Quotes & Notes | Portland Thorns FC 2, Utah Royals 0 | May 25, 2018

Portland Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons
General thoughts on the match…
“We were really good in the final third in the first half. We didn’t get in there loads, but every time we got in there, we were really sharp. Thought we moved the ball well. We moved the ball with purpose in the final third and created some really good chances and taking them. I thought we took a little while to get going and the goal almost woke us up. What was really strong from the beginning was the great work the backline did. Pushing [Katherine Reynolds] in center, that’s the first time she’s played center back in a four for a while, Midge [Purce] in at right back, it’s been an enjoyable challenge of getting people in and giving them experience in the backline. It’s not been super consistent, which is what backlines feed off, but whoever’s gone in there has stepped up big time. Especially when [Emily] Menges and Katherine had to deal with [Amy Rodriguez]. I think she’s been one of the most dangerous number nine’s we’ve faced because she can do it all. Back to goal and spinning in between and link up and always looking to get off the shoulder. Those two had a big job in trying to keep her quiet, which they did, which made this a really big game and tough game and easy game because they did that. Clinical in the final third, really enjoyable to see that chance with Tobin [Heath] swinging it in to Ana [Crnogorcevic] at the end. The way we sprung her down the line. It just looked like we really enjoyed being there and creating chances. Good home win, important home win, and proud of the group win when it’s been a tough couple weeks. With the three games in seven days, the trip to the East Coast and then a short turnaround coming here, back at home. Obviously, another short turnaround and there are some tired bodies out there, but it didn’t look like it tonight. They really wanted this win and they got it.”

On getting the opening goal of the game…
“It’s important. We created the chances to get that first goal and we’ve played really well to be in a position to get that first goal, minus one game. So to get it was good. It really pushed us on. Again, it was the confidence we wanted to drive on and be really aggressive. I’ve liked the looks we’ve had on the counter the last two games, especially in the first half. We said a bit more control in the second half. Our counter has been really dangerous and we haven’t been able to see the counter loads because normally we’ve been spending a lot of time with the ball in the opposition half creating chances through buildup or our wide play. So it’s been fun the last two games we’ve had a few more counter-attack looks and we look really lively, really dangerous. When you’ve got players like Tobin, [Christine Sinclair], Ana, Ellie [Carpenter] there on the right side, [Lindsey Horan], [Andressinha], and [Angela Salem] coming through to support, it’s fun to watch this talented group when they’re flying like they were at times tonight.”

On the changes to Portland’s backline…
“It’s more about accommodating and getting the players higher up the field into positions where they can excel. It’s actually not as much about the defenders. We knew we’d start with a similar shape to last year while we waited for [Andressinha], for Tobin to come in. Obviously, we’re still waiting for [Hayley] Raso and Caitlin [Foord] to come in. Then at some point we’re moving to a back four and the hope is we have the option of both shapes that we’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple years. That we can pull out both shapes for a specific game or pull out both shapes in the same game. I think we still need some good work in the 4-2-3-1. I think we can continue to see some work in the 4-2-3-1 and once we feel more experienced, the switch between the two should be easier. But it’s not about the defenders. It’s more about the higher players. Keeping Sinc in an important role that she’s had. Thought she was really good tonight for us. Hustling and working and trying to nick balls and getting us rolling and distributing us into great areas. Ana, Tobin, Midge has been out in the wide areas, or what [Ifeoma Onumonu], [Mallory Weber], and [Tyler Lussi] have been doing for us. Playing Tobin on the left side of a 4-2-3-1, I think helps get the best out of her. She’s had a couple different roles so far and it has been good to see her give everything to whatever role she’s been asked.”

On getting the lead against Utah…
“They’re a really good team. Organized team. With Becky Sauerbrunn in there, it’s always hard. Kansas last year, they weren’t conceding much and they had to come over here and we managed to get three past them. It’s tough to play them. You have to ask different questions. I thought us hitting them on the counter looked really good most of the time tonight and I felt that got the best out of our attacks. At the same time, they kept us, looking at the shots and the shots on goal, they kept us more quiet than probably any other team so far this year in quantity, but it was just the quality of the chances we had. And the group was in the mood to score goals.”

On stifling the danger of Utah’s midfield…
“They did really well Utah, in stopping our midfield and robbing our low midfielders of the ball quite a lot. [Amy Rodriguez] does a great job in keeping them pinned in to one half. We just had to have different ways and different solutions to what positions are doing. The first four games, we only had one or two ways we were going to go forward. Now we’re trying to have a bit more. Specific, we’ve seen center mids get lower or even into wide areas. Anyway we can get them faced up. We combine with the ball and rotate and we also pull them out [wide] to get them into the game. We’ve got players, a lot of the players, who want the ball a lot. The other teams don’t want them on it and they want them facing their own goal and teams have done well. They’ve pressed us really well when Lindsey and [Andressinha] have been getting on the ball back to goal with pressure.”

