Parsons applauding, Thorns vs. Dash, 9.7.16
Photo by Eric Cech

Quotes & Notes | Portland Thorns FC 3, Houston Dash 0 | Sept. 7, 2016

Portland Thorns FC Quotes

Portland Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons
On clinching a spot in the playoffs…
“I saw the results before the game. That’s one objective and there are more objectives that we’ve set out to achieve. To be honest, the eyes are focused on performing well and we’re not looking too far ahead, but I’m getting updates on those scores and watching the scores when I can. It’s nice to know that some big teams dropped points but that means nothing if we don’t get the job done. And, I think we stayed focused tonight. The players knew some of those results as well. It’s nothing we ever talk about. We stay very focused. The team did a really good job of doing that, and I think as a result it was one of our most complete performances, with and without the ball.”

On the difference in midfielder Allie Long’s game that’s allowed her to score more goals recently…
“I think before the Olympics, we got quite fluid with our holding mids. It was Lindsey [Horan] and Allie before Amandine [Henry] got here, and you would always see Allie and Lindsey [Horan] in the box. Linds was getting some goals. Allie, it just hadn’t fallen yet. She’s playing holding mid – she’s often our deepest center mid – but once we get into a certain phase, we release her and we want her to get into the box because she is a great finisher. We’ve asked her to play a role where she has to be a more complete midfielder as compared to previous years, but we can’t take away the ability she has in front of goal. We get to release her in times where it makes sense and also keep good defensive balance.”

On the team’s last two performances and how they set up the team for a playoff push:
“The Boston game, I think we could have scored more goals and it could have been a bigger score line, but performance-wise that wasn’t great, and we caught Boston on a horrible schedule. I don’t know how they’re going to do it. I think they had five games in two weeks and no other team has done that or is doing that this year. So we caught them at a good time, but we weren’t really happy with the performance. The first half wasn’t good enough, and the second half was better. At the same time, that’s when fatigue kicks in, especially when your opposition’s coming to the west coast. So we had some real objectives to be smarter and more intelligent, and I think we were straight from the beginning today. I think our first possession from the kickoff we got into the shape, we got into the holes and pockets and it ended with a cross, and Sinc [Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair] probably gets that on target the next time she has it. So I think the two games were a bit different. This was a huge step. I think I said last game that it was a couple of steps moving forward. This was a giant leap, and we’ve got to stay at this place, with and without the ball. The organization – it’s been a challenging year. We knew that before we set out. We knew that when we built the team. With so many players in and out, it is hard. I mean, look at us in Seattle. If you look at us, I would say in Seattle we’re a six out of 10. Sunday, we’re a seven, eight out of 10, and tonight nine or 10. Every time we spend more together – on the pitch or in the meetings, and then out here on the field – we’re getting better. We’ve got to recover quick and take care of ourselves and come out. I think it will look a bit different [in the match on Sunday]. I think the energy from both teams is going to be a maximum on Sunday. It’s a huge game for both. It’ll be a different game, but we’ll have a plan that can take care of the result, and we’ll move forward.”

On managing the team’s fatigue with the team’s third match in eight days coming up on Sunday…
“We’re constantly evaluating that. We want to make sure every player, every game, is available to play maximum minutes. We do a lot of different things. Our conditioning coach is an expert in taking care of the players, and we as technical staff are very conscious. We’ll know Saturday if everything that should have happened has happened, and if it hasn’t, then we have a decision to make on looking at players who physically are ready. So far, we’ve been a team that does recover well. We lose training time sometimes because of it. We lose contact on the field, because we value the physical piece. And then you also look at the stats with goals scored and goals conceded. I mean, we’re double-digits in the last 15 minutes, and we’ve conceded maybe two or three. The stats towards the end of game are very strong. I think that’s a good job in how we recover. This is the biggest task in that challenge, for Sunday – quick turnaround again. Hopefully they don’t enjoy themselves too much tonight because it was a good night and they get their sleeps and we’re ready to go on Friday and Saturday for training.”

