa De Vanna, Caitlin Foord and Savannah McCaskill—are all hard-charging forwards who love to get time on the ball and set up teammates and they already all looked on the same page despite the short period of time they’ve had to get to know McCaskill. McCaskill found quite a bit of joy dropping behind the defense and looking for Foord’s runs, pinging the ball to her from all over the field and setting her up for a few good chances.

Foord’s two goals were not the most difficult she will ever score, but they’re more evidence that she’s approaching her best yet again. Her second, in the 76th minute, was a tap in at the far post after De Vanna drove down the left with the ball at her feet, dragging several defenders out of position in the process. Most promising is her drive to take shots early, throwing off Jada Whyman in Wanderers’ goal with first time volleys. If Foord can keep it up, a hat trick this season seems on the cards at some point.

Wanderers’ strategy of vacuuming up undervalued assets this season has been a stark contrast to Sydney’s aggressive recruitment of NWSL stars, and it produced an evident mismatch on the field. Lo’eau LaBonta will have an impact for them this season in midfield and hit a strong shot off the crossbar in this game, but Sydney Miramontez looked out of her depth against Sydney’s international caliber front line, and found herself out of position more than once as the Wanderers found it difficult to hold Sydney offside. The question is now if anyone can match Sydney when they’re at the top of their game.

Brisbane Roar 1, Perth Glory 1

Brisbane dominated for much of the game but went behind off a counterattacking goal from Alyssa Mautz after a sloppy pass from Katrina Gorry in her own half, only to get a late equalizer from Carson Pickett after she was moved up the field.

Chioma Ubogagu is a strong addition to a Brisbane team that lacked a good striker last year, but she’s still settling in to her surroundings. Her ability to hold the ball up on the run resulted in a few good attacks for Brisbane, but a few times she got herself into good shooting positions and turned down the chance to shoot. She redeemed herself in the end with her perfect cross to Carson Pickett for the equalizer.

Celeste Boureille was awarded the fans’ player of the game, and she looked right back in her comfort zone at the base of the midfield, playing out of pressure nicely and keeping the ball moving. Defensively she was sound as usual, even earning a late yellow card to prevent a breakaway when she got stranded by the rest of her team. As the game wore on and Brisbane pushed for late goals Boureille even got in a few runs downfield with the ball at her feet. More games like this one will go a long way toward improving Boureille’s overall soccer ability.

Canberra United 2, Melbourne City 0

New signing Rhoda Mulaudzi scored on her debut and set up Ellie Carpenter for the final goal as Canberra defeated the defending champions handily.

Canberra appear to be running a 3-5-2, anchored by Rachel Corsie in defense, allowing Ellie Carpenter to play as a wingback for most of the game. She did get moved around a little bit, as expected: late on she found herself leading counterattacks from further forward as Melbourne pushed for an equalizer, leading to her 85th minute goal off a pass from Mulaudzi.

Melbourne City had to reach pretty deep into their player pool for this game, and have started the last two seasons slow and ended up title winners by the end of the season, so they aren’t worried now. Canberra, however, have put the league on notice that they might just be better than anyone expected.

Next Week

Newcastle Jets at Melbourne Victory, Thursday, 1:30am PST, ESPN+

Newcastle start their season with a favorable matchup as they try to get their team on the same page, going up against a Victory team who failed to score a goal in their first game. Britt Eckerstrom’s new backline members, Taylor Smith and Larissa Crummer, will be particularly interesting to watch.

Sydney FC at Melbourne City, Thursday, 11:20pm PST, ESPN+

The rematch of last year’s final, Sydney go into the weekend looking confident and complete while City project to still be starting 15 year olds as they wait for their stars to be available. Caitlin Foord, denied the chance to play in the final by a foot injury suffered in the semifinal, will be itching to make her presence felt.

Brisbane Roar at Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday, 9:30pm PST

Brisbane pay a visit to a team that looked pretty toothless in their opening match, and after dominating Perth but failing to win, will want to get the full points on the board. Their attack will only get better as they get to spend more time together, with Ubogagu in particular seeming likely to get on the board with her first goal sooner rather than later.

Canberra United vs Perth Glory, Saturday, 10:00pm PST

Canberra’s defense might not be best suited to dealing with Perth’s counterattack, especially with Sam Kerr back in the lineup. Carpenter might have more defensive responsibilities dealing with their speed going forward.