Quotes & Notes | Portland Thorns FC 6, Boston Breakers 3 | July 20, 2014

Sinclair: "I think we’re starting to peak at the right time"

Team photo, Thorns vs. Boston, 7.20.14

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Portland Thorns FC Quotes

Portland Thorns FC head coach Paul Riley

On the match:
“Obviously it was a good attacking performance. Wasn’t good defensively. There were some great connections. We’ve finally get Veró [Boquete], Sinc, Alex [Morgan], Allie [Long] all on the same wavelength and it’s taken us a good five, six games. I mean, really, since Veró’s come in obviously she’s changes the season for us. We’ve been working on their runs, with Alex and Sinc with Veró and they’re starting to get closer and closer to what we really want. I thought they were terrific today in the midfield, up front. Amber [Brooks] held them together really well too. She needs a bit of credit because everybody was running forward around her, she kind of held her position. Their best player was Lianne Sanderson, so I thought she did a good job on her. Alex and Sinc are starting to find each other too. Everyone said they couldn’t play together and I think they can play together. I think they’ve proven they can play together. It was the second or third goal was a beautiful goal. Six or seven passes inside a five versus two spot, area 10 by 10 and I thought it was a lovely goal by Sinc. Some of the goals were good highlights. Jess [McDonald’s] goal, again, she’s come into the game and scored again. She’ll be leading scorer in the league tonight unless something changes. I don’t know the other scores or what’s happened. I thought it was a good performance. In the back, we made it entertaining for sure. First half, I think we gave them four chances and they put three of them away. Just mistakes, individual mistakes. Collectively we’ve got to work on the backline. You’re not going to win a championship playing like that in the back. Our need right now is to shore up the backline a little bit. I think we’ve started to figure out the final third of the field. We’ve had as many shots in this game as we have in many other games, up in the 20s and not come out with a win. It’s nice to start scoring goals and the ball going in the net, instead of hitting the post and going wide.”

On the chemistry between Sinclair and Morgan:
“Yea. Last year they said they couldn’t play together. But they can because they’re really good footballers, both of them. I think it’s just a matter of releasing the ball, the selfishness versus unselfishness. When to be unselfish and when to be selfish. They seem to have figured that out. All the dictation that comes from Veró though, she’s the one that holds the ball up. She twists and turns, she changes direction. Everybody thinks she’s going that way and then she’s the other way. Our team’s got used to that now. They don’t go running in the direction Veró’s running in. They run almost in the opposite direction knowing she’s going to turn out and maybe look for a ball. She can beat you on the dribble. She can beat you with a pass. But I’m happy with Alex and Sinc because we told them before the game, we thought [Boston] would play similar to when they played in Seattle with three across the backline. We figured Alex would find some space and then Sinc would find some space and they were able to find good space.”

On Sinclair’s hat-trick:
“It’s been a frustrating season, I think, at times for her, but I think you can’t take away from the way she’s played. Her work ethic. She ran eight miles in Chicago on Thursday night. To turn that around two or three days later, at that age, and come and play like that was brilliant for us. I didn’t really want to take her off because I thought she probably would have got a couple more, but obviously looking ahead to Washington, we’re going to need her in Washington on Wednesday. It’s a huge game for us. Was that the first hat-trick at the club? Then they crowned her. She got a crown from the crowd. That’s pretty cool. It’s nice for Sinc too because she’s gone through a lot of posts and kicks off the line and headers off the line and just unfortunate instances or great goalkeeping. I think today she got her just rewards for her hard work.”

On shoring up the defense:
“The opposite was early in the season. We weren’t giving goals away. We wanted to play expansive soccer at the beginning. That was really our plan. They just looked a little rattled and a little nervous. I think, again, going down one-nil probably didn’t help. Probably if it had gone the other way and we’d got the first goal and they’d come back at 1-1, I think maybe it would have been a little different for them. They gave the goal away and we got a little bit rattled. We have an experienced backline now. Beginning of the season we had Courtney Niemiec, who’s 21. We had Emily Menges, who’s 21. Then Nikki Marshall anchoring the backline. A 25-year-old anchoring the backline. So now we’ve got some age back there and we looked even more rattled today. But could just be the day. In Chicago, the other day, we played with three in the back and they looked more comfortable with the three than they did tonight with the four. Just have to work on it. Get on the practice field. They’re a great bunch. I mean Rachel [Van Hollebeke], Nikki, Emily, and Steph [Catley], and the group, they all work their tails off. We made a big decision to pull Rachel. We’ve played a lot of games recently. We felt it was a good decision to get Nikki in the back, get more speed in the middle of the back. Sarah [Huffman] would settle us down a little bit, which she did. She’s comfortable on the ball. She got a hold of a couple of balls and she didn’t rush it. She played with Amber a little bit on a couple of occasions just to slow the game down. I think that worked out in our favor. Just have to work and get on the practice field. Which we don’t have a lot of practice time, as you probably know. We’re traveling first thing in the morning to Washington. Get on the field tomorrow night at Washington. Do a regen and then Tuesday night we’ll train and play Wednesday.”

