The Thorns broke their scoreless streak in a wild, back-and-forth 4-3 victory over the Orlando Pride, capitalizing off a number of defensive errors (and conceding a few of their own in the process). “It’s always special in Providence Park,” coach Mark Parsons said after the match. “It always seems to be this stadium that gives the absolute best games in this country.”
The Thorns lined up in the same shape we saw against Reign FC last week, save Hayley Raso getting the nod — and her first start of the season — over Caitlin Foord. The change gave Portland even more pace up front, a move which they hoped would allow them to put the Pride under pressure and expose the shaky Orlando backline.
And the move paid off; in the 3rd minute of the match, Raso closed down on Haley Kopmeyer and was able to get on the end of Kopmeyer’s attempted clearance, deflecting it forward to give herself an open chance on goal. Raso’s calm, right-footed finish rolled into the back of the net uncontested, putting the Thorns up 1-0. “You can’t keep conceding the goals that we’re conceding,” said coach Marc Skinner of his team’s defensive lapses.
Portland carried the momentum of their early goal through the rest of the first half, holding a clear edge on possession and keeping the Pride pinned in their defensive third. Raso almost recreated her goal in the 11th minute, when Kopmeyer — under pressure by Dagny Brynjarsdottir, sent a pass straight to Raso. Fortunately for Orlando, Raso’s shot was saved by a Toni Pressley header and eventually sent out of bounds.
Elizabeth Ball nearly found her first goal of the season in the 18th minute after getting on the end of a series of headers in the Pride’s box. Kopmeyer was able to get a hand on the ball and tip it wide, denying the opportunity. On the other end of the pitch, Ball continued her run of strong defensive play throughout the first half, tracking back well on the occasions where Orlando was able to get the ball in Portland’s defensive end. She showcased a number of well-read tackles and connected well with her teammates to switch the ball along the Thorns defensive line and play out of the back.
In the 22nd minute, the Pride found their only look on goal of the half, when Ball was called for a foul on Marta outside the box. Alanna Kennedy stepped up to take it, but her shot was sent straight into the hands of Britt Eckerstrom. Eckerstrom found Raso on the punt, generating yet another fantastic look for Portland, though the resulting shot was off target.
The opportunities kept coming for Portland. In the 36th minute, Gabby Seiler won the ball in the Thorns defensive end and sent a ball to Raso, springing a counterattack. Driving up the pitch, Raso was taken down by Rachel Hill, who earned a yellow card for her efforts. Meghan Klingenberg’s free kick found Brynjarsdottir, as she rose above her defender to win the ball with her head, but Kopmeyer was able to parry the shot over the crossbar.
Portland continued to dominate, utilizing the width provided by Klingenberg and Ellie Carpenter to create a number of crosses and dangerous looks, despite the scoreline holding for the remainder of the half.
Orlando was able to find a couple shots in the opening of the second half, beginning to look as if they were (maybe, a little bit) finding their way back into the game. The Thorns continued to press and generate chances of their own.
In the 58th minute, Ball sent a cross into the box, and Shelina Zadorsky rose up to win it with her head. However, Kopmeyer had come out as well, and Zadorsky ended up sending the ball over her goalkeeper. Midge Purce won the ball in the air, sinking her header to double Portland’s lead.
With Purce’s goal, the game broke wide open. Marta picked up the ball outside of the Thorns box in the 61st minute and sent a rocket into the back of the net. With the ball shielded from view, Eckerstrom wasn’t able to get a good enough read on the shot to make the save, and, just like that, the game was 2-1.
Just five minutes later, Portland found another goal. Carpenter’s long throw in eventually fell to the feet of Foord — who had come in for Purce seconds before. Foord laid the ball back for Christine Sinclair, whose shot beat Kopmeyer to the far post.
The Pride again retaliated in the 68th minute, as a through ball found Marta in the 6. At an angle, Marta tried the shot. Emily Menges tried to make a play, but ended up deflecting the ball past Katherine Reynolds for a Portland own goal. “You give them an inch, they’re going to take it,” said Parsons, crediting the caliber of Orlando’s players.
From there, the chaos (and physicality) continued; Seiler and Erin Greening were issued yellows just four minutes apart from one another.
Adding to the drama of the closing minutes, Orlando leveled the game in the final minute of regulation play. The clearance off Marta’s free kick fell to Greening, whose right-footed strike found the back of the net. “That’s the second game in a row where we haven’t blocked a ball from outside or near the 18-yard-box and that’s a problem,” Parsons identified after the game.
And even then the match hadn’t run out. Abby Elinsky’s play earned herself a card after taking Klingenberg in the first minute of stoppage time. Picking up the clearance on the resulting free kick, Seiler hit a shot from the top of the 18. Kopmeyer read the ball well and made a valiant tip save, conceding a corner to the Thorns. Tyler Lussi made the most of the chance, as Klingenberg’s ball found her head, sending the ball into the back of the net to find the game-winning goal for Portland.
“In between the 18s, we took giant leaps today,” Parsons conveyed, reflecting on the game overall. Despite pointing to areas that his team had to clean up going forward, he declared: “we were playing like Portland Thorns again.”