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All Portland, All Soccer

Thorns Return To Providence Park Saturday For Clash Against New Look Flash

Anthony Thurston

The Portland Thorns return to action at Providence Park on Saturday against the new look Western NY Flash. The match starts at 4pm PST and will of course be streamed online via the NWSL Youtube Channel. 

The two teams are coming off polar opposite performances during the NWSL's opening weekend. The Thorns throttled the lowly Boston Breakers 4-1 in a match that saw the Thorns control the game from start to finish. The Flash, on the other hand, were on the receiving end of a 5-1 beatdown from the Seattle Reign. 

What To Watch: Portland 

The special thing about this weekends match up for the Thorns is that they will be fully loaded (the one exception being Steph Caltey) with their compliment of NT stars. The interesting thing will be seeing how coach Paul Riley chooses to use them. 

This very well could be the first and last week that we have all the national team stars in town before the World Cup. Against Boston Riley was conservative with the freshly travelled NT players, and the Canadians (Sincalir, Wilkinsen, and Kyle) only arrived in Portland today.  So I think it is safe to say they will probably not start, that said, we very well could see them subbed in at some point depending on how the match goes. 

The stars who returned last week: Nadine Angerer and Jodie Taylor, have been in town all week, so I would not be surprised to see them in the starting 11. Though, last week's lineup worked so well, I also wouldn't be surprised to see Riley stick with what worked. 

What To Watch: Western NY

The flash are in their first couple of games together after completely blowing up the roster over the off-season. So the interesting thing with this team will be to see what - if any - changes coach Lines makes to his squad.

Coach Riley spoke about WNY after Tuesday's practice, saying that they are a young team, and most of them have never played in front of a crowd like they will see at Providence Park on Saturday. They could go two ways, be intimidated by the crowd, or fueled by it. 

Official Prediction

I feel like the Thorns are in a really good place right now, and Western NY still has a lot to figure out about their new personnel. Due to this, and the additional NT reinforcements the Thorns have this week, feel like they are going to be too much for the young WNY Flash to handle. 

However, I don't think it will be quite the massacre that they had at the hands of the Reign last week. I am thinking a comfortable 3-0 or 3-1 win for the Thorns is a likely outcome. 

See you all at PP on Saturday evening!

McCall Zerboni Talks Tifo, Looks Ahead to WNY Match

Anthony Thurston

McCall-Zerboni-Thorns

Portland Thorns Midfielder McCall Zerboni spoke with the media following Thorns FC practice on Tuesday morning. Beyond just talking about her old team, the Western NY Flash, who the Thorns are facing on Saturday, Zerboni reminisced about the spectacular Tifo the Riveters put together for the season opener last weekend. 

Watch the full video below...

Paul Riley Recaps Saturday's Season Opener, Looks Ahead to WNY

Anthony Thurston

paul-riley-training

Thorns Head coach Paul Riley spoke to the media following his squads practice session on Tuesday morning. The Gaffer spoke about his team's performance in their 4-1 win over the Boston Breakers on Saturday night, and about how his team's chemistry is different this year.

Riley also looked ahead and spoke to what he expects to see out of a Western New York Flash side that was blasted by the Seattle Reign 5-1 on Sunday. "There is nothing worse than a wounded animal coming in." Riley said of the Flash, "So, I think they are going to be a tricky match for us."

The Thorns face the Western New York Flash on Saturday at 4pm (pst) at Providence Park. You can watch all of coach Riley's post-practice comments via the video below. 

Three Things We Learned In The Thorns 4-1 Season Opening Victory

Anthony Thurston

The 2015 NWSL season is officially underway here in Portland. The Thorns kicked off the season with a dominating 4-1 victory over the Boston Breakers in front of 13,386 fans at Providence Park on Saturday night. Due to the NWSL's terrible pre-season setup this was really the first chance many of us have had at seeing the Thorns since last season. 

thorns-providence-park

So what did we learn from the Thorns victory on Saturday night? I have come up with three things that stood out to me in the win, take a look below and feel free to leave a comment and let me know what stood out to you!