On the significance of the Thorns’ quick goal to start the second half:
“I wasn’t very nice to the back four at halftime and the goalkeeper. I have to be honest with you, I had a go at them. Thought they could do better. Just thought it wasn’t a very professional performance in the first half. Had a go at them and I thought the reaction was great second half. Certainly the goal, no question, getting ahead for the first time in the game settled us in and enabled us to start playing. I think the fifth goal came pretty quick. I don’t think it was that long after that we got the fifth one. We had a couple, probably another three, four gilt-edge chances before Jess wrapped up. I’ve been told to tell everyone that should be on ESPN Top 10. Not by Jess, but by a couple of other players on the team.”=

On the big performances at home in the last two games:
“It just means we started the season five months ago and we should have started two weeks ago. Yea, it’s a disappointment, you know? This is the way we wanted to play, I think, from the beginning, but all the pieces weren’t in here. It’s probably a bit naïve of us to think we could have done it and we tried, but obviously it didn’t pay off for us. We’re peaking at a good time. We look good and just have to keep pushing on. Again, we haven’t been able to do it consistently and I think that’s the number one priority from here on in. Just be consistent. Go out to Washington and get another good result and play really well and then go to Seattle after that and try to get a result in Seattle. Put ourselves in a really good position for maybe chancing Kansas City or at least to get a playoff spot. We’re still want to try to get a home game [for the playoffs]. For those fans not to get a home game is almost sacrilege. We’ll just keep working our tails off and hopefully give ourselves a chance. I think we’ll have to go the rest of the way winning for us to get that spot, but we’ll keep plugging away. Most important is Washington. They’re right with us. Our goal difference is certainly helped with the last couple of games at home, so if we can keep doing that and keep plugging away. I’m happy with the group. They’ve been doing the same things all season. It’s just that the ball hasn’t fallen our way and I feel like, maybe, things are falling our way. They’re peaking. I think their fitness levels are peaking at a good time. With the addition of Tobin and Veró and Steph Catley, the time they came in and Alex back and Rachel back, I think the pieces are all there, so hopefully we can make a good run now.”

On the significance of the tying goal at the end of the second half:
“I think just about every goal was important because we got back in it pretty quick just about every time. We went behind for 25-30 minute spell. Sometimes you can go off the boil. I think we stayed on the boil. We kept attacking. It wasn’t like we dropped back and thought they might catch us on the counter again. I think we went after the game. I think scoring straight after, it’s that critical five minutes as everybody talks about. Before the game we talked about playing like we’re one-nil down and unfortunately we were one-nil down, then we were 2-1, then we were 3-2 down, but we talked about that a lot in the last few weeks, about being one-nil down and what the reaction is. What are we going to do? Are we going to be expansive or are we going to go into a shell? That’s why I was a bit upset with the back line. I thought they went into a bit of a shell. Steph made a mistake on the first goal and she just went into a shell. I know she’s 20, but she’s a professional with one of the best clubs in the world. Go out and play. Go out and make mistakes. It doesn’t matter. But go and attack. She backed off a little bit. I think it’s a good lesson learned tonight for her and Emily and a couple of the young ones. We learn by every game and we’ll keep plugging along.”

Portland Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan
On the chemistry between her and fellow Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair:
“Since I’ve been back and Sinc has been playing more as a forward rather than an attacking midfielder, we’ve just developed a better relationship on the field. We just anticipate each other’s runs, and I think we always know where each other are, which is important as a two front. It just showed today. It showed the last couple games, and then when [Thorns FC forward] Jess [McDonald] comes in she makes an impact immediately. I think it’s a good thing the forwards have going right now.”

On the play that led to her goal in the 52nd minute against Boston:
“I think [Thorns FC midfielder] Allie [Long] played me, I think. I turned and actually didn’t plan on shooting it, but I saw an opening. They were pretty much marking us the entire game — [Breakers defender Bianca] Sierra was marking me, [Breakers defender Rachel] Wood was marking Sinc. So once she gave me a little bit of space I just took advantage of it.”

On the differences in the team’s attacking play that’s led to 13 goals in the team’s last two home games:
“We have [Thorns FC midfielder] Veró [Boquete], who’s one of the best, if not the best attacking midfielder in the women’s game today, and Sinc has had so much experience she was just waiting to score some goals like this. Everything she touched just happened to go in today, which has gone against her in the last couple games. I think it’s just all coming together naturally. You can see how unlucky we’ve been in the past couple games and it’s falling the right way for us now.

“We did give up some unfortunate goals in the beginning, but we fought back three times and ended the game with six. I think that shows a lot about our character and the fact that we’re not going to let anymore points go this season. We need to get three points every game if we want to be in contention for the playoffs.”

