Mark Parsons, Thorns vs. Spirit, 5.21.16
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Quotes & Notes | Portland Thorns FC 4, Washington Spirit 1 | May 21, 2016

Portland Thorns FC Quotes

Portland Thorns FC Head Coach Mark Parsons

On the result…
“The first half, from every angle, was an exceptional performance. Defensively, in high areas, the amount of times we won it in very good areas between their backline and midfield and got at them. The amount of times we kept their very dangerous forwards quiet, specifically, Crystal Dunn, was fantastic. In the second half, we talked about managing the game and that the first ten minutes was going to be crucial. I think it was in the ninth minute of the second half where they knicked a goal. Again, I couldn’t put too much blame on anyone. It was only one of the two times Crystal got free and got a cross in. But our reaction to go on and push for another goal was great, and for Meg Morris to knick one in at the end was very special.”

On winning at Providence Park…
“I said to the players straight after the game that there’s going to be good nights and there’s going to be special nights and this is a very special night for us. What makes tonight more special is what we did on the road. We were second best for 45 minutes in Washington and we came into halftime with a clean sheet and a platform for us to win the game. In the first half against Kansas, when we conceded, we could have crumbled and conceded a second. The grit, the work ethic, the mentality – everything that four-game stretch was about and what we put into that road trip really tested us and brought us closer. That’s what makes this so special tonight. The three points tonight means a bit less if we don’t do the hard stuff in the last four games, but we did, and that makes tonight fantastic.”

On the locker room environment…
“I think that it’s up to the coach and the players to create the environment for the best players to thrive. This year with Tobin [Heath] and I think Lindsey [Horan] pushing into that category. It’s not just me or a staff member, it’s everyone. It’s the head coach, it’s staff, it’s operations, it’s the equipment manager and it’s the players that create an environment where players want to enjoy their football and work hard. We have some very experienced players that have won a lot of trophies. Sinc [Christine Sinclair] is another one. Sinc and Tobin pick up bags at the airports. They’re doing all of the little tiny things that everyone else is doing and that’s what makes this team good and will make us fantastic going forward. We’re not there yet in terms of where we want to be, but it starts with key players putting the team first.”

On having Christine Sinclair back in the lineup…
“The biggest thing with her is her ability and that it’s Christine Sinclair. It calms everyone down. It really does. In training, we’re in 11-v-11 and the balls flying around and it went to Sinc and everyone calmed down. She calms us down and gives us quality in between the most dangerous areas. How many times did we knick it, got Sinc on the ball and she threaded balls to Tobin or Nadia [Nadim] or got someone in behind? She’s still doing her minutes and she’s still getting sharper. It’s amazing to get her back out there because of that quality she brings and the experience she has. She pushes us toward the team we will be and a team that can do the horrible stuff, defend deep if we need to like last week or move the ball like we did in periods tonight.”

On the team’s confidence in the attack…
“I honestly think that tonight’s only the beginning of where we’re going to go. I can only compare tonight to Orlando at home. Not only were we on the road, but our strategies were extremely different in all those four games, offensively and defensively. In our meeting this week before we started training, we said, ‘Look, not only are we back home, but we get to work on who we are.’ And the players love that opportunity. Comparing it to Orlando, we had huge periods of possession with no urgency or danger. We then lost a bit of momentum and then we’re back in it – possess, pass, but safe passes without risk. Tonight, we took risks. We took players on the ball. We had to beat their six. They have a front three and their two midfielders come as well as a holding midfielder, so there’s six that come and we’ve talked about breaking that, and it’s almost that if we break one, we eliminate six. We did that a few times. More importantly, we won the ball in key areas between the midfield and backline. We won it there. I think it’s just the beginning, but comparing it to Orlando, which is the only comparison, in and out of momentum, there wasn’t much danger. Tonight, we took more risks, had better defensive shape when we had the ball so if we lost it, Crystal couldn’t get at us.”

On the personality of the team…
“I think we’re exceptional at doing the hard stuff and the gritty stuff and the little things some people shy away from. At some point with players and coaches, it always happens. You have the choice to put the team first and be selfish, and when you’re really exhausted with four away games, you can easily be selfish or not pick up equipment when there are 50 balls that are hanging around the stadium. We’re exceptional at taking care of that, which makes us even more tired, but we all share the load. I’ve stressed it from the start and I’ll stress it all season – we’re exceptional right now and that’s lead us into a good position in enjoying our work, enjoying our environment and that’s the foundation to playing good soccer.”

