Cinco de Mayo saw the most frantic and exciting Thorns match at Providence Park since the 2016 semi-final. Unhappily, the final result was a loss to the Reign.
It was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm. The stadium was still tot-less. The walls were decorated with some new banners.
As if the game itself was not exciting enough, there was more in store at the end. After the rose ceremony was over and the Thorns had left the pitch, Michelle Betos came over to the Riveters and climbed the stage to say hello. For some Riveters it was a fine and touching reunion; for others it was an abuse of traditions reserved for special occasions.
While Betos was reminiscing, Allie Long was giving a bizarre interview in the media room about her time with the Thorns, in which she declared that the club never cared for her (!) and that she never realized that the fans loved her (!!). Was she stoned for the last five years?
The league announced that the NWSL Championship match will be played in Portland on September 22 at 1:30 pm. The 2015 final between Seattle and Kansas City was played at Providence Park and set the record for attendance (13,264). If the Thorns are participating in 2018 that record will fall. The announcement was not a total surprise, especially to Riveter Luke Fritz who called it back in October.
To wrap up the day, Stumptown Footy’s own Katelyn Best was the winner of the #2StuffedFans taco eating contest at Uno Mas. The fans were pumped! Her opponent in El Taco Classico was Stephanie Yang, star of the 2 Drunk Fans podcast and soccer journalist and all-around cool person, visiting from Boston.
The eaters raced to consume ten Uno Mas tacos — five mushroom, five queso — the fastest. Ms. Best finished in 6:43 and was looking distinctly uncomfortable. In spite of receiving a taco tiara and a lovely trophy, Katelyn announced her retirement from competitive eating.
It was a good attendance week for the league, highlighted by the 16,054 at Providence Park. The Thorns are very slightly ahead of last year’s attendance after three matches — up .5%.
Utah drew 7,551, down 1,000 from last week but still second-best in the league with an average of 11,734 to date. Now that the Royals have won a game, perhaps attendance will rebound. Sky Blue had only their second home match; the first with decent weather. They attracted 2,065 while Chicago only brought in 2,027 for their match with Orlando. Chicago is still up 57% over last year after four home matches, skewed by their MLS doubleheader opener. North Carolina rustled up 4,068 for their match with the Red Stars. The Courage are arguably the best team in the league for the past two years, and they are solidly in first place in 2018. Yet their attendance is not tracking, down 12.7% compared to this time last year. Overall, the league is up 20.4% over 2017’s average.
The Portland-Seattle match was Lifetime’s Game of the Week. It failed to make the day’s top 150 shows, which means that viewership was under 100,000. Perhaps because we were all at the stadium, a chunk of the usual audience wasn’t watching on television?
Is There a PTFC Effect?
Do teams have higher attendance when the Thorns are the visiting opponent? I crunched the 2017 attendance numbers to see. The short answer is yes.
League-wide, Thorns away match attendance was 12.9% higher than average for the hosting team. The range was from +54.2% for the Red Stars to -37.8% for FCKC. That latter was skewed by the storm game which only had 428 fans — removing that outlier raises the “PTFC Effect” to 17.2% league-wide with only two teams not getting a bump from hosting the Thorns (Houston at -15.5% and Sky Blue at -7.5%). In four cases, the Thorns visit was the team’s #1 attended game, in four others it was #2. So far in 2018, two of the three Thorns’ road games have been the hosts’ #1 draw, the third being last week’s match in Salt Lake which was #2 for them.
Is it the celebrity players on the Thorns’ squad that draws more fans? It’s definitely not the Riveters traveling support, which is measured in dozens at most matches, except Seattle where it’s a few hundred. Not nearly enough to account for the difference. More likely it’s the mystique of the “big team” coming to town, as happens when Barcelona visits Getafe.
After a short turnaround, the Thorns face the Houston Dash on Wednesday at 5:00pm on GO90. The official viewing party is at The Station Public House at NE 27th and Alberta. The weather forecast for Houston is typical for this time of year — upper-80’s and somewhat humid — which will probably be a shock to Ana-Maria Crnogorčević. Not the norm in Switzerland. We won’t see the return of Emily Menges. But perhaps the rebuilt Wall of Emilys will be installed for Saturday’s match with Orlando.
Onward Rose City!