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Friday, May 17, 2013

Portland Soccer, May 17, 2013

The season has been off to a good start for the Portland Thorns. They were in first place after a draw in their opening match and four straight wins. With Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair leading the offense it seemed as though the Thorns would be tough to beat all year. Then they came home last night for the first time in nearly a month to play New Jersey's Sky Blue FC.

From the beginning Sky Blue was more aggressive and had more chances. Their defense, led by US National Team veteran Christie Rampone, contained Morgan and Sinclair and didn't allow many easy shots at Sky Blue goalkeeper Brittany Cameron. In the midfield the visitors were even more dominant. Portland has not been the sharpest passing team and it showed last night. The Thorns weren't able to string passes together so they couldn't create openings for their attackers. When they did get forward their first move was to try long balls for Morgan to run onto. Morgan is an excellent asset for Portland to have but they need more ideas in the attack to be successful against better teams. As someone pointed out to me after the game last night there was a lot of waiting for the stars to do something. That may work at some levels or against some teams, but

In the second half Portland was a little better, partly due to Danielle Foxhoven coming on as a sub, but Sky Blue was still getting better chances. Finally, in the 80th minute, substitute Taylor Lytle found an opening at the top of the penalty area and lifted a shot over Karina Leblanc for the winning goal. Portland had a few shots on goal late but couldn't find the equalizer and left with their first loss of the season.

Even with the loss, Portland is still tied for first place with Sky Blue. The Thorns have a good collection of players, but a long list of improvements as well. One of the main points to take away from last night was that while the Thorns have started well, their four wins came against the three bottom teams in the league and covered up Portland's weaknesses. The loss also was a kind of wake up call for Thorns fans who might expect wins every time. As great teams know, however, to win every game you have to be ready every game. Portland still has plenty of time and plenty of great players to make the changes they need to make.

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