Portland Thorns forward Christine Sinclair
On how it felt to be back in the starting XI…
“It felt great to be back. I obviously played a few minutes against Seattle in Seattle, but nothing compares to coming home and playing in front of the home crowd. I was looking forward to a good performance so it was nice to be able to contribute.”

On how she feels physically after the game…
“Great [laughs]. No, you know obviously I’m dealing with a little bit of an injury. It’s starting to feel good, but I’m just frustrated with the process. You know, I’m the type of player that wants to be out there 90 minutes every game, but I understand that that’s probably not what’s best for me right now. Luckily, we were able to put in a few goals early in the game and were able to see it out in the end.”

On the feeling of coming home and handing Washington its first loss of the season to become the only remaining undefeated team in the NWSL…
“That’s got a nice ring to it. I think, obviously I wasn’t on the long road trip that the team went on, but watching the games we showed a lot of character. This team has the potential to do something very special this year, and I think tonight we saw a glimpse of it. We were sort of treating tonight like a second home opener. It’s been five weeks since we played here. The whole team, just the vibe that we have training day in and day out, and then playing in front of the best fans in the country, it just gets you pumped to play, and I think you could see that tonight.”

On the differences in the personality of the team as opposed to previous years…
“It’s always been great. Obviously, on the field the past couple of years, we as players did not perform. You know, we had an excellent roster the past couple of years and we did not perform well. This year, obviously there’s been a lot of changes both with the roster and the staff, and we’ve gelled. I think that road trip brought the team together. Being on the outside and watching them come back, it was a different team that came back from that long road trip – just a tight unit that I think starts from the top with the environment that [Thorns FC head coach] Mark [Parsons] creates.”

On how it felt to wear the armband again in the game…
“I mean it’s a huge honor, obviously. Portland’s my home. I’ve been here since college and it’s a huge honor. But this team is full of leaders. I see someone like [Thorns FC midfielder] Tobin [Heath] and she’s just blossomed into not only a world-class soccer player, but one of the leaders on this team, a vocal leader on this team, and I think she’s carried that onto the National Team as well. I’m the type of leader – I don’t have to say much. I just try to lead by example day in and day out, do the right things, and help the team in any way I can. It’s just nice to be back.”

On how she feels the team will progress from here on out…
“It’s just about gelling together. I’ve now played maybe 90 minutes total for this team this year. It’s exciting, but talent only gets you so far. I think tonight, and in Seattle, you saw a team that’s tight. We’re a unit. We’re willing to fight for one another. You know, I look at someone like Lindsey Horan who just wins absolutely everything, does all the dirty work. We’ve got world-class players who put in the work, and that’s not always the case.”

Portland Thorns forward Tobin Heath
On her goal, which was her first in the run of play during the 2016 regular season..
“It was just a fantastic ball by Sinc [Christine Sinclair]. Just perfectly timed, and just boop…and then I was like, ‘oh I probably should make sure it goes in.’ Yeah, it was just awesome. It was awesome to have Sinc back because she has that vision that not a lot of players have, and so in that way she can change a game in one pass like that.”

On the differences she saw in the game tonight versus the team’s previous game against Washington two weeks ago…
“We loved coming home. It’s been a long road for us, and finally coming home, even all week in practice, we were just so excited to be back in the stadium practicing and looking forward to this game, looking forward to getting in front of our fans. And I think that energy we just had, and I thought we had a great defensive performance in the Seattle game, so we kind of brought that into this game. And obviously we had a lot of offensive weapons as well. I think we took the most shots that we have in a game, and I think we were just pretty optimistic on the offensive end. I thought our midfield battled tremendously because Washington has a great midfield, and a strong midfield that battles hard, and I thought that [Thorns FC midfielder] Allie [Long] and Sinc [Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair] and [Thorns FC midfielder] Lindsey [Horan] just battled. And it was fantastic. Our backline did a great job. I thought Kling [Thorns FC defender Meghan Klingenberg] and Kat [Thorns FC defender Katherine Reynolds] were huge. Everyone I felt was fantastic defensively.”

