Quotes & Notes | Portland Thorns FC 2, Washington Spirit 0 | June 15, 2014

Riley: "Hats off to the team, they were brilliant tonight"

Portland Thorns FC Quotes

Portland Thorns FC head coach Paul Riley
On ending a three-game losing streak:
“It’s not for lack of enthusiasm or lack of training or lack of guts and character. They’ve been training all week. The good thing about this week was all 18 knew they had a chance to start. All 18 knew they had a chance to play. I think that makes a difference in practice. It was 18 instead of 24 this week. Obviously we’re missing quite a few players, but the enthusiasm all week, it’s almost like we didn’t lose 5-0 in the last one. It’s a new start, a new season. We just talked about the clean sheet being the number one priority coming into the game, which we got. I thought the back four were very good today. Just trying to create chances, which we did. Veró [Boquete] still has to attack a little bit more, get at players, draw players. Jess [McDonald] stayed on the shoulder. I thought she did a good job getting in behind them. Midfield was good tonight. Amber [Brooks] was good and Rebecca [Moros] was the captain for the night. We talked about the two most important things of the week: the clean sheet and the marriage of Amber and Rebecca in the midfield. I thought those two controlled the game. They picked off a lot of balls and they found Veró, found Angie [Kerr], found Sinead [Farrelly], found Mana [Shim]. Mana did well when she came in, too.”

On the changes in the defense:
“We spent a good three days on the backline. We actually did attack versus defense. I sat behind them and basically worked with them. Ran with them, talked to them, got them to talk to each other, make sure they knew each other, just to give them some confidence. I think sometimes when you’ve given four up, and you’ve shipped four and five [goals] in the last two games, it’s just a lack of confidence. We just wanted to give them some confidence all week. They worked hard together. That’s the number one obviously. Michelle [Betos] is happy because she got the clean sheet, but I think Emily [Menges] and Nikki [Marshall] are happy that they did well together. Jodie [Taylor] isn’t an easy person to mark. They were knocking a lot of long balls in. We told them at halftime that they’re only going to beat you over the top. They aren’t going to beat you underneath. So don’t get sucked underneath. Let them ping balls over the top. Just drop off. I thought they did a really good job of it. They were almost mistake free to be honest with you, for the 90 minutes. I thought they did well. Sarah [Huffman] gave us a bit of experience at right back. She’s a technical player, which helps. I think she did a pretty good job. Steph [Catley] has grown into her position. Obviously she’s new. I still think she has a little bit to go, but I was happy with the back four today. Michelle did a good job of organizing and had good decision making on what she was doing in terms of clearing the ball, keeping it, playing it. The conditions weren’t easy with the ball slipping all over the place. I thought they were pretty secure tonight.”

On what the win does for the team’s confidence:
“Well I think I can have a glass of milk tonight. To be honest with you, the team morale has been unbelievable, considering what we’ve been through the last couple games. We talked all week about the fans and stuff like that. Just give the fans something to cheer about. Even the other night, down 5-0, we were just dying to get a goal so the fans could have something to cheer about on the way home. One of the funniest things of the week for me, as I was coming out of the stadium on Thursday night a couple of the fans were walking around and they said ‘Don’t worry, Paul. We’ve got your fine. We’re going to pay your fine for you.’ I thought that just about summed up what kind of fan base we’ve got. They’re so supportive. I think the players all week have been talking about them. Like we owe them something. I think the work rate today showed it. There was a lot of spunk in the locker room before the game. Not throwing chairs at each other, but getting each other going. At halftime, I felt there was a good feel in the locker room. A sense that we were just combative and that we were going to get it done. We talked about warriors and wizards. That was our theme all week. There were a lot of warriors out there tonight. We finally got the wizard to do some wizardry. The last twenty minutes, Veró caused a lot of problems. She got a goal, which was a great finish in the end. Some of those chances, on other days you’re probably going to pay the price if you don’t put them away. Hats off to the team, they were brilliant tonight.”

On Verónica Boquete’s performance:
“That second half is what Veró is. I thought she was too passive, even in the first half. She was passing a lot of balls. We talked to her at halftime. I think in women’s soccer, it’s one thing if you’re a standout and you can dribble, you have to dribble and take players on. Players don’t like that, when players come at them and put them on the back foot. I thought Veró did that in the second half and she caused a lot of problems. It’s one thing to dribble, but it’s another to run off the ball and Jess was pulling people away. When Hanna [Terry] came in, she was pulling people away. So they were opening a lot of slots and space for Veró. We have to keep working on finishing and trying to wrap the game up a little earlier. But, we kept the fans here and on the edge of their seats and I thought it was pretty entertaining. I know there were a ton of shots. Veró is going to settle in. It’s going to take a little time. I think Steph is young, too. I don’t think people realize it’s one thing to be 20-years old and play for your national team. But the national team doesn’t play in front of 15,000 every week in this kind of mentality, where the fans are on your back and they want you to win and they’re pushing, pushing, pushing. I think Steph will get used to it. I think you see an improvement here today from last week. Hopefully she’ll continue the improvement. It’s like taking a college sophomore out of college and throwing her into the mix. That would be difficult I would say.”

