2017 NWSL Championship Quotes & Notes | North Carolina Courage 0, Portland Thorns FC 1 | Oct. 14, 2017

2017 NWSL Championship Postgame Quotes

Portland Thorns FC Quotes

Portland Thorns FC Head Coach Mark Parsons
On the match overall...
“It was a battle out there and a very tight game with not much rhythm until the last 20 [minutes], once we kind of sunk in a bit too much. It was a physical and intense battle. We look at what we tried to achieve in the game on the defensive side of the ball we ticked a lot of boxes. We knew it was going to be really hard to get into the game and get rhythm. I thought they did a great job of pressing us, pressing our backline and pressing the center mids. And when the opportunities came, and there wasn’t many of them, we put the ball in a couple of dangerous areas. What Lindsey [Horan] all year has continued to grow and she’s the best and biggest in enormous games. You think back in the last two years, the semifinal of last year, the person who grabbed that goal to make it 4-3 was Lindsey. Thankful the ball dropped to her and knew it was going to end up in one place. Tight game, maybe the most beautiful ugly game I’ve ever been a part of. Glad we won and that’s over.”

On the work [Emily] Menges, [Emily] Sonnett, [Katherine] Reynolds did tonight...
“Yeah you got to have a look at the whole team and the work that everyone put in. Set pieces [were] going to be huge today for both teams, defensively and offensively, and we had to deal with a lot. A lot of people had to come in and get shape and we really focus on second phase and wanting to not give them that bounce in our 18 and the whole team did that. Sonnett, Menges and Kath, at some point tonight, today, they made a massive challenge. We work really hard to make sure they don’t have to make those challenges, that our shape is good and there’s just a couple of times that really broke us down and got in. We limited them to hardly any goal scoring opportunities and the one that comes to mind is when [Jessica] McDonald got the better of Menges first and Menges gets back and makes that challenge. Whoever has been in our backline has been tremendous, great mentality to protect this goal and protect this team. And what AD Franch continues to do is astounding. We are proud of being a great attacking team. We didn’t get to show that as much today but we are proud to be a very good hard-working defensive team and it’s won us a championship.”

On getting Christine Sinclair to buy into his coaching vision...
“I don’t think you can get Sinc to buy in, she’s an ultimate professional and I think she’s ready to get on board with what this club is trying to do. The first conversation is very clear. I remember the room I was sitting in, a house in Virginia, I hadn’t moved yet. I was calling all the players in the office where the air conditioning never got to and I was sweating nervously because of the heat, nervously because I was about to call Christine Sinclair. And straight away it was easy to talk to her. My question was ‘where does your passion and desire come from to play for this club and want to help this club?’ And she talked about UP [University of Portland] she talked about being a fan of the Timbers for many years and that Portland is home. And she loves the fans, the community and the people that support this club day in and day out and the front office. She calmly and said it multiple times, she wants to do whatever she can to help the team succeed, and give to these fans and give to the staff of this club and give to the front office. And you look at this year, the way she’s evolved. We isolated her a little bit in the beginning, we dropped her in, we dropped Lindsey [Horan] in. The impact that those two suddenly had on our team was huge and seeing Sincy and this group lift a trophy at the end of a challenging year means everything and the painful thing last year was seeing Lindsey’s [Horan] face, Allie’s [Long] face, Tobin’s [Heath] face. All of these players that gave everything. And seeing not just their faces but their families and these fans and the staff, and I think I put Sincy at the top of that pile. Seeing her being emotional out there means everything because I know how much this means to her, how much this club and city means to her.”

On influence Nadia Nadim’s, Amandine Henry’s and Dagny Brynjarsdottir’s impact on team and club:
“Yeah, Amandine lifted her t-shirt up just a little bit before kickoff and had written ‘Thorns forever’ across her abs and she shows that in the way she plays. She’s fallen in love with these players, she’s fallen in love with these fans and city and we’re going to be massive Amandine fans for a very long time. You look at Nadia, I remember talking to her, we went out to an Italian place and I remember talking about her passion, her desire, her character and personality. She calls it the ‘Nadia effect’ on people. I call it a contagious personality, a winning mentality to always want to give her best. She’s scored some massive goals for us in big moments. We knew she was going to have to come on and see out this game for us and win us this game. What she did last week with her first touch, the selfless work she did tonight, I don’t think you can give enough credit to players that accept different roles and different positions. There aren’t many times that I’ve played her in her position because of the players that we have. And Dagny coming on. She learned some big lessons earlier in the season playing at fullback and she was relentless at improving. What she did against Orlando coming on and what she did again today…it’s having players like [Ashleigh] Sykes, and Kling’s [Megan Klingenberg] been going it for years. Kling’s continued to grow this year and show why she’s one of the best fullbacks, in not just her defensive work but the assists that she provides. Dagny and Sykes have been little prodigies. Kling’s done a lot of work with those two to support them in this new role.”

