The Thorns (2-1-0) came into their Week 4 matchup with the Washington Spirit (1-2-0) with a skeleton crew to say the least. Injuries and international matches took their toll on this roster. They signed 2018 draft pick Bella Geist for an emergency keeper role due to starter Adrianna Franch’s injury. This meant backup Britt Eckerstrom would be getting her first start.
The injuries didn’t end there. The Thorns bench was short, like only four players including Geist, short. Tobin Heath also started on the bench, still recovering from offseason surgery. Yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said skeleton crew.
However, as they tend to do, the Thorns put up a fight in the first half, and Eckerstrom proved her worth. She made several great saves, including an incredible sequence in the 26′ with about three Thorns defenders and the GK chipping in with saves.
Newcomer Ifeoma Onumonu looked great playing much of the first half on the right wing. She showed a lot of speed, and made some great crosses, but was a bit off target. One issue in the first half for the Thorns was their defense, giving up too many corners (4 for the visitors to their 1). It eventually hurt them.
In the 37′ a Spirit corner found it’s way into the box, and Eckerstrom fumbled it as she came into contact with one of her defenders, and Forward Francisca Ordega was there to clean it up. This put the visitors up 1-0.
Eckerstrom was not deterred, however, and continued to look solid, even making a nice catch late in the half. The Thorns had one more push as the PA Announcer stated one minute of stoppage time. Onumonu, using that speed, cut into the box and was tripped. Referee Matthew Franz pointed to the spot. Enter the Captain.
Christine Sinclair went right, the Keeper went left, 1-1 Thorns as the whistle sounded to end the first half. This was great news, as the home side was statistically down, including Passing Accuracy (75% to 69%), Shots (12 to 4), and Possession (barely), to name a few. But again, fighters.
The second half would play out a lot differently, with Head Coach Mark Parsons saying “We were back to ourselves.” The Thorns switched out Tyler Lussi for another newcomer Ana Maria Crnogorcevic. The Swiss Striker made an impact early, as she made a slick pass to Onumonu, who pushed it further right in the hopes of finding Sinclair, but to no avail. A nice start though.
Just a minute later Onumonu looked to have a break, but a late offside whistle stopped it. She had a nice game, but in the 60′ the board went up, and the crowd roared as they saw the “17” emblazoned on the green side. Onumonu off, Heath on, but a great night for number 22.
The second proceeded with some back-and-forth play, with close calls by both sides. I thought Kelli Hubly played exceptionally well filling on on the back line with Emily Sonnett and Katherine Reynolds. She made a great clearance in the 64′ minute as the ball came off Eckerstrom and shut down the final Spirit push at the final whistle.
The breakthrough appeared to come in the 86′ though. Sonnett was taken out by the Spirit GK, Aubrey Bledsoe, earning her a Yellow and the Thorns another PK. This time, Lindsey Horan stepped up to the spot, hesitation, but ultimately kicked it right into the Keeper. A follow up header from Celeste Boureille went over the crossbar. The score would end at 1-1.
When asked in the postgame why Sinclair didn’t take that PK, Parsons responded Sinclair “asked Horan for some help, as she couldn’t move.” Not the best of news for an already short-handed squad. However, hope if on the horizon.
Parsons expects Megan Klingengberg to be ready for the next match, and Hayley Raso will be joining the team as well. Also, Franch’s knee will be reevaluated this week and see if she is match fit.
It was disappointing not walking away with a full three points, especially with a late PK opportunity. However, having as many missing starters as this squad had, any points will do.
The Thorns are on the road next week to face the new Utah Royals team in Salt Lake City. The game is on Saturday, April 28th at 6pm and can be viewed on go90.com.