Quotes & Notes | Portland Thorns FC 1, Houston Dash | Aug. 3, 2014

Portland Thorns FC Quotes

Portland Thorns FC head coach Paul Riley
On the importance of the win given the team’s position in the NWSL standings:
“You can answer that question, can’t you? That was a brilliant win. We’ve worked with the back four a lot the last couple of weeks because we’ve obviously been giving up goals, and to get a clean sheet, and get a 1-0 win, it’s unusual for us. It’s almost like the replica of the start of the season coming at the end of the season. But I thought we played some great football. First half, we were a little bit second to the ball, a little bit lackadaisical, in the first half. But second half, I thought we did some great stuff. 

“You got to take 1-0 at this point. It’s all about the points. We needed three points. More than anything else tonight, we had to get the three points to put ourselves in a better position to make the playoffs, which we’ve done. Now it’s still in our hands, which is the main thing.”

On the team’s second-half adjustments:
“To be perfectly honest with you, we just didn’t find the forwards. We didn’t find Veró [Boquete] much in the first half, and I think she’s critical as you saw in the second half when she got on the ball. We talked about, really, just about getting Veró on the ball. Let’s get Veró on the ball because Veró will get us to Alex [Morgan], will get us to Sinc [Christine Sinclair]. If you noticed in the first half, Veró was dropping very deep to pick balls up. Before the halftime, I think Nadine [Angerer] threw her a ball and she was 20 yards from on goal, and it’s just not a great place for Veró to be. Second half, we got her higher up the field between the circles, and I thought she caused a lot of problems in the second half. Allie [Long] started to get into the game, too, a little bit more. Mana [Shim] had a good second half. So once the three part of the diamond start working, it makes Amber’s [Amber Brooks] job easy, and first half we just didn’t do that. We didn’t move the ball quick enough. One thing we talked about at halftime is tempo. We had no tempo in the first half. It was just slow, the game was so slow, and in the second half, I thought we had some great tempo.

“We probably should have iced the game a little bit earlier than we did, but I thought the goal was brilliant. Great ball by Steph [Catley] again, another assist. She’s really got that ball down pat, the whip in, and Veró made a great run. I think when Steph was receiving the ball, Veró was pretty deep, and then she just kind of crept round the back door and I thought it was a brilliant one to score.”

On the team’s relief when they scored the goal:
“I thought, we were creating chances at the time, so I thought we’d still create more chances, but as we’ve had this season, those big moments have sometimes gotten away from us. We haven’t done a good job in those big moments, but tonight, the big moment came and Veró cracked it home. It would have been nice to get a little bit of security with the second, but we kept it lively as usual. A couple of corner kicks late in the game, you just never know, but we defended really well tonight. Hats off to Nikki Marshall and Emily Menges. I thought the two of them were very good. Rebecca Moros came back into the team tonight after a couple weeks injured. I thought she was very good at right back. We talked about her, too, at halftime. First half, she didn’t want to get forward; second half, we really sat her. We said, ‘Steph, why don’t you go, and we’ll sit Rebecca a little bit.’ That’s why we would kind of probe the left side, to be honest with you. We felt it was a better opportunity down that side then it was the other side for us.

“I was pleased with the back four, and for Nadine to get a clean sheet. It’s been a while. If we’re going to do any damage and get to the playoffs, we’ve got to start keeping clean sheets.”

On the importance of the NWSL-record 19,123 fans in attendance:
“It’s just amazing. I heard everyone screaming, I thought, ‘did we score again?’ and then I look up at the attendance record and it’s like, ‘wow.’ It’s just unbelievable. For a league game to pull in 19,000, it’s not even the fact that there’s just the 19,000, but they sing the entire game. They’re in behind the team the entire game. It’s not just that section. It’s everybody. They get everybody jazzed into the game.

“We’ve become comfortable in our own surroundings, which we weren’t obviously the first couple of months. I think it makes such a difference to the team. I said at halftime, ‘How can you not be inspired to play in front of this? They’re just dying to sing more, so give them something to sing about.’ Once Veró gets on the ball, you can feel almost a buzz in the stadium as she gets on the ball. She’s a great crowd pleaser. But the crowd is just unbelievable, and to think that the club, too, what they’ve done to get everybody here. There’s nowhere else in the world. You won’t find women’s soccer league game with anywhere close to 20,000 people in them. Hopefully Seattle at home, there’s going to be a lot on the line, I think, so hopefully we can get another 18-20,000; hopefully a sellout for the Seattle game. But yeah, hats off to the crowd. They were amazing, absolutely amazing.”

On Thorns FC midfielder Mana Shim’s performance in her third start of the season:
“One of the great things about Mana is she listened. We had a great mid-term meeting, and I said, ‘Mana, you got to get fit. You got to look at what you’re doing outside of here and make sure it’s the right thing,’ and she’s been brilliant the last month. She’s dropped about 10 pounds, got herself really fit, and I thought she was brilliant tonight. In that heat, you got to be fit, and she got a little bit leaner and I thought she was terrific tonight. It’s great having a lefty on the left side of the diamond. It’s great having a lefty at left back. When you’ve got good balance like that, it helps the team because they can hit those balls in.