On Tobin Heath’s performance over the last few matches…
“Tobin was very important again tonight. I think she’s been exciting and very important in these last few games since she’s been back with us. If you ask her, she’s nowhere near where she knows she can be. She’s nowhere near where she wants to be and it was only two days ago that she was demanding and wanting more time on the training pitch and wanting to get more reps because she wants everything to be the best it can. She’s been great. She has been great and exciting. Her energy to beat people and get behind lines. We didn’t find her as much as we could behind their backline because she was breaking a lot. But then she comes in and she slows it down and she gets us combining and gets us on the ball and releases pressure. She did that against Washington really well. Those last 15 minutes away from home, Tobin was getting on the ball and just slowing us down. Her and Sinc show great intelligence. It’s been great to have her back. It’s so fun to watch her and try and help her continue to improve. Honestly, not holding back, she thinks she’s nowhere near where she wants to be. I think we’re going to see someone continue just to take off. She’s been doing a lot of extra finishing with both feet and wanting a lot more finishing. I think she’s done well to get into the [18-yard box] and get shots off. She’s brought that into her game. She was creating a lot and she wants to be ruthless right now and brings a lot. I think this is the beginning. I think this really is just the beginning for her and you’re going to see her continue to grow.”

Thorns FC midfielder Lindsey Horan
General thoughts on the match…
“It’s great to win in front of our home crowd. That wasn’t our best performance by any means, but we’ve got to be positive and take the three points and look forward to the game on Wednesday.”

On getting the lead in the first half at home…
“It felt amazing. 2-0 is not ever a comfortable feeling. You want to get that third goal, but it gives you a little sense of relief in wanting to play a little bit more. Utah is such a good team. I think Laura [Harvey] has done well with them. It was hard for us to really show our game.”

On the importance of getting the win…
“I think last week was kind of our turning point and we wanted to build off of it, and I think we did. Where there’s still a few things that we need to change, I think we were more clinical in the final third and we were really trying to take our chances there so that was awesome. Now I think we need to play more, especially when we’re here at home and we’ve got our fans.”

On the team’s second clean sheet in a row…
“It feels good. Britt [Eckerstrom] has done very well. She’s had to come in as a new keeper in this league… We were without Emily Sonnett, one of our best defenders, but I think everyone that came in did so well and I’m so proud of them.”

Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair
General thoughts on the match…
“I think it was just a tough one. Probably the first time this year we’ve gotten that two-goal advantage. In this league it’s hard to come back from that. I thought we were pretty clinical in front of goal and then our backline held them to only a couple chances. It was a solid performance and something we can build on for sure.”

On dealing with Utah’s pressure through the midfield…
“I thought we did alright. I mean they’ve got some world-class players in there and they’re a feisty bunch, but when we did break through them, I thought we were very dangerous. In the second half, when you’re up two goals and just trying to close out the game, we stopped pushing a little bit and just defended. I thought we did well.”

On building on the win in Washington…
“I think it’s huge. Our team’s known for its defending and two-straight shutouts, it’s what we build on. Hopefully we can keep it going. It’s been a while since we’ve won at home, so it was nice to give the fans something.”

On her connection with Tobin Heath…
“With Tobin, she’s coming back off being out for pretty much a year and a half, so I think a few of us are starting to click and things are starting to come together slowly. I think it’s only going to get better.”

On Ana Crnogorcevic’s performance…
“Ana, she’s been incredible for us. If you think of a nine, she’s the true sense of a nine that just never stops running, never stops working. So strong on the ball, able to hold it up for us and then in the box, she’s fearless. I think she was unlucky not to get a goal or two tonight. They’ll come for her for sure, but she’s added so much to our team.”

Notes:

  • Forward Christine Sinclair tallied her sixth goal of the season, and her fourth goal at Providence Park in 2018.
  • Sinclair has now tallied six or more goals in five of her six NWSL seasons.
  • Midfielder Tobin Heath tallied her second assist of the season.
  • With the win, Thorns FC recorded their 20th home win in the past three seasons.
  • Heath has recorded 13 assists since the beginning of the 2016 season, which is tied for the second most during that span.
  • Sinclair has recorded a goal or an assist in seven of Portland’s first 10 matches.
  • Defender Meghan Klingenberg registered her second assist of the season.
  • Heath and Sinclair have recorded a goal and an assist each in two matches against Utah this season.
  • Head coach Mark Parsons recorded his 50th career NWSL win in the match, becoming the third coach in league history to reach the milestone.
  • Parsons also registered his 30th career win with Thorns FC.
  • With her goal, midfielder Lindsey Horan moved into the top five all-time in career points (29) for the club.
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