The Courage Dominate at Providence Park

THE SCENE

The best team in the NWSL so far, the North Carolina Courage, come into Providence Park with a big lead. The Courage (8-0-2, 27 points) currently enjoy a nine point margin between them and second place Seattle Reign.

The Courage are also undefeated so far this season, coming off a 4-3 victory against Orlando Pride. These two met to open the NWSL season, a match the Thorns dropped 1-0.

Emily Sonnett is still out for the Thorns, and Head Coach Mark Parsons made two changes to the starting lineup, with Kelli Hubly and Ifeoma Onumonu getting into the starting eleven.

FIRST HALF

This one started predictably for these two, and their standing with one another. The Thorns had a chance to strike early, with a Tobin Heath free-kick in the 3rd minute, but Ana Marie Crnogorcevic headed it wide.

The Courage played their typical long ball offense, blasting long passes over defenders, with a splash of physicality. Their first chance coming at 10 minutes, with a cross which eluded Thorns GK Britt Eckerstrom, but alas, no Courage player was there to strike it home.

One thing is for sure, the counterattacking by both teams was swift and frequent. One GK would make a save or play a ball out, and five seconds later there’d be a chance at the other end.

However, trouble arose at the 30 minute mark. As Debinha of the Courage was threatening, and had a clear shot in the box, Katherine Reynolds came in like a wrecking ball. Penalty Kick awarded to the visitors, and although Eckerstrom guessed correctly, Lynn Williams shot was too much. 1-0 to the Courage.

The game returned to it’s back-and-forth nature after the PK. I wish the officiating was the same, but it seemed to be more, discombobulated. The Courage had a great chance in the 37th minute, but Jessica McDonald sailed it over the bar when a tap-in would have done the trick.

The Thorns were not without their chances. Ifeoma Onumonu made a sensational move on the right side of the box in the 44th minute, spinning away from the defender. However, the cross went direct to another defender and cleared. A good representation of the Thorns first half in this one.

SECOND HALF

The next 45 minutes started much like the first had ended. The Thorns would get close to a chance, but then the next move wouldn’t result in much. Heath in the box, gets to Midge Purce, with space, her pass right to a defender. It’s cleared.

The frustration continued in time with the half. Onumonu had the best chance so far, with a clear shot at goal. Defenders closing in, Purce coming up on her right, she went low and to the left, with not much on it, easy save for Courage GK Katelyn Rowland.

Another blow was just around the corner. Fresh off a Onumonu for Andressinha swap, the Courage struck. A lofty cross from the right, easily found Debinha for an even easier goal. Courage up 2-0 at that point.

The wheels pretty much fell off at this point. It seemed like everything the Courage did worked, and everything the Thorns tried fell apart. A corner went off two Courage players before a third put it home.

I wish I could say 3-0 was as bad as it got, but I cannot. Another corner, another chance for multiple Courage players to make contact with the ball before it went in. The Courage went up 4-0 on the back of three goals in seven minutes…

While the Thorns righted the ship, things didn’t improve much. They still had trouble making that one more pass, or getting that clear chance at the goal. They didn’t leave the home faithful with nothing to cheer about though.

In the 90th minute, when it was all but said and done, Katherine Reynolds stepped up. When the Courage failed to clear a Heath FK, Reynolds stepped up and blasted one to the back of the net. Even though it was one goal, in a futile effort, this was her 100th NWSL match, which made it a little more special.

That’s all the Thorns would muster though.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The offense seemed to be getting where they needed to be, they just couldn’t get that extra distance to capitalizing, or even creating better chances. They did well pushing the Courage defenders and kept them on their toes all night.

It seems pretty absurd to hail a defender of a team that allowed this many goals, although, I thought Katherine Reynolds played a great game. Aside from her goal, and playing in her 100th NWSL game, several times she bailed out her defensive mates and GK, including one great moment in 50th minute before the wheels fell off.

Also, the 15,018 fans who came to Providence Park…on a Wednesday night. About half the NBA can’t draw those numbers on a Saturday night, and the Thorns did it in the middle of the freaking week.

WHAT WENT WRONG

The Thorns defense pretty much collapsed early in the second half. The Courage had free range of movement whenever, and wherever they wished. Communication wasn’t there, and neither was any cohesion.

The same could be said for the offense in a lot of respects. For every great pass or number of passes, there was an equal number of moments falling short on the attack. They just could not get over that barrier.

A few weeks ago Parsons had some interesting quotes on the officiating, and how, unfortunately, the NWSL is a training league for officials. Well, this was another instance of poor officiating.

This wasn’t why the Thorns came out on the wrong end of this one. Although, Referee, Joseph Dickerson, missed some absurdly blatant calls, and did not call an even match at all. On one play, Heath was taken out by a defender clearly playing the body. Not even a foul, let alone a PK.

An inconsistent referee is worse than one that doesn’t call anything. It creates a confusing playing field. There were times when the Courage looked confused at calls or throw-ins. Again, most definitely not why the Thorns lost this one, but it punctuated it nicely.

BEST TAKE

When @missfitzpdx saw another fan tweet about their seat neighbor using homophobic slurs, she came up with a great response to that fan theorizing “spilling” their drink.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE

Well after that performance, the Thorns don’t get back to action until June 16th, on the road in Chicago against the Red Stars. Coming into tonight Chicago sits sixth in the table (2-2-5, 11 points).

The extended break for international matches will help heal this loss. It also gives the Thorns more time to get healthy with Hayley Raso yet to make her NWSL season debut and Emily Sonnett still out.

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