1. The Midfield Is MUCH Improved over last season - This should be apparent to anyone who watched even a short portion of the match on Saturday night. In the past where we saw the Thorns weak and discombobulated in the middle, on Saturday they were strong and dominated the middle of the field. 

Anthony Thurston / Rose City Soccer Press

Anthony Thurston / Rose City Soccer Press

A very big reason for the improvement in the midfield was newcomer McCall Zerboni, who head coach Paul Riley said may have been the best player on the pitch Saturday night. The addition of Zerboni has freed up Allie Long to take a more attacking role, and as we saw on Saturday night, it is a role very well suited to her.

2. Playing Three At The Back CAN Work - Paul Riley has been talking about playing with three at the back with this team since he was hired. Unfortunately for the coach, it seems like every time that he attempted the feat, it blew up in his face. Lucky for him (and us) that was not the case Saturday, as the Thorns played masterfully with three (RVH, Williamson, Menges) at the back.

Anthony Thurston / Rose City Soccer Press

Anthony Thurston / Rose City Soccer Press

The nice side effect of playing with three at the back is that it allows for the Thorns to use that extra field spot on another midfielder, in this case Kendall Johnson, who was brilliant on the left side for the Thorns. Johnson was playing dangerous crosses into the box all night (earning her an assist on Shim's Goal), and was a big reason for the Thorns success. 

 3. Mana Shim's Rookie Season Was No Fluke - I don't think anyone would admit to thinking this, but given how wonderful a year she had in 2013, and how far she seemed to fall in 2014, it was just wonderful to see Shim starting and making such an impact on Saturday.

Anthony Thurston / Rose City Soccer Press

Anthony Thurston / Rose City Soccer Press

Unlike last season, where Shim saw limited minutes and was largely ineffective on the pitch; Saturday night Shim was a maestro for the Thorns, netting her first goal of the season (the Thorns second) and combining with Allie Long to earn herself two assists as well. 

Overall the biggest thing we learned from the Thorns on Saturday night was that this team is capable of great things, even without the national team players. All of the players who stood out on Saturday are not heading to the WC, and that is extremely reassuring considering how many of our stars will be gone for the event.

It is important not to get too high from this win though. As great as it feels to win 4-1, it was the Boston Breakers, and as such expectations need to be managed. If the Thorns go out and wallop WNY 4-1 next weekend then maybe we can start taking about how crazy good this team is.

But until then, enjoy the win, be keep it in perspective. See you all next week! 

Allie Long's Full Post-Game Remarks {Video}

Anthony Thurston

On the team’s response, scoring its first goal soon after a close call on the goal line…
“We were hungry for a goal right away. Once that didn’t go in I think we kind of got fired up and just took it to them, and made sure we scored the first one – should have been the second one.”

On her performance and how it might help launch a successful season…
“I’m just trying to play the best for my team and for myself. My goals, I’ve said it a million times, that my goal is to go to the World Cup, go to the Olympics, and so I’m just striving to keep improving and keep getting better. Games are what are going to help me learn and grow as a player. The NWSL means everything. It’s all that I have to grow and get better each day, to achieve what I want for myself and for the team.”

On her combinations with midfielder Mana Shim…
“[Head coach] Paul [Riley] does these passing patterns in training every day, and so for two years straight we’ve been doing these passing patterns. Right after the first goal, we both were laughing, and were like ‘that was a patented play out of Paul’s book.’ I dummied it, and she chipped it back to me, and it was a goal. That’s something I know he’s probably so happy about because finally what we do in practice came to the field so it was really good to see. It was fun, too.”

On having players who will be with the team throughout the season connecting well…
“It’s the most important thing right now that the core group is connecting, playing well together, and learning each other. I think this is the second year. First year, it just takes time to really learn each other, and right now we have a really good core group. It’s fun to play with everyone. We’re okay if they leave, and we’re even better when the internationals come back.”