On controlling Samantha Mewis through the match:
“We talked earlier in the week and we made it clear we didn’t want Mewis to make an impact and I said ‘don’t forget [McCall] Zerboni, we’ve got to stop both of them’. [North Carolina] play with four for a large part of the season, whether it was the diamond of the box, and we knew there was going to be four of them [midfielders] and Sincy [Christine Sinclair], Mandy [Amandine Henry] or Lindsey [Horan] were going to have a lot of ground to cover. It was important to shut them all down. Amandine, Linds and Sinc, what they’ve done over here in the last two months, you couldn’t hand pick better center mids in the world and you put all three together. I said to the players in the changing room tonight, it will be the last time I sit in the changing room with players of that quality and that type of character. That’s the biggest compliment I can pay to all of them. Their love for each other has grown, their bond has grown. Portland is a tough place to play, it’s a tough place to coach because of the pressure and the intense demand there is all the time. It’s tougher to get a close team. To really get a team to bond. I think earlier on, the more the staff stepped away, the closer these guys got and I’m proud of what they continue to build together. I said to Linds at the whistle, the future she has in front of her is huge, this is just the start. There’s no midfielder in this league that can do what she can do and she’s doing that at such a young age. We’ve got to start working toward a couple more trophies next year at some point, hopefully we give her a day or two off, then we load up and look at next year.”

Portland Thorns FC midfielder and Championship MVP Lindsey Horan
On the match overall...
“Yeah, I agree completely with him [Mark Parsons]. It was such a back and forth game, more of a defensive game than anything and it was a battle. It was brutal and we’re a team that likes to play and get on the ball and North Carolina didn’t allow us to do that. So their game plan really worked out and we held in there and our defense was incredible. I credit our backline so much and the work that we put into this game. Everyone was out there to win and give their 100 percent and then we ended up getting a goal. Off a set piece and [Emily] Sonnett played a great ball in and we came out with a win, and that was early on in the second half. And for us to hold onto that win through the whole second half with a team like North Carolina coming at us, we dealt with a lot. I’m proud of this team and I’m glad that’s over.”

On the work [Emily] Menges, [Emily] Sonnett, [Katherine] Reynolds did tonight...
“Yeah I would have to agree with that. You know with those three also [Ashleigh] Sykes and Kling [Megan Klingenberg] and Dagny [Brynjarsdottir] coming in for Sykes, did a wonderful job. You know all five of them were insane and the amount of work they put in and keeping that win for us. And what he [Mark Parsons] said with [Emily] Menges’ last tackle. That just kind of showed who this team is and we were not going to let another goal in. That game was not pretty whatsoever but we came out and we kept battling and our defending was incredible. The amount of balls that came into the box at the end there, we were not going to allow them to score. You saw that from every single person on the field. So it was awesome and credit to our backline, not even just this game, these last three or four games they’ve been insane. And in the semifinal, incredible, coming off a team like Orlando and a team like North Carolina, they’re insane.”

On meaning of winning Championship after last year...
“Everything. I think, you know I didn’t get over that loss for a very long time. We’ve worked so hard this whole season to get this win and our team has been through a lot, and it was not easy whatsoever. And we had losses, we had games where we did not play the Portland style of play and to come out and really become a team at the end here in these last few games was truly remarkable. And just how our team came together and played today and battled. I am so proud of them and everyone on this team, and Mark [Parsons] what he’s done with this team. You have a player like Tobin Heath that you didn’t have all year and for him to change our lineup and have to change everything and I know there is judgement everywhere. He did such a great job with this team. You know everyone bought in and that’s saying a lot about the kind of people we are and the kind of players we are. So I’m very proud of this team.”

On changes at halftime...
“We did not get a lot of opportunities [in the first half]. The on opportunity we got, a set piece, we’ve gotten so great at them. [Emily] Sonnett plays a perfect ball in, I don’t know who got a touch on it, I can’t even remember the goal. I was very happy. All credit to Sonnett, she played a great ball.”

