In the preseason match between Portland Thorns and the U-23 Women’s Youth National Team, there was a game that was played. There are times in sports that we must understand that it is just a game and that’s all. What’s most important has always been the players’ safety and health.
During the game Wednesday evening, we were sent a sad reminder of that.
The knee injury suffered by Janine Beckie and the scene of her going down in pain was extremely difficult to witness for everyone at Providence Park.
We are reminded to how grueling this sport can be and why it is so crucial to appreciate these players — especially someone like Janine Beckie who is an amazing leader, player, and person. There aren’t many who can command the respect and appreciation she has on and off the pitch. She was Portland’s projected starter at right wing and part of Canada’s frontline at the Women’s World Cup in Australia/New Zealand.
None of that matters right now, all that matters is her health and the support she will need from everyone.
There is no one who will work harder to get back. For now, let’s send all the positive thoughts, vibes, and messages we can.
Janine Beckie, we wish you a speedy recovery and hope you all the best on your road to recovery!
The Portland Thorns conceded in the 13th minute to the U23WYNT and they were trying to play catch-up for the majority of the game. Although Portland rotated and fielded an almost completely new lineup, it did not look good for them in the first half. There was the creativity missing in the final third, sloppy clearances on defense, and understandably so, a bit of a morale depletion.
In the 2nd half, this team looked possessed and played with a swagger you’d expect from the defending NWSL Champions. They also brought on their stars and it paid dividends. Once Izzy D’Aquila got the equalizer, it was only a matter of time before Portland would break the tie. Sophia Smith, Morgan Weaver, and Hina Sugita put the finishing touches on the game with goals in the final 15 minutes.
- Starters: There were a lot of players getting a chance to play for the first time in a bit and it often showed in the first half. The passing was not as crisp and the creativity was severely lacking in the final third. They played a bit too direct early on. Defensively, the clearances were not sharp enough. When the U-23s got a chance to come forward, they had multiple chances at goal. That’s exactly how they conceded early: off a failed corner kick clearance.
On Wednesday's we start XI ⤵️ #BAONPDX— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) March 16, 2023
Christine Sinclair (C)
Michele Vasconcelos pic.twitter.com/JWDjmiBFlK
- Frontline Flex: In the last 15 minutes, we got to see Morgan Weaver, Izzy D’Aquila and Sophia Smith play together. Morgan Weaver owned the left side and fed in dangerous crosses her entire shift. Izzy D’Aquila was a menace in front of goal and made the U-23 defense uncomfortable all night. To make matters worse (for the U-23’s), Sophia Smith dribbled through that backline with ease. All three of them also scored a goal. With Crystal Dunn, Sam Coffey, Rocky Rodriguez, and Hina Sugita in midfield, they’ll be able to get the forwards a lot of chances. This team is stacked and going to head into the season as one of the favorites to repeat.
- Unreal Substitutions: In the 72nd minute, the Portland Thorns subbed on Crystal Dunn, Sophia Smith, Morgan Weaver, and Reyna Reyes.
That’s just not fair. Once they came on, you knew they would find a way to score goals and put this game to bed.
- Reyna Reyes - The #5 overall pick made her Thorns debut in the 72nd minute and showed encouraging signs. Reyes has been with the Portland Thorns for every step since she got drafted, but has dealt with a minor injury for most of the preseason. Her determination to getting back on the pitch has been beyond professional. It seems as she beat her initial return timelines too.
In regards to her debut, she played good defense, tracking back each time it was needed. Reyes was extremely efficient with her passes, made sure to keep possession and keep the ball moving. There’s a reason why she was highly valued across the league and a top talent on many team’s draft boards. Once she gets acclimated with the team more, we will see her shine.
- Emily Menges - There are not many center backs with her speed and it is something that matches her well with both Kelli Hubly and Becky Sauerbrunn. Having three solid CBs makes the middle of this defense stout. We saw Menges race back on multiple occasions to win tackles and snuff out attacks. She is 100% and ready to go.
- Crystal Dunn - Seeing Crystal Dunn play midfield again just feels so right. She should be the starter at the 10 or RW moving forward. She assisted the first goal to D’Aquila and put in tremendous passes and crosses. When Dunn is moving forward and being the playmaker she is, good things tend to happen. Portland may end up winning the possession battle 60% to 40% every game and no one will complain about because of the team’s midfield dominance. She’s back and is going to be where she belongs: in the midfield.
- Morgan Weaver - In the last quarter of the 2022 NWSL season, there weren’t many attackers who could keep up with the pace she was scoring and assisting, but also her work rate. She is a two way star and tonight was no different. Her passing, crossing, dribbling, and relentlessness on defense was incredible tonight. Weaver was dangerous in her minutes and is going to have potentially her best season in 2023. Weaver and Smith continued their incredible chemistry and they’ll roll into 2023 opener as one of the best, if not the best, 1-2 punch in the NWSL. Could we see her back in the USWNT picture soon?
Player of the Match
- Izzy D’Aquila - When she dropped to #12 to the NWSL Draft, it had to of been like hitting the jackpot for GM Karina Leblanc and new head coach Mike Norris. The first round pick just signed a three-year contract and made sure to make it an even bigger celebration with her first goal in Thorns colors. She has shown her versatility by playing out wide these past two preseason games. D’Aquila was an elite 9 in college and has looked like one of the best players in the draft. She wins aerial duels, tackles, headers, and gets a ton of shots off each game. There are not many players who have this type of activity. The goal she had came from a cross from Dunn and D’Aquila rose up and headed home the equalizer, and it shifted the momentum of the game. Do not be surprised if she ends up as a starter by midseason and is one of the team’s leaders in goals. If you had any concern of the WWC break, that might need to stop now.
Head Coach Mike Norris (Questions from Taylor Vincent of The Equalizer and Phuoc Nguyen of Stumptown Footy)
On the team’s performance:
“I’m happy and proud of the group for pushing through. We got too predictable the first half. We spoke about how we were to be better in the wide areas at halftime. [I] thought we lacked a little belief as well, first half. Showed a bit of frustration, I didn’t think we needed to be frustrated. I’m really happy we pushed right till the end. I thought we got the result that we deserved.”
On Izzy D’Aquila:
“What you see there is what we see in training. You see energy. When I say she puts the work in, that’s her. She just wants to be in the box, wants to score goals. She had some opportunities tonight. I’m sure she [will] be thinking, maybe could of had more. She puts herself in positions to be involved in the game and an impact, get on the end of things in the box.”
On what changes he’d like to see before the preseason finale:
“Be more efficient on the ball, for sure in the attacking half. I think how we manage transition as well, in terms of how we can stay in [that] half when we lose it. I think the big piece will be when we get in their half, we’re going to have to be more efficient.
On Emily Menges:
“Menges is fully fit again. It’s nice to see her get through a full 90. I think that will be big for her as well, in terms of her confidence.”
Izzy D’Aquila (Postgame interview with Phuoc Nguyen and Taylor Vincent)
Postgame with Izzy D'Aquila: Q from @tayvincent6— Stumptown Footy (@StumptownFooty) March 16, 2023
On her first goal!
"It's incredible. No words, just very excited to have been able to put us on the board. We got the win today which is all I can ask for. #BAONPDX
Please send positive vibes, thoughts, and comments to Janine Beckie.