On how nice it is to get a 4-1 win to start the season…
“That was our main goal. We wanted to get the first one out of the way. A great win. A win at home, playing well. Obviously, there are things to work on, and we’re not 100 percent satisfied, but we wanted to make a statement for all the hard work we’ve put in. It was a great win. Great for our confidence. Great for our team, and just really good.”

On the atmosphere on the field…
“It was amazing. It’s something that I missed so much during the offseason. The fans are incredible. When we start to get tired, we hear them, and they definitely help us push through, and get us fired up when we need to get fired up. That’s kind of how the first goal happened, too. They were so riled up that the first goal didn’t happen you could feel the energy on the field, and it pushed us to get the second right away.”

On the Rose City Riveters’ tifo…
“It was awesome. They are so creative and amazing. They never, ever cease to amaze me.”

Mana Shim's Full Post-Game Remarks {Video}

Anthony Thurston

On what it’s like to have a strong performance in the season opener…
“It’s a good start. Of course we’re happy to get a pretty clean result with a 4-1 win, but our goal today was to just put out a good performance, and I thought we did that, so it’s a good start.”

On what it means for her to have a good performance in the team’s first game…
“It means a lot. I think it’s exciting that my teammates and coaches believe in me this season. I think they did last year as well, but I feel like I’m in a much better place. Preparation was different this year. I thought I had a good preseason and I’m just excited about where I am.”

On her goal in the first half…
“I feel like we were getting Kendall in a lot on that left side, and I knew it was just a matter of time until one of those crosses was going to come to my feet. I was kind of in between taking one or two touches, but it was such a good ball – she put it right on the plate for me – so it was an easy one-time finish. I was a little bit nervous because I put it close to the goalkeeper, but hard and low and it went in.”

On what it means for the team to get production for players expected to play the whole season…
“It’s huge. I think that we did such a good job as a team of integrating the players. Our locker room chemistry is unbelievable. It doesn’t matter if you put the amateur players in there. I think we’re going to have that same sort of movement and flow because of what Paul’s talked a lot about, and that’s our philosophy this year. So I think that personnel is important, but I think that there are a lot of moving parts, and we know that, so we’re just all trying to be on the same page.”

On her confidence level…
“When I’m having a lot of fun, it’s easy. I think my teammates believing in me, and if I miss [a pass], they’re like ‘it’s fine. I like that you’re trying things.’ And that’s how I feel we’re supporting each other. There were a lot of balls that were close, or chances that we just had, and we look at that person and we’re like ‘I like what I’m seeing.’ And there’s a really positive vibe, so I think people have the freedom to try different things.”

Paul Riley's Full Postgame Remarks {Video}

Anthony Thurston

On the match…
“It was a good performance. I think we didn’t really settle early on, I thought they were a little bit rattled. Obviously, with Tobin [Heath] and Rachel [Van Hollebeke] and Alex [Morgan] coming in later on they didn’t get a ton of work and especially Rachel in the back three. I think we were a little bit sticky early on until we settled and we had a chat at halftime and I thought the second half was really good. I thought the best part of the game for me was the reaction after losing the goal when it went 2-1 and we could’ve got tense and tight, but we didn’t and we kept playing and got our just rewards with another couple of goals.”

On the scoring coming from players expected to be with the team all season…
“As we said in preseason about Mana [Shim], she came in great shape and looks like a different player from last year. Her and Allie [Long] have a great chemistry together as you saw tonight and the goals were coming from that environment. I thought Alex linked really well with them tonight whereas maybe last year there wasn’t that much linkage. I thought the three of them looked really good together and they got around each other. McCall [Zerboni] was brilliant in the midfield. McCall and Sinead [Farrelly] ran the midfield. They picked off a lot of balls. I thought McCall probably was the best player on the field to be honest with you, she ran the show. It’s good to see the group that’s going to be with us playing really well. The back three, especially the second half, I thought they played really well. Michelle [Betos] had a couple of great saves in the first half that kept us in the game, kept the score 1-0.”

