Sometimes, the scoreline doesn't reflect the true emotions of a match. Sports can give you the greatest joy but can also rip your heart out.
There is always a feeling among teams to never be too excited over a win and not get too down over a loss. It's always important to keep those emotions in check because there will always be the next game. As a photographer, I try to always work by this same mantra. My job is to document whats happening in front of my lens. Many times this season, that has been excitement. It has been joy. It has been winning. But soccer can be a cruel game and sometimes stats don't always dictate who wins or loses.
The afternoon started out with a feeling of excitement. It was a special game with a special team I wanted to change up the way we shoot player walk-in's. I asked our events staff if we had a red carpet anywhere at the stadium and we dug through a storage closet to find one. I set it up right outside the locker room and as the players arrived I shot them with a little more of a runway show than the typical walk ins and it made for some fun entrances.
After player walk ins, Bella Bixby told me about her father and my heart sunk. She asked me to please capture her father's jersey on the capo stand for her. Bixby's strength in this moment was inspiring. I had to check my emotions more than once just watching her take the field. This was not going to be a regular game.
Since this was the last match at Providence Park this season regardless of the outcome, I wanted to get a little bit different angle of the players walking out so I went into the locker room and shot them entering the field from inside the tunnel. As is usually the case with a big game, all the pregame excitement, nerves and emotions settle down once the game starts. A passionate pregame speech from Meghan Klingenberg and a tifo from the Rose City Riveters helped make things feel a little more normal.
The Thorns began the match attacking the north end. There is a gap near the goal in between the sideline ad boards and the sideline LED's that makes for a really nice low shooting angle. I spent the first half laying on the ground shooting the action from this angle.
The Thorns were in control. They were attacking over and over and over again. They outshot the Red Stars 14-2 in the first half. I felt like they were going to score at any moment, but in the 37th minute it was Chicago who found the back of the net first. As the half come to a close I had no doubt in my mind that the Thorns would equalize and win the game. During halftime I moved my remote camera to a location to capture the crowd celebrating.
As the second half wore on, I still felt like the Thorns would win. I was thinking about where I would shoot from in extratime and how I would cover PK's if it came to that. But then, in the 59th minute, Chicago scored again. I shot their celebrations, filed the images to the league, but still was not worried. I've seen the resiliency of this Thorns squad all season.
It wasn't until the 80th minute or so when I began to consider how I would cover the team in the event of a loss. I knew it would be emotional and I wasn't looking forward to taking somber and subdued photos, but my job is to tell the story of the match.
As the final whistle blew, I focused my camera on Bixby. She collapsed to the ground, and all of her teammates rushed to her side. No one in the stadium knew at the time, but there are things bigger than a game.
I gathered up my cameras and made my way to the opposite side of the pitch. I wanted to be respectful of the players and just took a few photos as they made their way around the field. I knew I needed to take these photographs, but I didn't want to. I saw Lindsey Horan and Angela Salem together, then Emily Menges and Salem.
I saw Natalia Kuikka on the bench by herself and snapped one image.
And then I found Mark Parsons and followed him for a bit as he walked off the Providence Park field for the final time as the Thorns head coach.
After the players and coaches left the field I went into the office to try and start ending the photos. A few co-workers were in there and we talked about the end of the match. It was then that I told them about Bixby and all my emotions surfaced and I cried. A lot. It was the hardest postgame edit I've ever done.
This team means so much to each other, to our staff and to the city. It was an emotional night for everyone. They should be proud of everything they have accomplished this season. I know they will come back even stronger next season. I cannot wait to capture it.