On her connection with Thorns FC defender Stephanie Catley, who has assisted on two of her last three goals:
“I’m constantly telling Steph to get high and trying to help her out with her confidence. She is a young player, but she’s come in and done so well. We do have a little bit of a rotation with the outside backs because we do have players who look good in training, look good in games, so it’s hard to leave them on the bench. You could see that with Huffy [Thorns FC midfielder/defender Sarah Huffman] coming in and playing outside mid. But I think Steph and I have a really good dynamic because I do tend to float to that left side for my left foot, and I think we anticipate each other really well.”

On the importance of the three points in terms of the team’s hunt for a spot in the NWSL playoffs:
“Honestly, this game, even I wrote on Twitter that it was huge for us. I was hanging out with Nikki Washington at the time, who plays on Boston, and she’s like, ‘Why is this game huge for you?’ She just didn’t understand. But with the fact that we came off three ties with Chicago, we knew that getting another tie, only getting one point, would really hurt us for playoffs. We do want to host a game for our fans, and I think every other team in this league wants us to host a game because they want to play in front of these fans, they want to play in front of this atmosphere. So that puts a lot of pressure on us, but I think that it’s finally falling together the right way, and you can see that we’re now starting to play the best soccer that we can play.”

On the significance of the team’s third goal, which leveled the game at 3-3 right before halftime:
“Going into halftime, I remember us tying it up, being 2-2, and Sarah [Huffman] saying, ‘we only have 10 more minutes guys,’ and then we go down a goal so we’re down 3-2. At that point we looked at each other and we knew that we weren’t going to drop this game, we weren’t even going to tie this game. We had to come back. It was important, though, for us to come back and tie it up before halftime. Just for the momentum, for our confidence, and for feeling good going into the second half.”

Portland Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair
On the team’s offensive chemistry in the past couple of games:
“Obviously, individually it’s nice. I’ve gotten to see shots go into the net that I think earlier in the season would have hit the post and bounced out. But as a team, I think offensively we’re really starting to click. The past two home games I think we’ve scored 13 goals or something. I think we’re starting to peak at the right time. We just need to continue that on the road.”

On her chemistry with fellow Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan:
“We’ve moved very quickly in terms of our chemistry. I think we’re playing better together in the short time this season, because of her injury, than we did all of last season. Things just seem to be coming together between us, just finding each other. I think this year we’re playing a lot closer together, so it’s easier to find each other, and then you throw someone like Veró into the mix and it just sort of brings everything together.”

On how the 6-3 win over Boston will help the team’s momentum going into its last five games of the season:
“I think it’s a confidence thing. This is the team that we should be. We should be creating a ton of chances. I think earlier in the season we were creating a ton of chances, we just weren’t putting them away, and now they seem to be finding the back of the net. It just gives the team, like I said, confidence that we can give up a goal or two and we still have a chance to win the game, which is nice. Like I said, I just think we’re peaking at the right time.”

On the significance of the team being able to come back from a goal deficit three different times in the first half and go into halftime tied:
“I think it showed some of the character that we have on this team to go down three different times in the first half and to come back quickly after each goal. Like [Thorns FC head coach] Paul [Riley] said, we sort of have a playoff mindset right now that we can’t afford to drop points, we can’t afford to lose too many games between now and the end of the season. I think earlier in the season we might have given up a second goal and the game would have been over, but the way we’re playing right now, we’re confident that we’ll score a goal or two against pretty much any team in the league.”

Notes:

·         Portland set single-season records for goals (36) and assists (29) on Sunday, breaking the previous record of 32 goals and 25 assists set in 2013.

·         Defender Nikki Marshall made her 41st consecutive regular-season start for Thorns FC on Sunday.

·         Forward Christine Sinclair scored the first hat-trick in club history on Sunday afternoon.

·         Sinclair is the fifth Thorns FC player this season to score multiple goals in a match along with forwards Alex Morgan and Jessica McDonald and midfielders Allie Long and Verónica Boquete.

·         Boquete tallied her sixth assist on Sunday afternoon, setting a new Thorns FC single-season record for assists. The previous record was five assists by Morgan during the 2013 season.

·         Boquete is currently tied for the NWSL lead in assists (6).

·         Defender Steph Catley tallied an assist for a third consecutive game, setting a Thorns FC record for consecutive games with an assist.

·         Thorns FC are unbeaten in their last five matches (2-0-3).

·         Portland improved its record to 7-0-3 when leading at the 75th minute.

·         Midfielder Allie Long is perfect from the penalty spot this season (4-for-4).

·         Portland has scored six or more goals in a match three times this season, including a 6-1 victory at Washington on June 21 and a 7-1 win against FC Kansas City on July 13.

·         Thorns FC forward Jessica McDonald is currently tied for the NWSL lead with 11 goals this season.

·         Portland and Boston set a NWSL record for most combined goals in a match (9).