Thorns Take All 3 Points at Home vs Utah

THE SCENE

The Thorns come into this one having rebounded from a rough stretch of having not won since April 15th (home vs Orlando). However, last week they recovered, winning 1-0 away against Washington.

Utah Royals come into their first trip to Providence Park with a 1-0 victory of their own over the Houston Dash. Utah currently sits sixth in the table with 11 points (2-4-4, 11 points), with the Thorns at third (3-3-3, 12 points), but points-wise it’s very close.

Royals Forward, and USWNT member, Kelly O’Hara is officially out of this one, recovering from a hamstring injury. Some threatening clouds hung in the air, and it was a bit cool at kickoff.

FIRST HALF

This one started out rather tame, with both teams feeling each other out. The first real chance for the Thorns came at 13 minutes, when a Tobin Heath free-kick was just missed by Lindsey Horan.

The Royals pushed back, but Midge Purce made a great defensive play to get a goal-kick for her side. It wasn’t long after that, when the Captain, Christine Sinclair, and Heath hooked up on a give and go. Heath showed incredible patience, waiting for Sinclair to get space, and the rest…

While the Royals sured up their defense after going down, they couldn’t create much in an attack themselves. The Thorns defense looked strong and were communicating well. In the 36 minute, it appeared they might have another shot at goal.

Ana Maria Crnogorcevic played a ball into the middle, Sinclair settled it, but Royals Keeper, Abby Smith, made a great save. Heath was in a great position to slam home the rebound, but a Royals Defender blocked it with her face…not joking.

It wasn’t long though until the Thorns came roaring back. Meghan Klingenberg came down the left wing, crossed it into the box. The Royals Keeper, Smith, got barely a piece of it, and it landed right on Horan for an easy score. Portland up 2-0.

The Royals weren’t going away quietly. They finally got their attack going, late in the first 45 minutes. Forward Amy Rodriguez had a fantastic opportunity for the visitors just to the right of Thorns Keeper Britt Eckerstrom, but Klingenberg was there to make an incredible save, kicking the ball out of harms way.

While Utah would make a bit of a push in stoppage time, the half ended 2-0 to the Thorns, in what became an exciting half of soccer.

SECOND HALF

Shockingly, possession was almost even (Thorns had 50.3%) after 45 minutes of play. The Thorns had a great chance early on, with Crnogorcevic having the ball almost on her feet, in the box, but Becky Sauerbrunn proved why she’s a world class Defender with an expert tackle.

Chances for both sides were few and far between in the first part of the second half. Both squads looked for cracks in the other’s armor, but none appeared. The Royals appeared to have an opportunity to get on the board, but Eckerstrom read the situation perfectly.

A couple changes for the Thorns, with Angela Salem coming in for Andressinha, and Kelli Hubly coming on for Ellie Carpenter. Both Andressinha and Carpenter played well, but were rather quiet.

At the 68 minute, Heath was taken down rather roughly, and Horan kicked the ball in frustration, which prompted a Yellow from the referee. It was odd, as Horan had not been warned much, but she did boot it out of play.

Heath looked to have found Crnogorcevic in the 72 minute with an absolutely beautiful cross, but it went directly to Royals Keeper, Smith.

Things began to get a little chippy as the half went on. Two more Yellows were given (both to Utah), and there was some rough tackling going on, even some shoving away from the ball. I’m not sure what caused the bad blood, but neither squad seemed to care for the other. Things never got nasty though.

The Thorns didn’t stop trying though. In the 87 minute, Sinclair clanged one off the crossbar from distance, on a beautiful shot. The Royals responded in kind, at the 88 minute, putting one off the left post.

Neither team was able to find the back of the net however, despite the opportunities created. This was in no small feat to their Keepers. Eckerstrom and Smith both had great positioning in this half, and knew where to be, and had a bit of luck too.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Well scoring more than the other team for one. While this game didn’t feature as many opportunities as previous matches, the Thorns definitely capitalized when they could. I also don’t want to downgrade the Royals defense, which was solid in this one.

The Thorns defense also looked great, from the backline all the way to the front. Klingenberg obviously made the stellar save on the goal line, but the communication and cohesiveness was there all night.

And of course, win number 50 for Head Coach Mark Parsons. BOOM!

 

WHAT WENT WRONG

Not much in this game. There were some mistakes, and slip-ups here and there, as in any game. However, those were covered well by supporting players, and the aforementioned luck.

To be nit-picky you could say some of their frustration boiled over, but it never hurt the team as a whole, or lead to a Royals opportunity.

BEST TAKE

I mean he’s not wrong here. It wasn’t an end-to-end barn burner, but it was a solid win, and three points is three points.

Parsons getting all the love from the Riveters.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE

Two wins in a row is a great thing, especially with a recent run of bad results. Once again the Thorns have a quick turnaround hosting the hated, North Carolina Courage on Wednesday May 30th.

The Courage sit atop the NWSL Table at 26 points, a full 11 points ahead of the now second place Thorns. The middle of the table is still packed, with the Seattle Reign nipping at Portland’s heels with 14 points and two games in hand (they play tomorrow).

We’ll see how another short week impacts their play, formation, and Mark Parsons use of substitutes.

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