“Mana was good tonight, not only on the offensive side, but on the defensive side. She did a lot for us. She covered a lot of ground. This week, as practice went on, she was brilliant in practice for three, four days, and that’s how she got her spot. Same with Rebecca. Huff [Sarah Huffman] and Rebecca were competing for that spot all week and Rebecca got the nod due to her performance, really, in practice.

“But I was pleased with all the team, you know. Everybody performed today. I thought, second half, Sinc and Alex came alive, too. In the first half, we just couldn’t get them in the game, you know. They always seemed to be in the same area, and there wasn’t a lot of space behind them. I think we shook them up a little bit in the second half, and they started to find some more space, which obviously helps Alex, and obviously helps Sinc, too.

On the health of Thorns FC midfielders Tobin Heath and Sinead Farrelly:
“Sinead saw the doctor again tonight, and she might not play again the rest of the season. We’re a bit worried about that one. Tobin, we’re hoping to get ready for Seattle. That’s our goal, for August 17th, for Seattle. It’s been a slow and easy process for Tobin. You just want to get everybody healthy. I think Rachel [Van Hollebeke] will be back for next week. I think she’ll be okay. We wanted to keep her out this week because of the concussion from last week, but she’s feeling a lot better. She trained today, trained yesterday, so I think Rachel’s probably the closest of the three of them, but the other two I’m not sure. Sinead might not make it the rest of the way. I’m hoping she does. We need her.”

Portland Thorns FC defender Steph Catley
On her assist which led to the game-winning goal:
“I think it started mainly from Mana Shim’s run. She came around me and opened up the space so I was able to take a touch in and whip it around. It’s easy to put the ball in, but the finishing’s the hard bit, and Veró’s so classy, and she finished it off so that’s awesome.

“I saw a red shirt, but I didn’t know who it was. Generally, it’s Alex [Morgan], Sinc [Christine Sinclair] or Veró, so pretty much you put it in there and they’re going to finish it.”

On what it was like to play in front of the NWSL-record 19,123 fans:
“Absolutely incredible. There are no fans like this in the world, and to have them pack the whole place out, and they’re so loud, and every single one of them is so passionate, it gives you a lift. Towards the end there, they were attacking us a bit, and we just wanted a shutout, and wanted to win the game so badly, and they helped so much. You hear them and you don’t want to let them down.”

On the team’s defensive performance against Houston:
“All week this week we’ve been talking to each other about what we need to tighten up, and what we need to make better, and I think we all just communicated a whole lot more. This is the pointy end of the season. We need our points. We’re all so desperate. We all want it so bad. We’re just clicking now.”

On the team’s mood at halftime:
“It was positive. It was really positive. I think we controlled the game. We were keeping the ball, but we weren’t doing as much with it as we hoped. So we were keeping it, but we were being a bit negative and being a bit safe. So we took a few more risks in the second half and made sure we got a lot more shots on target.”

On how the team handled the hot conditions during the match:
“Really well I think. We just said to each other at the start that there were no excuses. The heat didn’t mean anything, the fact that there was a massive crowd, we just needed to get the job done. We try to take away the external things that you can’t really control, and just focus on the football, and I think we did that, and we stuck to our roles and our tasks and got the job done.

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Verónica Boquete
On scoring the game-winning goal:
“To score in a home game like tonight, in front of almost 20,000 people, I think will be one of the best memories of my career. Tonight was the biggest crowd for me. I’ve never played in front of that many people. It was really special and I’m so proud it was here in Portland.”

On connecting with defender Steph Catley’s cross for the goal:
“When Steph [Catley] got the ball, I felt she would cross that ball and it would be there. Normally, I stay more for the second ball, but I was sure. I got that feeling that I had to run from the second line and when I saw the ball was in space, I just touched it to the other side and it was in.”

On what this win does for the team’s mentality going into the final two matches:
“I think it is really important. Today was not easy. It was 1-0, but it was even more difficult. I think when you win through suffering and working hard like a team, it pushes you up. I hope the team has more confidence for the rest of the games and we can fight for this title.”

On what she did differently to get the ball more in the second half:
“I tried in the first half, but Houston was really compact with two midfielders and it’s hard to get the ball in that space. I tried to create space for other players. I think in the first half, we played the easy ball to the player closer when maybe the second player was open. In the second half, we stretched the team and found more space in those situations.”

On becoming a fan favorite:
“It’s great. I’m thankful for that. The only way I have to give something back is to try to play my best. I work every day and every game I come with the mentality that we play for them because they deserve the best.”

Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Nadine Angerer
On playing in front of an NWSL-record crowd:
“Amazing. Seriously, it was amazing. Like I said before, we have the best fans in the whole world. Seriously, I don’t know another club in the whole world with fans like this.”

On how crucial this win for the playoff race:
“Of course it was very important. We knew how important it was. I think in the first half we were stuck because we had a lot of pressure and then the second half you could see we had a lot more combinations and we were much more self-confident. I think these three points, we earned them. We were definitely the better team today.”