On Allie Long playing in an advanced attacking role…
“Allie is good and you saw tonight she’s got in some unbelievable areas even in the first half she had four or five chances that she created for herself. She’s great off the ball, she’s clever, she sees where the space is and she’s got two good feet. She’s got a little bit of composure to her in front of net, which always helps. Everyone says she’s a six or a holding mid, but I don’t think she is. I think she has a little bit more to give and she’s got a little bit more creativity to her. I think when you’ve got Sinead and McCall who can do a lot of the dirty work for you, Allie can take a little bit more responsibility around the final third. I think bringing McCall into the midfield has settled us down and enabled Mana and Allie to go forward and take some risks. I thought they took a lot of risks. I thought we had good wide play tonight. Kendall [Johnson] was very good on the left hand side, Tobin was good on the right side. We had a lot of crosses coming into the box. Obviously, it’s opening day and there are always things to work on, but it’s nice to get the first one out of the way. I just wanted to get to halftime because I thought we had the willies a little bit in the first 20 minutes and then Sinead scored and we started to settle down after that.”

On Michelle Betos’ performance…
“We’ve got two No. 1s, I said that last year and Michelle has been very patient behind Hope [Solo] for one year and Nadine [Angerer] for another year and she’s come in and she knows it’s a great opportunity, she realizes in two weeks she’s going to be the goalkeeper. Nadine, Kaylyn Kyle and Jodie [Taylor] came in late, they didn’t come back until Friday practice. Lot of travel, European travel for two of the three. We felt it we better enough not to start any of them and Nadine is much fitter than she was last year. It’s a difficult one for me next week and the week after while they’re here. She made two cracking saves in the first half. I’ve known Michelle since she was 14, I don’t know whether Michelle would make that [save] a couple years ago. She’s learned with probably the two best goalkeepers in the world and now she’s a starter in this league there’s no question. Good for her. Her feet have improved dramatically, she’s good in the air, she was solid tonight and it wasn’t an easy surface. The balls were flying around on that surface and I thought her handling was excellent.”

 

Long Nets Brace As Thorns Dominate Breakers 4-1 In Home Opener

Anthony Thurston

The Thorns got their 2015 season off to a good start on Saturday night, scoring four goals on their way to a dominating 4-1 win over the lowly Boston Breakers. 

Heading into the match we were full of questions. How would Paul Riley use the national team players? How would the team line up, and who would line up where? How would the Thorns mid-field, a point of concern the last two seasons, look after some introducing some new players into the mix? We got all of those answers and more. 

It was clear from the start that the Thorns had come to play, and in the 21st minute they broke through. In the 20th minute it seemed that Allie Long had scored, but the linesman ruled that the ball had not crossed the goal line (the first of many questionable officiating decisions). Though the play did result in a corner for the Thorns, and in perfect "the ball don't lie' fashion, the Thorns scored just moments later as Long whipped in a corner and Sinead Farrelly slotted it in for the Thorns first goal of the season. 

Mana Shim scored what would turn out to be the game winner in the 38th minute, giving the Thorns a solid 2-0 lead heading into halftime. Boston had little going for them at this point, lucky they were not down by 3 or 4 goals. But it would soon get worse. 

McCaffery scored for Boston in the 63rd minute, briefly bringing the visitors within one. But unlike in previous years, where the Thorns seemed to fall asleep and let teams back into games, the Boston goal only served to make the  ladies in red more determined. 

Allie Long and Mana Shim combined on two goals within 14 seconds of each other, the first in the 71st minute and the second just over a minute later in the 72nd minute. Both Long and Shim had incredible performances, highlighted by the brace for long and the 1 goal, 2 assist outing from Shim. 

“As we said in preseason about Mana, she came in great shape and looks like a different player from last year." Thorns Head Coach Paul Riley said of Shim, "Her and Allie have a great chemistry together as you saw tonight and the goals were coming from that environment."

Overall it was a thorough performance from the home side, one that hopefully will be a preview of things to come from this squad. The Thorns return to the pitch next Saturday, the 18th, against the Western New York Flash