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Amber Brooks
On what the team did to get the clean sheet:
“We focused on defense. We knew going into this game [a clean sheet] was our main goal. I think collectively the whole group helped defend, from forwards on down. [Michelle] Betos was really communicating well and organizing us. Just a great team effort on defense.”

On if this result eases pressure from the last few losses:
“I wouldn’t say it’s completely off. We need to build upon this. There’s a lot of season left and we want to continue to build off of this.”

On the team’s performance despite missing several starters:
“As a whole we came out with something to prove, both individually and as a whole team. We wanted to get off to the races early and apply pressure. It was nice to get that early goal. I think we continued to play well. We were connecting our passes and really communicating, working hard for one another.”

On what the team needs to do to convert more chances:
“Just keep working on finishing in practice. I can’t say I’ve been a player that’s been in front of goal a lot this week. We were working on a lot of defense. I think now that we’re starting to get that, all of us can be spending more time in front of goal and working on those finishing touches.”

Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Michelle Betos
On how it felt to get her first clean sheet of the season:
“Awesome. I’m so excited. When I was playing, I was only thinking let’s just get this game over with. Let’s win this game. Let’s move forward. I thought we played really well. I thought we deserved the shutout. I thought across the board our defending was really good. The best it’s been. I thought our midfield actually really prevented a lot of service. I think our defenders played really well. I think it was just a team-wide thing.”

On how the confidence in defense helped in transition to offense:
“I think it’s huge. When we can stop play early, when we can prevent service, when we are all on the same page, it’s a different game. I think we can get into a rhythm. We can break their rhythm. It makes everything so much easier. Paul [Riley] keeps a GPS and I think sometimes our center backs run more than anyone on the field and that’s not what it should be. I think that today, if you looked at the numbers, it would be hard work across the board and it was just a collective effort.”

On how Riley kept the team’s confidence up despite the recent losses:
“He’s never expressed anything to us except that he believes in us. No matter what anybody says, no matter what the score lines have been, no matter how down we’ve gotten, he has expressed that we’re here for a reason, each individual. He believes in us. There’s kind of always a dip in performance at some point. We’ll take it now and we’ll move forward from here.”

On if pressure from the last two games has been relieved after the win:
“Absolutely. You can probably see the relief on our faces, just to be on the other side of the table this time. Just winning this game, I think that’s huge for us, but we realize this is one game. We have some other wins and we have some loses, so now we need to just keep building off this. To get too excited about this win would take away that we have to go to their place next week and get the job done again.”

On what it means to get the result despite missing several players:
“This team’s resilient. This team is talented. I can’t say enough about this team. We will always fight. We will always bounce back and Paul always expresses how important the locker room is. I’ve never been in a locker room like ours. We all believe in each other, we all push each other and we were getting messages from everybody who wasn’t here, expressing the same thing. So the support is all over the board and I just think this is a special team and I think we’ll do something special.”

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Verónica Boquete
On how it felt to get her first goal at home:
“Great. Playing here in this stadium and being able to score is special. I think that the whole team was motivated for this game because we’re missing some players and after the last loss, we knew we had to give something to our fans. They won’t miss a game. They did great. They came here with the rain and cheered for us the whole game. I’m really happy to score my first goal and I hope it’s one of a lot.”

On if the result relieves some pressure after the last few matches:
“We talked this week that this is a new season. We have to change things and we have to improve. This was a test. Today, I think that the spirit and the attitude of the team was great from the first minute. We are so proud. We hope that everyone will be proud of the team today."

Notes:

·         Portland recorded its first clean sheet at Providence Park in 2014 and its third clean sheet of the season on Sunday.

·         McDonald’s goal in the 11th minute was the earliest goal in a game this season for Portland. Midfielder Allie Long scored in the 17th minute on May 21 against Western New York.

·         Portland tallied a season-high 22 shots in the match which ranks as the second-most shots in a single-game in club history. Thorns FC tallied 25 shots against Sky Blue on July 31, 2013.

·         Midfielder Amber Brooks became the third player in Thorns FC history to tally multiple assists in a game. Most recently, Tobin Heath finished with two assists on July 28, 2013 against Chicago.

·         Thorns FC improved to 5-0-0 when scoring first and 3-0-0 when scoring first at home in 2014.

·         Defender Nikki Marshall made her 33rd consecutive regular-season start for Thorns FC on Sunday.

·         Portland registered double-digit shot attempts for the seventh consecutive game. It marked the eighth time this season Thorns FC have registered double-digit shot attempts in the second half.

·         Goalkeeper Michelle Betos earned her first career start for Thorns FC and first career NWSL win.

·         Amateur player Hanna Terry made her Thorns FC debut on Sunday, entering as a substitute in the 89th minute.

·         Thorns FC was without five players on Sunday, all of whom are away with their respective national teams: forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Allie Long, defender Rachel Van Hollebeke (United States), forward Christine Sinclair (Canada) and goalkeeper Nadine Angerer (Germany).

·         Midfielder Rebecca Moros was named captain for the first time in a match this season.