The Thorns returned home after a 1-1 draw in Houston this past Wednesday. This home tilt against Orlando Pride marks the third game in eight days for Portland. To say they’re tired would be presenting it lightly.
Orlando was sporting an identical record to the Thorns (2-2-3, 9 points), and the same Goal Differential (0). Portland sat 4th, while Orlando 5th. The Pride are also coming off a draw, 0-0, against the Utah Royals, and also playing their third in eight days.
With these teams being so close, in almost every way, this was sure to be an evenly matched contest. The Thorn have still been battling injuries, with regulars Adrianna Franch and Hayley Raso still out.
Meghan Klingenberg was also sitting this one out, being listed as “personal reasons.” Although, one bright spot was the season debut of Emily Menges. The Center Back was making her season debut after dealing with a leg injury.
This one started with both teams feeling one another out. However, some questionable officiating was the story early on. The Thorns got away with what appeared to be a PK situation in their own end. Shortly after the Thorns appeared to have opened the scoring, but it was ruled offsides. A second look told a different story.
Portland is going to be unhappy. Even is on. Good goal pic.twitter.com/enKpR9WGkR
— Jon Lipsitz (@jonlipsitz) May 12, 2018
It didn’t take long for scoring to happen, it just happened for the wrong side. Mallory Weber was playing back, went to clear and well, you’ll see below. Tough mistake to make with Alex Morgan in the vicinity.
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 12, 2018
Orlando went up early (11′) but wasn’t done just yet. Roughly 10 minutes later, Christine Nairn scored on an absolute rocket, off one bounce. Now 0-2 to the visitors after just 21 minutes of play.
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 12, 2018
We know this team isn’t one to roll over, and there were several great chances. The Thorns had been having some success with Corner Kicks, and one finally worked. Tobin Heath’s kick found The Captain, Christine Sinclair for a tremendous header, and once again Providence Park roared back to life.
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 12, 2018
That’s where the first 45 minutes ended up, Thorns down 1-2.
The second half started with high energy by both sides. It was a very run and gun game, with both teams getting chances. The biggest chance came just a few minutes in when a Heath kick on goal, created a chance for Lindsey Horan.
Horan and Pride GK, Ashlyn Harris, collided, with the ball popping free and Midge Purce kicking in the rebound. Initially referee, Rosendo Mendoza, called it a goal, but once they sorted out Horan and Harris’s potential injuries, it turned into a goal kick. More on Mendoza later.
Things got a little chippy about 20 minutes in. Orlando’s Carson Pickett picked up a Yellow for elbowing Andressinha in the face, and a minute later Andressinha was also issued one for a strong foul.
The Yellows didn’t end there, as Sinclair went for a ball the Pride GK, Harris, had yet to pick up, only for Harris to comically fall down like she’d been hit by a moving cyclist. A very poor move by the referee, as he even went to speak with the Harris after and issued a warning. If it was worth a warning to the player who embellished, then why was a Yellow issued?
The Thorns kept pressing late, having a CK in stoppage time, but Orlando tightened up.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
If we go best to worst, I’d have to say Corner Kicks first. The Thorns scored off one (should have scored off two), and had success with several others. Their Free Kicks had some success too, but could not beat Harris in the Orlando goal.
Despite surrendering two goals, I thought the Defense was solid, mainly that of the Midfielders and Forwards. All came back to be support and marked their opponents well for set pieces.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Not capitalizing on opportunities. Sure they had a good goal called back, but they also had several other chances which went wide, high or just plain off target. There were long passes missing the mark by wide margins.
The officiating was also very poor, from referee Mendoza, the officials working the line were also poor. How do you call a goal back when one team’s in red and the other white? Some of this is sour grapes, but I’ll also admit it’s not why the Thorns lost.
Mendoza was an equal opportunity bad referee. Early in the first half there were several calls he missed, including one that could have easily been called a Penalty for the Pride. He, and his crew, were not on their A games today, that’s for sure.
When asked about the officiating in the postgame, Head Coach Mark Parsons was about as diplomatic as you can when faced with the situation. However, he gave one example of the inconsistencies he was getting direct from the officiating crew:
When Orlando committed a foul with five players behind the ball, I asked why no card was given. I was told that a tactical foul in that situation would not garner a card. I relayed that to the team at halftime. In the second half Andressinha does exactly that, and gets a Yellow for it.
He also was told by Mendoza to “not point to my head,” when talking to the team. Upon clarifying this with the Fourth Official he was then told he could not “use my hands when talking to my players on the pitch.” This seems to be an insane order from an officiating crew.
Leave to the owner to pull out a gem that perfectly described this one.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
This drops the Thorns to fifth in the table (2-3-3, 9 points). It’s their second loss in three matches. It’s also their second straight loss at home, a place once a fortress for them. All is not lost though.
Parsons said he was “sad for the result” today, but expressed deep belief in his squad. “We have a really, really special group. They’re selfless and always work together.”
The team will get an actual break this week, traveling to the DC Metro Area to face the Washington Spirit on Saturday, May 19. The Spirit currently sit eighth in the table (1-2-4, 5 Points) and are coming off a 1-0 loss to North Carolina.