On what areas he’d still like to see improvement from the team…
“I think the first half, we had control. Houston had a deeper line, but we had control in getting to areas with people faced up to goal where we wanted. But we kind of played at one speed, and I think that, we spoke about it a little bit at halftime, when we get into those areas, when we get those players on the ball, the speed has to change. It’s just like our defending. There are areas where we’re passing and we’re moving, and there’s times when we go, and it’s the same when we attack. So I think changing the speed can be improved, and there were a few times when their center forward got off our back line and got into pockets and almost got turned. We can stop counterattacks a lot earlier if we have control of the game. There’s not loads of games where that’s happened. There’s not loads of games where we’ve tried to go after control. I think we’ve been a counterattacking team almost half the time this year. I think we can tighten those things up. I think we can be sharper in changing speed, and also defending earlier and faster so they don’t get toward our goal.”

On stopping Houston’s attack, which had scored seven goals over its last two matches…
“How we played, I think it was going to be a tough task for most teams. We did what we needed to do. The midfield really compacted. [Houston midfielder] Andressa is a superb player, Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd – the midfield did a good job. [Houston forward Kealia] Ohai, I think, the game was over in the 20th, 30th minute. I think what [Thorns FC defender Katherine] Reynolds did to her in those 20-30 minutes, and then they ended up moving her over to Kling [Thorns FC defender Meghan Klingenberg]. Reynolds was absolutely superb in taking care of Ohai, and she’s done that a couple of times this year. She’s done that with Crystal Dunn. She’s done that with a couple of pacey players. While it was a team effort, that individual effort on Ohai, who has been fantastic, was big time. And it’s great to see from Katherine.”

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Tobin Heath
On clinching a playoff berth tonight after missing the playoffs last season…
“It’s awesome. Obviously, coming out in the beginning of the season, we wanted to control our own fate, and obviously we’re in this position because of what we did throughout the season, not just this last couple of games. So I think it’s a testament to the team and how we’ve built through the course of the season. And just to be in the position that we are now, I think it just fantastic. I’m really proud of the girls, from the front to the back. This season it’s been such a great team effort.”

On how the team felt about its performance tonight versus the win against Boston on Sunday…
“I think coming back, we got a great result against Boston and that kind of kick-started this three game homestand. It was so cool being able to come out here again and just improve on the things that we wanted to do against an obviously better opponent in Houston. They’re a good team, and they’re a dangerous team, and so getting the shutout, our backs were awesome. Even in the 80th minute, we had people making that extra tackle, and it’s just cool to see. And obviously the goals, too. Allie Long was fantastic and Sinc [Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair] and just everyone is just doing great.”

On the differences between the team’s performance against Houston versus Boston on Sunday…
“I think from the beginning we were in complete control of the game. I think we just moved the ball so well. We got from one side of the field to the other side in really great ways and found ourselves in dangerous spaces and created a whole lot of chances. So whenever you create that many chances, it’s really great. It’s kind of putting us in great opportunities higher up on the field with our whole team attacking together and not just one or two players. And whenever you can kind of keep the other team kind of pinned in their own half, it sucks the life out of them. I think it was just great that we could continue to create and pressure pretty much the whole game.”

On what she’s seen recently from Allie Long, who has scored four goals in the last three games…
“Obviously, she’s getting closer to the goal. That’s important. She’s dangerous. We’ve all seen it throughout her time here. So whenever she’s in the box, she can be dangerous. And I think as a team, whenever we can keep the ball and kind of build and be a little bit more patient with our attacking, it allows her to get more into the box and into those goal-scoring opportunities. And then I just think it’s, you know, she’s just in great form right now. It’s just how football is, so you just want to keep that confidence up with all our players. Nadia [Nadim]’s doing great, Sinc’s doing great, and we have some great players who are coming off the bench, too. So it’s just great that we have that many attacking options that as threats.”

On how big it would be to finally clinch the club’s first home playoff game…
“Huge. I’ve wanted this since I think I came to Portland, and to be able to give that to the fans would just be amazing.”

