In what proved to be a heated first competitive match of 2021, Portland Thorns FC came out on top 2-1 over Kansas City NWSL. Raquelle Rodriguez and Tyler Lussi had the two goals for the Thorns while Amy Rodriguez scored the goal for KC.
Mark Parsons surprised everyone with his first lineup of the season, deploying Meghan Klingenberg in the midfield. The game started at a frantic pace with Kansas City kicking off and sprinting at Portland’s goal immediately. The fast-paced game led to plentiful transition opportunities and the Thorns looked to play quick one-twos and long balls to Simone Charley.
The Thorns found the back of the net early courtesy of a Klingenberg set-piece. She found R. Rodriguez who put the Thorns in the lead.
“I feel like I can hardly find the words to describe the support that I feel,” said R. Rodriguez. “You will always feel the support from the fans through social media and whatnot, but there’s nothing that can replace the physical presence. When our supporters start to cheer at the end of the game, I feel like there’s a special connection with the team and the supporters and the fans. So I’m just very grateful to be to be a Thorny at this point. And of course scoring was also very special. I truly wanted to score in Providence Park as many goals as I can but to to score in the home opener is also very special. It’s a goal I will never forget.”
Kansas City had their best spell of the first half around the 20th minute. Amy Rodriguez had a shot blocked in the 21st minute before Michele Vasconcelos fired a shot into the hands of Adrianna Franch.
After Kansas City’s brief run, Portland took over the match. R. Rodriguez dictated play as the deepest-lying midfielder and Klingenberg and Celeste Boureille linked with the front line and attacking midfielder Marissa Everett.
Everett played as the No. 10 or false nine. She and Charley displayed a good understanding and their movement disrupted Kansas City’s back line. Everett found the back of the net in transition after receiving the ball from Charley. She finished expertly, but it was waved offside.
The Thorns created the first dangerous opportunity in the second half. Everett received the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and slid the ball to Charley into the penalty area. Goalkeeper Abby Smith made a goal-saving challenge to deny Charley.
Kansas City immediately responded. The ball fell to Victoria Pickett in the box but Natalia Kuikka blocked her shot to maintain the Thorns’ 1-0 lead.
In the 57th minute, Kuikka was involved again. She drifted wide and played it to Christen Westphal. The right-back played a pin-point cross to Tyler Lussi, who put the ball in the back of the net.
Kansas City cut the lead in half quickly. Pickett poked the ball in the box and it took a fortunate deflection. A. Rodriguez pounced to make it 2-1.
The goal gave Kansas City a boost as they started to pin the Thorns back. Portland regained control of the match after Angela Salem came on in the 72nd minute. R. Rodriguez moved higher up in the midfield and Salem served as the single pivot.
Portland faced a wave of Kansas City pressure as Kuikka and Westphal were required to make challenges in the area to prevent Kansas City from equalizing.
The Thorns looked to find Weaver on the counter in search of their third goal to put the game to bed.
The match ended in dramatic fashion. Charley was sent off in the 90th minute for a mistimed challenge and then coach Mark Parsons was shown red for arguing the call.
Then Kristen Edmonds and Weaver clashed on the sideline and were also sent off. The Thorns finished the match with nine players and Kansas City played with ten.
Morgan Weaver is innocent. pic.twitter.com/pBBmsigzds— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) April 10, 2021
“Unfortunately, I think I’m really disappointed in what happened,” said Klingenberg. “Not necessarily from our side, because what I saw was, Morgan Weaver didn’t do anything, she was the one that got taken down, and we watch it on replay and I think that needs to be rectified, because it’s unfair for a player to be carded, and then not able to play in the next game when they didn’t do anything.”
“So hopefully, we can appeal that and make it right, because you know, it could have affected the outcome of the game and you’d never want refereeing to get in the way of a match, especially one that was close. And so for me, I just want standards to be held accountable. Because for us, we’re putting it all out on the field. We’re doing everything that we can to win. We just practiced 10 weeks in preseason, I think the players deserve quality refereeing and quality accountability. When it comes to these matches, I want my player safe. I want the other players on the other team safe as well. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
Charley, Weaver and Parsons will miss the next match in Chicago due to the red cards.