Portland is coming off an NWSL Championship season while Louisville missed the playoffs. The Thorns are looking to defend their crown while Racing hopes to make the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history.
Racing Louisville made one of the biggest trades in the NWSL offseason by trading superstar and USWNT regular Emily Fox for one of the best center backs of all time in Abby Erceg and USWNT left back, Carson Pickett.
This game was a good test for both sides. Portland got to face off against a formidable side that has massive talent at each level while the new look backline of Racing Louisville got to face off against the best player in NWSL, Sophia Smith, and a team who scored the most goals in the league.
In the end, the difference was a Meaghan Nally goal off a corner kick from Janine Beckie and a headed assist by Kelli Hubly in 86th minute.
Coach Mike Norris’ Reflection On The Match
“A bit frustrated with the first half, to be honest. We struggled defensively just to deal with their midfield movement. Probably took longer than ideally to fix that. We tried to fix it at 35 [minutes]. We looked at it at halftime again. Much happier with second half, just how we dealt with that. We just never got close to them defensively how we wanted to, but we felt that we did much better second half. A bit loose on the ball in the second half to how we would of liked to be. Happy, asked the group for a win, asked for a bit of growth. Felt like we had great runs through the game. Hopefully we can keep making strides.”
Spotlight: Meaghan Nally
Meaghan Nally scored the game winner in the 86th minute. Despite being preseason, it was well earned for an amazing teammate who has absolutely deserved this moment.
“It just means a lot. It means a lot to this team who [has] stood by me,” Nally said afterward. “This is my fourth season who supported me even when I wasn’t the best. They helped me grow throughout it all. I think that’s the biggest thing, it’s just kind of a thank you to them for sticking by me through my growth process.”
- Portland 4-3-3 formation gave every team fits last season, and a big reason why was the dominance in midfield. Rocky Rodriguez, Hina Sugita and Sam Coffey all have the ability to evade pressure, pick out passes, and defend. When you have a midfield who can keep possession and create chances, it’s easy to win games. They were excellent tonight and looked terrific in controlling the game.
- Racing Louisville’s new backline with Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett has already paid immediate dividends. Their struggles last year came primarily from center back play — it was not good enough. After missing out on Emily Madril in the draft, trading for Erceg and Pickett was crucial. Erceg and Finland National Team’s Elli Pikkujämsä, were excellent in the aerial battles and cleared everything in sight of them. Fullbacks Milliet & Pickett provided excellent service into the box all night. This is going to be a fun group to watch this season.
- Sam Coffey - She is the quarterback for the NWSL Champion Portland Thorns. Coffey already looks improved from a rookie season where she received Best XI honors. Her dream of making the USWNT Women’s World Cup roster is so close. She has all the talent in the world, and honestly deserves to be there. Her performance in this match was incredible and close to perfect, seems to always make the right reads, passes, and defensive plays.
- Meghan Klingenberg - Her services on set pieces were dangerous all evening. She continues to attack and track back on defense at remarkable levels.
- Kelli Hubly - The frontline of Racing Louisville had an extremely tough task even getting chances near goal. The partnership of Hubly and Menges partnership did not allow much breathing room. Hubly in particular, was excellent in winning aerial duels, tackles, and passing from the back.
- Olivia Moultrie - Every single season, Moultrie has improved immensely. This first preseason game already showed an improved first touch, dribbling, and passing. In a stacked midfield, Moultrie is going to give her fair share of opportunities and excel. The endless work she put in this offseason is already paying huge dividends.
- Wang Shuang - Every single time Wang had the ball, she made something happen. Racing Louisville doesn’t possess the ball enough, but Shuang is looking to change that. Her ability to play out of tight spaces and keep possession makes her an important piece in their attack. This is the exact type of player who will excel with Racing Louisville.
- Abby Erceg - It’s going to be tough to score on Louisville this season. Erceg won duels, aerial duels, tackles, interceptions, but is the vocal leader their backline needs to be better. This game showed how valuable she is to this team and why they’re going to be a playoff contender.
“I think they did a good job. I think that Abby is the leader we need” said Coach Kim Björkegren on Erceg’s huge role (Q by Taylor Vincent - The Equalizer)
- Carson Pickett & Lauren Milliet - Pickett is one of the most complete fullbacks in the NWSL and USWNT pool. Has the ability to takeover games with her crosses and defending. Her and Milliet’s ability to put in dangerous balls into the box is going to make this Racing squad, tough to defend all season.
Q from @Phuocerman about outer back performance:— Bekki Morgan (@bekki_morgan) March 13, 2023
Kim said Carson Pickett and Lauren Milliet both had a great game.
“Top quality outside back, both of them.”
Said he’s pleased with the quality crosses, but they still need to be hungrier in the box & seize these chances.
Players of the Match:
- Sophia Smith - Can someone give EA Sports and have them update her FIFA 23 rating? Smith was unstoppable in this game. She dribbled, defended, and created chances for herself and teammates all game long. There is no one else like her in the NWSL or women’s soccer global landscape. She is going to have another MVP caliber season and will be making all the noise at the WWC in Australia and New Zealand.
- Katie Lund - Her leading the league in saves last year is absolutely no fluke. She is everything you want in a goalkeeper. Lund possesses the talent, intelligence, and size in an elite GK. Alyssa Naeher continues to be the best USWNT GK, but Lund has got to be in that discussion.
“The funny thing with [Lund] is she still has much higher potential,” says Kim who praised gk coach Sergio Gonzalez as well.— Bekki Morgan (@bekki_morgan) March 13, 2023
“In 3-4 years I don’t know how good she could be bc in my mind she’s already one of the best gks in this league.”
Quote of the Night: Meaghan Nally
“I think, honestly, my biggest mindset goal is to do whatever the team needed. My first and foremost is integrity and as long as I show up as a good person, I can walk home happy. I think being a team player comes with that. If versatility is what the team needs then, that’s what I’m here for.”
The Thorns preseason preparations continue when they face the U.S. U-23 WNT in game two of the preseason tournament on Wednesday, May 15 at 7:30 pm PT.