On how the team will recover to face Western New York on Sunday…
“Recovery is just all about how you treat your body. We’ve got such great professionals on this team and we’ve been doing it throughout the season. We’ve had moments where we’ve been on the road, where it’s been hard, and to be at home recovering, I think that’s really important, being able to sleep in our own beds. I know everybody is going to be doing everything in the most professional way to be at their best for this third game. It’s going to be an interesting match because obviously Western New York has had a great season as well, so I think it’s going to be a fun one. I think we’re going to have a packed house, so I think it’s another one we’re going to be stoked for.”

On how she feels in her game right now…
“I’m enjoying my football. It’s really easy playing with the girls around me, and I am having a lot of fun on the field and just being able to contribute and keep this season going because I have a great feeling about it. So I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.”

Thorns FC midfielder Allie Long
On her recent string of success after scoring four goals over the past three games…
“I think that getting Amandine [Henry] here, who is a true holding mid, we both pick our times to go forward and sit back, and we both play holding mid. But, when she’s sitting deeper, I’m allowed to go a little bit higher. She got some shots off the last few games, and she gets into the attack as well, so I think that having just her there has enabled me. And also Lindsey [Horan] can drop in when she drops in, she can fill that space when I rotate up. So just getting that kind of freedom to move around a little bit more has really helped us.”

On how it feels to clinch a playoff spot tonight and move close to clinching a home playoff game…
“That’s the goal coming into it. I’m not going to settle for second yet. We’re still going for the No. 1 spot, and we’re going to do what we can and just take control of what we can control and keep winning our games and hopefully the Spirit will drop some points in the next two games and we can continue winning.”

On shutting down Houston, who had scored seven goals in its previous two games…
“You always have to respect players like Carli [Lloyd], and Kealia [Ohai] has been on fire. Carli can score from any point and we’re all aware of that, but we didn’t go into this game talking to much about them. We kind of just focused on ourselves and if we had the ball – I know Arsene Wenger, they were playing Barcelona in one of their Champions League games and somebody asked him about Messi and everyone, and he said, ‘how can they score if they don’t have the ball,’ so in my mind, if we keep possession, we’re limiting those dangerous players. I think we did a really good job of that. I think Kath [Thorns FC defender Katherine Reynolds] absolutely killed her position. I don’t think Kealia was really able to breath, so I made sure I told Kath that at the end of the game, that I thought she was excellent.”

On the team’s balanced scoring…
“I think those are key ingredients to win a championship. You can’t always depend on one or two players and I think that Dagny [Brynjarsdottir] saved us one time, Lindsey [Horan], they both scored crucial goals in that Orlando game and I remember depending on them. I think the fact that we’re all kind of peaking at the right time is awesome. I think that on set plays, every single person is dangerous. Even just playing, Lindsey can score in a moment, Dagny, Nadia [Nadim], all of them, and so it’s really fun to play with everyone. These are the right ingredients for a team to win and do something special this year.”

On the play that led to her first goal…
“Before Tobin [Heath] put the ball down, I yelled, ‘Harry [her nickname for Heath],’ and we just both looked at the space and she knew exactly where I wanted it. Our timing was just perfect. It was kind of like the Seattle game where that space was open again. I said it to her again, ‘Harry, look it’s open,’ and we both just knew at the same time, and she played a perfect ball. That type of ball – where she played, if it was a little bit higher up the line, then the goalie would kind of just stay, but it was a perfect ball, and no one was really with me where the goalie had a choice and I just kenw she was going to gamble. But I didn’t look and check, I just knew that where the ball was placed, that the goalie better come. It was just a great ball by Tobin, and I was just thankful that she did come off her line.”

Notes

  • Midfielder Allie Long scored her 26th regular-season goal, which ranks third all-time in the NWSL.
  • Long recorded her fourth brace with Thorns FC.
  • Midfielder Tobin Heath registered two assists, placing her in first place in the NWSL for assists (8). Additionally, the two assists moved Heath into a tie for first place with Allie Long for the most assists in team history (12).
  • With the shutout and win, goalkeeper Michelle Betos tied Karina LeBlanc for the most wins (11) and shutouts (7) in team history.
  • The shutout was Portland’s seventh of the season.
  • Portland improved to 4-2-1 in the all-time series against Houston, including a mark of 2-1-0 at Providence Park.
  • Thorns FC have outscored their opponents 20-6 at Providence Park this season. 
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