Thorns' first loss may sting, but team has little time to worry about it
In a league with eight teams whose rosters are sprinkled with the best national team players of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, it should come as little surprise that parity and competitive matches will rule the day. Teams will win and teams will lose.
That doesn’t make Portland Thorns FC’s 1-0 loss to Sky Blue FC Thursday night—their first of the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League campaign—feel any better.
“To lose at home, it stings that much more,” said Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. “Especially at home, because we want to put on a good show for the fans, and make them know that we appreciate them.”
With a loud crowd of 11,055 cheering them on, the Thorns were unable to find the back of the net. Sky Blue brought on Taylor Lytle late in the second half and within moments, the midfielder launched a 30-yard laser that went top corner into the Portland net.
Head coach Cindy Parlow Cone echoed LeBlanc’s sentiments saying, “Any time you are pushing and trying to score and you’re getting chances and not able to finish, it’s frustrating to the players.”
The Thorns did attack throughout the match—particularly in the second half. Portland had a season-high seven corner kicks in the game to go along with 15 open-field crosses. They continued to push the ball into the attacking third, but just couldn’t quite find the back of the net.
“We played some really good soccer at times, had some really good chances,” said defender Rachel Buehler. “The last 10 minutes we played with a lot of urgency and maybe we could have brought that more in the game.”
LeBlanc also felt the team’s defense, apart from the one goal, played well. “I don’t think they broke us down too many times,” she said. “All the shots were from far out. So there’s a lot of positives there.”
Defense was the name of the game on both sides of the ball with Sky Blue FC captain Christie Rampone often bottling up Portland forward Alex Morgan. The two U.S. internationals battled throughout the game with Morgan managing to get off five shots on the night. Teammate Christine Sinclair contributed four, including a very near miss early in the second minute. But Sky Blue FC held firm.
“They played tough defensively,” said Cone. “They were a tough block to break down.”
Despite the loss, Cone was pleased with her team’s effort. The match was a gritty, physical affair with Sky Blue committing 11 fouls, but Portland did not back down.
“I think they kept their head, kept their cool and they kept fighting,” she said of her squad. “I love the attitude, the mentality and the spirit of this team. They kept fighting all the way to the end.”
The loss put Thorns FC even with Sky Blue FC on points atop the league’s standings, though Sky Blue own the tiebreaker with the head-to-head win. However, with the Washington Spirit coming to town on Sunday (2pm PT, webstream: www.portlandthornsfc.com / radio: Freedom 970), the Thorns will have little time to wait for another chance to get back to their winning ways.
“Overall I think we’ve had a good record so far, and a loss is a good wake-up call,” said Buehler. “Mentally, it is good to get after the next game and focus our energy on that.”
“There’s a lot of things we’re going to learn from [this game],” added LeBlanc. “Hopefully we can get the result on Sunday.”