On where she thinks the team is at and where it is headed…
“We’re still getting going. I think that we have a lot to continue to build on. Obviously, we’re still implementing some things. I think that we finally have all of our pieces back together in that way. And I was proud of our team on the road. It’s hard to continually be in a different environment, and so I think those results – even though people maybe thought they weren’t that great – we still never lost, and we still haven’t lost. And I think that shows great character, to go into those places and then come back home and then seeing kind of how our team had evolved on the road. I think we were a lot different team from our first home game to this home game. I thought it was a lot more fun and a lot more dangerous on the attacking end.”

On what it means to the team to come home and hand Washington its first loss to become the only undefeated team in the NWSL…
“[whisper] Yes! [laughs] It was huge. Obviously, we knew that Washington was a great team and that it was going to be a great game. We know the team we can be in this place, in Providence Park, in front of our fans. It really uplifts us. It gives us huge belief, and we love playing here. All this week, I was just thinking, ‘I love being home, I love being home, I only want to play at home.’ And so when we do get the opportunity to play, I think we’re going to show up and do really well here.”

On the differences of the team’s performance at home so far this season as opposed to the team’s struggles at home over the past couple of years…
“I thought about this as well, actually. I think our maturity is a lot better in that sometimes we don’t try to overplay. I think when you’re at home you kind of get this feeling of, you can be relaxed, but we’ve learned that teams come in here and they want to play. They want to beat us in front of this crowd and in front of this environment as well, and so it kind of uplifts the other team as well. I think learning to deal with the different momentums of the game I think [Thorns FC head coach] Mark [Parsons] has done a great job implementing this attitude or culture that sometimes we don’t have to overplay. We can simplify our game and deal with the ebbs and flows of the game, and being able to control that and managing that and being mature enough that when you do feel the pressure we can get out of it. I think that’s different than in years past when we’ve played at home.

On how she feels at the momentum having started the season on a hot streak:
“I feel really great, but I think this team is fantastic. The players who I’m playing with are fantastic. In that way, I think they’re just helping, helping me play the way I love to play. And I feel great out here. I love playing for the Thorns. It’s a special place, it’s a special feeling, and I want to give my everything to this club. And so in that way, I’m just really happy to be here.”

Notes:

  • Thorns FC set a new record for the longest unbeaten streak in team history (3-0-3) in tonight’s match.
     
  • Midfielder Tobin Heath tallied her ninth career assist, moving into third place all-time in career assists for Thorns FC. Heath also leads the NWSL with five assists this season.
     
  • With the assist on Heath’s goal, forward Christine Sinclair became the third player in Thorns FC history to reach 40 career points.
     
  • Midfielder Lindsey Horan scored her team-leading third goal of the season, two of Horan’s three goals have been headers off corner kicks from Heath.
     
  • Portland has tallied eight goals this season – four of those goals have been headers.
     
  • In the last three meetings against Washington at Providence Park, Thorns FC have tallied eight goals.
     
  • Portland improved to 5-1-4 all-time against the Spirit, including a mark of 3-0-2 at Providence Park.
     
  • Thorns FC are unbeaten in their last five games at Providence Park, dating back to the 2015 season and have scored multiple goals in each of the last five matches at home.
     
  • Portland has scored 23 goals in 10 meetings against the Spirit and eight of those goals have been scored in the final 15 minutes.
     
  • Defender Emily Menges surpassed 4,000 career minutes played for Portland. She is just the third Thorns FC player to reach that mark, joining forward Christine Sinclair and midfielder Allie Long.
     
  • Midfielder Mana Shim made her 60th career appearance and joins Long as the only other Portland player to have appeared in 60 or more games for the club.
     
  • Midfielder Allie Long made her 70th career appearance for Portland and earned her 32nd consecutive start, dating back to the 2014 season.
     
  • Saturday’s match marked the sixth time in team history Thorns FC have tallied four or more goals in a match and the second time Portland has scored four or more goals against the Spirit. Portland earned a 6-1 at Washington on June 21, 2014.
     
  • Saturday’s match marked the seventh time in team history Thorns FC have tallied four or more goals in a match and the second time Portland has scored four or more goals against the Spirit. Portland earned a 6-1 at Washington on June 21, 2014.
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