First, I’d like to start with the cons so that we can finish with the pros:
- The Thorns didn’t seem as calm and collected as the Thorns typically do. I feel like they were reacting to the Red Stars' high press and because of that, it felt like they were scrambling when they had time on the ball. This also lead to a few turnovers.
- The defense was in a three-back, which seems to be really popular in the NWSL right now, but with Menges out with an injury, it wasn’t the strongest choice against a team like Chicago that has Mallory Pugh. (The exception being Becky Saurbrunn, obviously, who is going to be a solid defender no matter what.)
- Because of the three-back situation, I felt like the Thorns weren’t able to deal with crosses into the box as they typically have been able to. Luckily nothing came from those opportunities, but it was still an area of concern.
- There weren’t a ton of opportunities from either team, but the Thorns didn’t have any great chances in the run of play. Their two goals came about from Sam Coffey (more on her later) and her corner kicks.
- Finally, the substitutions were a little bit strange. Olivia Moultrie came on for Yazmeen Ryan, and she did pretty well. But then Sinclair came in for Morgan Weaver... I think with the new Thorns lineups, Sinclair should play in more of a midfield role rather than as a forward, as she was asked to do after subbing on.
Now for the good parts of the evening:
- I’ll start off fairly obviously, with the goals. Both Hina Sugita’s beautiful finish and Sophia Smith’s clinical finish were very solid highlights.
- Bella Bixby has been the starting keeper for the Thorns all season, and she’s been really solid. She had a few saves on the night to keep the game level. The two goals against her were both clinical finishes from Pugh and Rachel Hill.
- Sam Coffey is really proving that she should continue to start for Portland. She’s a rookie who affects the games she’s in, and she’s started all regular-season games so far. Both goals came from her service into the box, too.
- Morgan Weaver was a solid forward all game (until she was subbed out). She had a header opportunity that could have been a Portland goal had Alyssa Naeher not saved it.
- Honestly, while possession numbers weren’t great Portland did hold up fairly well against the Chicago high press and even added a press of their own in the second half. While the Thorns didn’t have a ton of scoring opportunities, they did have a bit more control of the game in the second half.