Portland Thorns FC Forward Christine Sinclair
On if Portland ever loosened up throughout the match...
“If you look at our two previous games against North Carolina this year they’ve been tight; they’ve been battles. [North Carolina] play a very direct style which is hard to cope with and they’ve got some great athletes up top. We knew it was going to be a battle all night long and that’s often how finals are. They’re not normally the prettiest of games and I’m just proud of our team. We fought for each other for 90 minutes and we’ll take the win.”

On if it feels sweeter winning for first time since 2013 as opposed to each year..
“Obviously we’d love five [stars]. We’re building something special here. In five years, two championships and a shield. It’s been quite the ride. This one, especially. It has been a battle all year for us. To see the fans that traveled all the way from Portland to come to this one for us, this one was for them.”

On neutral site crowd...
“It was a great environment in a great stadium. These facilities are world class. The crowd, they were lively. It was good to see North Carolina with their [supporters’] section as well. It made for a great environment to play in.”

On growth from 2015 season...
“We’ve changed a lot since not making the playoffs [in 2015] from the head coach on through. There’s only, what, three of us now? I’d say that this year is the first year we’ve actually had [a] continuation of players and staff and we’ve been able to build on what we started last year. Obviously, we’ll be losing some key players next year and we’ll have to rebuild again.”

Portland Thorns FC Defender Emily Menges
On connection with backline teammates...
“It’s special. I think we’ve gotten to the point where we really connect as a backline. Having two, three years under our belt is something not many backlines get to have. We rely on each other and keep each other accountable and can predict what the other can do. So, it’s amazing.”

On close-range block on Jessica McDonald...
“I got myself into that problem, let me remind people that. But everyone had plays like that. Just because mine was in front of goal doesn’t make it more impressive than somebody else’s up the field. It was a team effort today for sure.”

On team’s love for defense...
“AD [Franch] gave us all dryer sheets today for ‘clean sheets’. It’s something we pride ourselves on and that’s the goal we go into every game: a clean sheet. That’s the best we can do. We did our job. It’s the most important things for us.”

On feeling of lifting the trophy...
“It was unreal, it’s amazing.”

On changes made when Mark Parsons became head coach in 2016:
“[Mark] focuses on team first before individual. We have, as a lot of teams do in this league, big players and big personalities and he’s really good at making sure everybody puts the team first. Not because they are forced to but because they want to. I think that’s something that he brought that has made the team successful.”

On Emily Sonnett’s play this year...
“She is an amazing player and an amazing person. She brings humor to the field when other people are being serious and it’s needed; you need somebody like that. She’s very focused on technical, she wants to get better. It’s inspiring playing next to somebody like that, especially in a position where we’ve had the same back line for a couple years and you start to get comfortable. She challenges you every day, same with Kling [Megan Klingenberg] and Katherine [Reynolds], everyone. We keep each other accountable and it’s really cool.”

North Carolina Courage Head Coach Paul Riley
On the match overall...
“Obviously, disappointed. I thought we played a brilliant game, to be honest with you, overall. Obviously the two early substitutions changed the formation a little bit, we had to tweak it a little bit but I give the players an awful lot of credit. They hung in there, they battled them, we outplayed them. I don’t know what the possession was but I thought were the better team for a good 75-80 minutes of it. It was a set piece that did us in in the end but the effort was outstanding, the press was outstanding, the work rate, [Denise] O’Sullivan, Sammy [Mewis] and McCall [Zerboni] were absolutely unbelievable in the midfield. I thought it was just a really gutty performance and you don’t always get your just reward, definitely a little unlucky in the end but we move on and there’s no finish line for the group so just keep going.”

On building rhythm in the first half...
“They were physical. Probably stretched from physical to more than physical and I think they had more tackles than passes in the first half so they got in to us and it was their game plan. Unfortunately, it did knock us out of our rhythm. But the referee got a great second half and settled the game down, probably should have done it a little earlier. But you know I give the players a lot of credit, while that was going on and some of the challenges that were going were a bit ridiculous to say the least. They all hung in there, there was no silly stuff from us and there wasn’t any late stuff from us. I thought we equipped ourselves really well and just hung around. I’m surprised the way Portland played in the first half to be honest with you, it’s not that type of team. They have some great players and I’d rather see the players play than kick people, but they chose the latter in the first half. At least in the second half, [the] game started. More like a 45-minute game than I think that it was a 90-minute game.”

