Thorns Fall to Rivals at Home in a Thriller

THE SCENE

At this point I think the Thorns have some type of weather controlling device, as it was another glorious day at Providence Park. Returning home from a 1-1 draw against the newly minted Utah Royals, the Thorns jumped right into a derby day match with Seattle Reign.

Portland Thorns Seattle Reign NWSL Lifetime Soccer Football BAONPDX
Another beautiful day at Providence Park for a Cascadia Derby between the Seattle Reign and Portland Thorns. Taken during warmups.

The Thorns sat 3rd in the table on 8 points (2-2-1) with Seattle at 5th with 7 points (2-1-1), having a game in hand in this early NWSL season. This also marks the return of Allie Long, since being traded to Seattle in the offseason.

The injury bug is still biting the Thorns. Hayley Raso is still out with a knee strain, while Emily Menges has been training, but has also been ruled out. Britt Eckerstrom got the start in net, and will for the foreseeable future, as started Adrianna Franch underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Backup Keeper, Bella Geist, has also gone down with an injury, forcing the Thorns to sign Adelaide Gay as a Goalkeeper Replacement. Meghan Klingenberg re-aggravated an abdominal injury last week in Utah, but still started. Tobin Heath started on the bench for this one.

WHAT HAPPENED

The first half seemed all about missed opportunities for the Thorns. While they dominated play, they didn’t have much to show for it early on, with offsides or the crossbar being the main culprits.

Mallory Weber showed a lot of energy, and worked well with Christine Sinclair and Ana Crnogorcevic up front. Sinclair hit her with a great through-ball which was called offsides in only the 10th minute.

Seven minutes later, Weber sliced through the Seattle defense, even beating the Keeper, but rattled a shot off the crossbar. She was doing everything but scoring it seemed. Seattle had a bit better luck, unfortunately.

In the 36th minute, Seattle received a corner kick and didn’t let the chance go to waste. Beverly Yanez was in the right place at the right time, heading home the only goal of the first 45 minutes.

To start the second half, two major changes for the Thorns: Heath came on for Weber and Andressinha came on for Celeste Boureille. I thought Boureille did a good job holding Seattle captain Jessica Fishlock in check, which is not an easy task at all.

The move was the right one, as the second half played out much different than the first. A total of four goals were scored in the last 45 minutes, split evenly amongst the teams. You can see where this is going.

The Thorns came out with “more intensity, more urgency” in the second half, according to Coach Mark Parsons. They equalized at 61 minutes, when Sonnett sent home a corner from Heath. Now we had a game.

However, the celebration was short lived, as Seattle came roaring back, garnering a PK from a foul in the box from Ana Crnogorcevic. It wasn’t so much it was a questionable call, is that it didn’t stand out from what had happened to the Thorns earlier in the match. Eckerstrom went left, Jodie Taylor went right. Seattle pulled ahead once more, 2-1.

The Thorns were not deterred, and kept pressuring. Lindsey Horan just missed with a header, but not even a minute later her next header found the back of the net. Back to even, 2-2.

The chances kept coming, for both teams. Seattle was pushing in the 75th minute, fooling defenders, and Eckerstrom to have a seemingly wide open net. They forgot Kelli Hubly was on the pitch. Hubly literally stood on the goal line and headed the shot out of harms way for a corner, but more on that later.

Too bad, that the ensuing corner is where the go-ahead goal would come from. It was a short corner, passed out to Rumi Utsugi, who uncorked a beauty into the bottom right side of the net.

The Thorns would really apply some pressure at the end, having what seemed like at least a half dozen chances. None got past ex-Thorn Keeper, Michelle Betos though. It was definitely exciting, but ultimately disappointing going down 3-2 to a rival, at home.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

This wasn’t a dominating loss. There were many good performances and moments. As Parsons put it “Kling (Meghan Klingenberg) and Midge (Purce) gave them a problem,” which they most certainly did. Andressinha also played a solid 45 minutes.

However, I thought Horan played an incredible game. Not just the goal, but she got close a couple times, including a blast off the crossbar. Her passing was also on another level today.

Several times she made long, cross-field passes that were spot-on target. Her positioning was excellent, and she wasn’t short of energy. She is filling the void left by departures and injuries, that’s for sure.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Not capitalizing on chances is what killed the Thorns today. As Parsons put it in the postgame “We should have been up 3-0 at the end of the first half.” They had two off the bars, a couple called back from offsides, and just couldn’t finish on others.

It was tough to watch, but entertaining for sure, especially when seeing Seattle capitalizing on theirs. Parsons hit the nail on the head when he said watching the goals conceded was “frustrating.”

BEST TAKE(S)

The Stat Guy throwing some shade at a former Thorn is always a good take.

Sometimes the best takes, are the simplest ones. I agree RJ.

THE DIRTY WORK AWARD

I thought Celeste Boureille played a great game before she was replaced at halftime. If she had stayed on longer, perhaps this award would have been her’s as she shutdown Jessica Fishlock well.

However, after this one, there’s no doubt it goes to Kelli Hubly. She played a great game a couple weeks ago against Washington, and was solid last week at Utah. Today, she was patrolling the midfield, and did a great job shutting down several attempted, Seattle counterattacks.

But that block in the 75th minute was insane. It was confusion, Seattle was passing the ball around the box, Eckerstrom dove for a potential stop, when the ball was pulled back, it appeared to be a for sure goal for Reign FC. But Hubly was covering for her Keeper and headed the ball out of harm’s way for the moment. Incredible play, and awareness from the Defender. Twitter noticed too.

Kelli Hubly Portland Thorns Defender NWSL Soccer Portland Oregon Seattle Reign FC
Kelli Hubly made an incredible block on the goal line and Twitter noticed.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE

The Thorns have a quick turnaround, as they head to Houston to face the Dash, this Wednesday, May 9. Houston is sitting in 8th place (0-2-3) still looking for their first win on the season. It will be interesting to see how the Thorns come out on a short preparation week.

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