On what it will take to maintain consistency in the final two matches:
“It’s a good question. We’re talking a lot about it. I totally agree that we have our ups and our downs. We have to play more consistently. We talk about different things, how we can do this. Sometimes it’s working better and sometimes it doesn’t work at all. We still process, we still go on, we still go to work, we still train hard and we want to play more consistently.”

NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey
On having an NWSL game on national television with a recording-setting crowd:
“This is fabulous. This is so outstanding and it really represents the interest that there is out there for women’s soccer and a city like Portland, who has had a great crowd when we started last year, increased this year and then you have a night like tonight, it’s just special. It’s very, very special to see where the potential is and where we want to get to.”

On what needs to happen to get to where the league wants:
“Every market is different. Obviously Portland is unique and it brings a lot of special interest in soccer and women’s soccer. Each of the other cities have to take a step back and see what it is about their particular markets that they can find a way to grow that game as well. Some have done better than others. Each one has a uniqueness of what they bring to the table and they need to capitalize on that. I think in a lot of markets, we look a lot at those club, youth teams, but you can’t just rely on that. If you look out here, you see a lot of parents with their children. It’s not just the youth that are really being targeted. It helps with the attendance. We really have to find the different demographics and find out what we can to be able to get to fans like this everywhere.”

On what cities are doing better than others growing the NWSL:
“Houston’s done a good job, first year out. They also had a very quick turnaround with the rest of the league in prior year one. They’ve done a nice job of being able to capitalize on a fast base that they’ve had to get together really quickly without a whole lot of lead time. They didn’t have their allocated players off the bat because they were coming in from already being abroad. So they had a little catch up to do, but they’ve done a nice job the very first year. Right now I think they’re second in the league for attendance, so they’ve done a good job as well. Each market is so unique. Some of them actually do a good job of selling out their stadiums because they have smaller stadiums. That’s one of the things you have to look out for, the percentage of what they’re doing in terms of stadium size, which does reflect the environment. Because when you get maybe 3,500 in Chicago, that’s close to a sellout so the environment is great, but the numbers are low when compared to something like Portland. So everyone is trying to find that niche market and the environment they want within the stadiums they have and to be able to see that grow.”

On what a night like this in Portland says about the potential of the league:
“This is great. You have something like this and you have the ability to dream of what all my markets if they have something like this out there. I think, it’s on ESPN as well, which is great. Households that are going to be able to see this game and this enthusiasm and say ‘I want to be a part of this.’ The one thing we find with the U.S., they don’t want to miss opportunities that are out there. So if they say, ‘Wow. This is something that is really popular now. This is something people are jumping on board with.’ They want to be a part of that and we have to capitalize on that as well.”

On how to continue the growth of the league heading into next year:
“We finally have, after this year, we’ll have two sets of statistics to be able to look at to see where are those strengths, where are some weaknesses, and how we can capitalize. I think sometimes you need to have a couple of years to be able to look back and see how we have grown, how we’ve gone down, what are the concerns we might have in certain markets, what are the things that are positive that we can take over to other markets. So there’s going to be an analysis at the end of this year.”

On how the outlook is at this point:
“I think it feels good. This is the first league that had all the original teams come back in year two. That’s a big step. In addition, we had a team add with Houston. So already they’ve set a groundwork that is different from the last two leagues, which is exciting. I think we feel good about in year three where we’re going to go.”

On what the league is planning to do in regards to the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year:
“We’re already focused, for sure. Schedule is the first thing. Taking a look at how we’re going to integrate the World Cup into our schedule and vice versa. So that’s something we’ve been working on and probably in the next week to 10 days we’ll have that out there as well. That’s the biggest challenge right now. How the national team players for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico will fit into the program we have, in addition to the international players outside of those three federations. Those federations support us, but as you know, we went to three internationals outside of the Canadians and Mexicans this year, so they too, several of them will be playing in the World Cup, so that will also impact the scheduling.”

On how the league will capitalize on the excitement of a World Cup:
“I think for the most part, it’s trying to make a decision if we’re going to take a break during the World Cup and, given that, how that break is going to fold into then when teams are up to potential at the World Cup and those players slowly, overtime, return to the NWSL.  So that’s certainly one of the things we’re looking at, taking that break, so that we have the best players that we possibly can. Maybe we’ll get the national team players in the front end, take a little break, and get them back at the back end, which I think is probably going to be optimal.”

On if taking a break for the World Cup will make it difficult to expand the league next year:
“Expansion will be one of the topics we’re going to be talking about in our upcoming owners meeting. There’s a variety of options out there. We have people that are interested in expansion. Whether we do it in 2015 is yet to be seen.”

On whether Canada will continue to support players next year:
“We’ve talked to Canada and we’ve certainly not heard at this point that they’re definitely going to be out. I think it’s more a matter of how we can integrate, just like the U.S. team. We also can’t just assume that the U.S. is going to be here 100% during the league because obviously they have commitments, preparation that they have to do as well. So Canada, Mexico and the U.S., we’re in talks with to find out how fast we can blend all that they’ve brought to the NWSL and also give them the opportunity to prepare well for the World Cup.”