On which injury disrupted the team the most...
“We played with three right backs, two of them have never played right back in their entire lives so that was difficult. Obviously Hammy [Kristen Hamilton] went in for Taylor [Smith] when Taylor came out, and Taylor last week was unbelievable in the semifinal, so obviously she was a key part of the game plan going in. To lose her and then Hammy went in and did a really good job, it was a poor tackle I think on Hammy. But she did well and she went in there and Mak[enzy] Doniak, I looked at Mak and said ‘go play right back’ and she goes ‘yeah, I’ll be alright’ and she did well against Tobin [Heath]. Plus, the fact that playing against Tobin Heath, it’s not like someone else. They did a great job of keeping Tobin [Heath] quiet. To be honest I thought the midfield kept them quiet and the three right backs that we had did a really good job down that side. But obviously Mak Doniak is not going to get as high as Taylor [Smith] is going to get. Obviously defensively she has to take a second, sometimes a third look at what is going on, she is not used to playing there. It’s funny, at the beginning of the season you only have 20 players on the roster so there’s two positions that you don’t have covered and of course one of them is right back. I give them a lot of credit, to go and play right back when you’ve never played there and in the final. Mak Doniak was just like, ‘yeah let me out on the field’ and I give her a lot of credit. Hammy too, Hammy came over to the sideline and I said, ‘are you going to be okay?’ and she goes, ‘yeah, don’t worry about me’. So, hats off to them.”

On team’s attacking power...
“We obviously went to three up front in the second half just because of what we had available and what was on the field at the time. The midfield obviously matched up pretty well and you got Jess Mc[Donald] in there, obviously she’s physical and fast, and we got Lynn [Williams] who’s physical and fast and [Ashley] Hatch who’s physical and fast. But I have to be honest with you, I don't think we took a lot of long balls and we still tried to play through the midfield the best we can, get the fullbacks as high as we could and then try to get behind. And you know to get that many shots I don’t know what it was second half but they did a pretty good job of getting balls into the box. We just didn’t turn them around enough. It was tough specifically dropping deep quickly, you know five in the back, it was pretty difficult for us to break them down. But got to give them credit whatever their game plan was, they got the result in the end and it’s obviously great for [Portland GM] Gavin [Wilkinson] and [Portland Owner] Merritt [Paulson] and [Portland President] Mike Golub and those guys that have done a fantastic job with the club. To see them in the playoffs is always great because you need them in the playoffs I just wish it wasn’t us that they beat.”

On Orlando City Stadium as a venue...
“I think it’s great, I think the facility is fantastic. I think every Orlando [Pride] fan was on our side tonight which was even better. I think the Orlando support has been excellent I thought it was a good atmosphere tonight obviously two supporter groups from each place took a big plus for that. But the field conditions were excellent considering all the games on it. We've enjoyed our time in Orlando. And I think a neutral site is fine whatever the league decides to do, that's fine. Whether we play at home or whether we play at a neutral site, I think sometimes the neutral is nice but you obviously want to get a bigger crowd. But I think 8,000, you know we’re still building, were still a young sport and the league is only five years old, plenty of time to build it. And the quality of the game, it was an exciting game. There might have been a ton of quality in there but if you’re in Europe watching the game you’d say, ‘you know what? That was a cup final’. I wouldn’t say end-to-end, a lot of physical play, a lot of around the box stuff, especially at their end of the field and causing a lot of problems. I would think the neutral fan probably enjoyed it. Some of the fans in the stadium, some of the Orlando fans they were jumping for us and screaming for us and that’s pretty impressive. We've enjoyed it and great facility."

North Carolina Courage Defender Abby Erceg
On physicality of the match and officiating...
“I do but don’t want to get in trouble. We had the two best teams in the league, it was always going to be a physical game. There were always going to be tackles that were questionable and I think at that point it’s up to the referee to make the right call and get the game under control. I just don’t think she did that which is really disappointing but, like you said, you expect that [physicality] in the final. You’re fighting for everything, you’re fighting for your entire season. We knew that coming in. It’s just unfortunate that some of the girls picked up injuries in the last game of the season and couldn’t finish out the season that they wanted to. I think that’s the saddest thing about it.”

On backline adjusting with three right backs in the game...
“That’s something we didn’t practice so it was tough for us to deal with it. These things come with finals. We just had to adjust and I think the girls that went into those positions did really well. There was a lot more communication happening, I can tell you that. At the end of the day we just had to make do and I think at that point we really were the underdog. It made it harder for our backline to deal with Portland but I don’t think they were in our 18 [yard] box pulling us all of the time. I think we still had control of the game, which was great, it was just lack of concentration on one play that let us down.”

North Carolina Courage Midfielder Sam Mewis
On the match...
“It was tough. I hate losing so it was a bummer. I’m really sad for my team.”

On coming so close to winning the Shield and the Championship...
“Well, we want to start getting ready as soon as possible. I think we’re going to be really motivated for next year and I give Portland a lot of credit. I think they played a great game, they had a great season.”

On Portland’s defense...
“They have great players so it was definitely tough and I give them a lot of credit.”

On physicality of the match and officiating: 
“That’s not really up to me to determine. I don’t have anything to say about it.”

On 14th minute half-field attempt...
“I don’t know, maybe. I didn’t really know [if it would go in]. It was so spur of the moment that I didn’t know if it was going to go in so it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

North Carolina Courage Midfielder McCall Zerboni
On the match overall...
“I thought we performed really well. We came out with a game plan from our coaching staff and we executed it and I thought we controlled the game. I thought we were the better team on the day. But sometimes that experience and that class finds the back of the net and that’s what playoff ball is all about. Sometimes you put together a great game but it just doesn’t happen for you on the day. Props to Portland, I thought they put a good show out there and we just weren’t able to execute.”

On if an earlier yellow card would have changed the game...
“The rules of the game are set, you want the referee to get control of the game and hold on to the game, that’s what they’re there for otherwise if we take them out it’d just be balls to the wall. I thought she did her job, I thought some things could have been changed and gotten control of the game earlier with maybe a couple of cards shown, I thought there was a couple tackles that could have been a red card honestly. It was clear what their [Portland’s] game plan was, I thought we did a really good job as a group to stay together and keep our heads clear about it and still execute our game plan. I’m proud of our team and our club because we stayed true to what we are and how we play ball. We didn’t come out and try to play a different game or do anything that’s not our style to win. We did everything we’ve been doing all year, we were consistent with it and obviously they changed the game a little bit and had plan to kind of throw us off ours but I’m really proud of the performance tonight.”

On team’s attacking power...
“I think we have one of the most dangerous front lines in the league and obviously as a backline for them [Portland] they’re going to be shaky about that. I don’t even mean that as far as finishing and being dangerous and they [Portland] attack but they also work their butts off to defend and [we] made them very shaky, very nervous tonight, they weren’t comfortable on the ball. We were able to pin [them] in a couple of times and I don’t think there was very many passes together and build out of the back and that’s something that we wanted to do. Credit to our front line, they’re all around players and not just attackers but also work defensively and that really helped us today.”

On Orlando City Stadium as a venue...
"Yeah I think we haven’t had the home team make the final yet. It’s something I look forward to. I think it would be a really fun atmosphere. And those hometown fans can fill it for their team in the championship. It will happen at some point as we kind of change who's hosting and now we are getting better and better facilities and better places to host these championship games. So, it will be a good time when the home field gets to host it."

Notes:

  • Portland won its second NWSL Championship in five seasons, joining FC Kansas City as one of two NWSL clubs to win multiple NWSL Championships.
  • Portland ended its 2017 campaign with an eight-game unbeaten run (7-0-1).
  • Midfielder Lindsey Horan was named NWSL Championship MVP. She joins Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers, 2015), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC, 2013) and Bill Walton (Portland Trail Blazers, 1977) as players for Portland major professional teams who were named MVP of a championship game. 
  • Forward Christine Sinclair and midfielders Allie Long and Tobin Heath are the only three players to appear in both NWSL Championship matches for Thorns FC.
  • Saturday’s championship match marked the second appearance in an NWSL Championship game for both goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and defender Katherine Reynolds. Both players started for the Western New York Flash in the 2013 final against Portland.
  • Forwards Hayley Raso, Nadia Nadim and Ashleigh Sykes, midfielders Amandine Henry, Lindsey Horan and Dagny Brynjarsdottir and defenders Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges and Emily Sonnett all featured in their first-ever NWSL Championship match.
  • Horan became the third different player to score a goal in an NWSL Championship match for Thorns FC. It was also Horan’s second career NWSL playoff goal.
  • Sonnett tallied her first career playoff assist on Horan’s goal in the 50th minute. Sonnett became the fifth different player to record an assist in the playoffs for Portland in 2017.
  • Sinclair claimed her fourth women’s professional soccer league title, winning Women’s Professional Soccer Championships with FC Gold Pride in 2010 and the Western New York Flash in 2011, in addition to NWSL Championships with Portland in 2013 and 2017.
  • Heath, Long and Sinclair won their second career NWSL Championship, as all three were on Portland’s 2013 NWSL Championship team.
  • Franch is the first NWSL goalkeeper to play in an NWSL Championship match with two different teams (Western New York in 2013 and Thorns FC in 2017).
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