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This is the Rose City Riveters blog, where members can submit blog posts. 

  • 09/01/2013 4:07 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    Welcome your NWSL Champion Thorns back to the Rose City today! The FO says they will arrive at the Portland International Airport around 11:30AM near D-E concourse. Here are the details:

    We are allowed to welcome the team—the 10-15 players who are coming back to PDX right away, anyhow—after they get out of the secured area (D/E gates side, which is to the right of the terminal building, on the departure level), but it is SUPER important that everyone fans out, almost like a gauntlet, so there isn’t a crush right at the end there. We’ve been told we can go all the way back to the Beaches store (which is on the corner, after the ticketing counters hallway) and into the hallway if need be.

    The Port has also asked that we make sure not to block any entrances/access to stores, the security line, and the kids’ playground in that area. Essentially, they are a little worried about us hindering other passenger traffic, since it is such a busy day (being Labor Day weekend). Everyone at PDX is aware of the planned greet, and we might get some crowd control assistance from Port Police if it becomes an issue.

    Hope to see you up there shortly!

  • 08/29/2013 4:05 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    Okay, this info is spread out all over the internet, so I’m going to make an attempt to put it all in one place.

    If you’re planning on watching at home, the match will be on Fox Sports 2. At the moment, this is a channel that’s only available on DirecTV, Dish TV, or on the FoxSoccer2Go site. If you have Comcast, you’ll need to start formulating a plan. (Oh, hai there. I’m told it is now also going to be on Fox Soccer so, Comcast fans, you’re in luck.)

    We’ve got a fair number of people heading to Rochester, both from the Rose City and from across the country. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, through the Flash website, or by calling the Flash front office directly. You can call them at (585) 454-5425, ext. 0. We’re suggesting Riveters purchase general admission tickets (a whopping $10 if you make the phone call) so we can all stay together. We’re still working with our front office and theirs to secure a specific location in-stadium to cheer our Thorns to victory. If/when we get that set, we’ll post it on Twitter (@pdxriveterssg) and on the Facebook page. There is also a Facebook event page set up to help people coordinate. It can be found here.

    If you’re in Portland, the Thorns FC official viewing party will be at The Bagdad Theater (3702 SE Hawthorne). There’s seating there for 600, but we’d suggest you get there early. The game is at 5 p.m.. Please plan accordingly. All ages, food and beverages will be available, as will Riveters merch and, if I remember correctly, Thorns FC playoff shirts from the front office. RSVP here.

    Other bars/restaurants in Portland that will be showing the match include (but are not limited to): Bazi Bierbrasserie, Beulahland, On Deck, Macadam’s, Paddy’s, The Mad Greek, The Cheerful Bullpen, Dublin Down, Kells, McGillacuddy’s, and The Station. If you have questions about menus, hours, or kid-friendliness, it might be best to call ahead. If there’s somewhere you’re thinking of going to watch that isn’t on this list, they will need to have FoxSports2 (which is only available on DirecTV) or Fox Soccer. Again: call ahead.

    If you’re in the Seattle area, the Timbers Army Covert Ops group has put together a viewing at The Ballard Loft (5105 Ballard Ave. NW). RSVP here. Kid friendly, but limited space so be sure you let them know you’re coming so they can save you a place to sit. You can’t very well jump out of your chair when we win if you don’t have a chair to begin with.

    If you’re in Eugene, the Timbers Army Echo Squadron is hosting a viewing party at Doc’s Pad (710 Willamette). RSVP here. All ages until 8 p.m. If enough people RSVP to this one, they’ll be able to get a separate room just for the match viewing.

    If you’re in Cannon Beach, we’re told The Lumberyard Grill (264 3rd St.) gets FoxSports2, but the TVs are first-come, first-served. Be there early if you want to watch the match. Their menu offers a No Pity burger, so we know they’re soccer-friendly.

    If you’re in Salem, we know The Ram (515 12th St.) has FoxSports2 but there is not an event set up for there. You might want to call ahead on this one if you’re planning on going.

    I think that’s all for now. I’ll update as I hear more. Cheers!

  • 08/27/2013 4:03 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    ***UPDATE: Scarves are due to arrive in Portland on October 1! ***

    The Rose City Riveters have teamed up with the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and we’re selling a scarf to benefit them. Every cent of profit will go to FCCO.

    FCCO is a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program for feral and stray cats living in Oregon. They have spayed/neutered and vaccinated over 62,000 feral cats, including the feral colony that lives in Jeld-Wen Field. They do all these things for low cost or free. Our donation will help FCCO keep our feral cat population healthy and their numbers under control.

    We are taking preorders now, in sets of five for $75. Single scarves will be available for $15 each once the boxes of scarves arrive, if all the sets haven’t been sold already. There is an active scarf-trading Facebook group if you have extra scarves in your set and want to sell them or trade for other scarves. Or just get a group of friends together and go in on a set. We expect the scarves to come in by October, in plenty of time for your holiday gift-giving needs. We will have an event once they come in, and will make ourselves as available as possible until all the sets have gotten to their rightful owners.

    To order a set, use PayPal to send $75.00 to using the “Transfer” option to send money to family or friends, not the “Buy” option.  There are no fees that way. If you use the “pay for goods or services” option or pay with a credit card, you will need to send $77.54 to cover the fees.

    I will update this post as sets are paid for and will answer any questions you may have.

  • 08/12/2013 3:59 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    This is the motto that provided the motivation for a friend and me to take a road trip from Toronto down to Rochester to watch Canadian soccer royalty as Christine Sinclair and Karina LeBlanc were bringing their Portland Thorns into Western New York to battle Abby Wambach’s Flash for second place and home field advantage in the semi’s!

    The importance of this match couldn’t be understated at all! To have the honor of hosting a semi-final game in the inaugural NWSL season was something that both teams would battle hard for. I was convinced that Sahlen’s Stadium would be rocking with energy and excitement! Arriving an hour before the 7:35 pm EST kickoff, there was a line of cars waiting to park – a very good sign! I was also expecting to see a large contingent of Canadians because as I said, this was as close as Sinclair and LeBlanc would be to the Canadian border in the east. Sporting our Canadian gear and proudly wearing the flag, we entered the stadium and made our way around the venue to our seats.

    The pre-game warm-ups are always a great indication of how the teams will perform and both teams looked focused and ready to go. As you can see, the sun was shining brightly as the Thorns warmed up, which would definitely be a factor in the first half for whichever team was facing it. My Canadian brethren did not disappoint either as there were many in the rows around me (I just wish they would have sported the red & white a little more prominently)! Also surprising to me was the fact that there were a LOT of Thorns fans who were there to specifically see Tobin Heath … almost everywhere I looked I saw Heath jerseys or signs!

    Sinclair and Angie Kerr going back into the locker room to prepare for the game. This was Kerr’s first game since July, a tough test to come back into the midfield and having to face not just Wambach, but Carli Lloyd as well.

    Both teams coming out for opening kickoff; to a polite round of applause from the Flash faithful – nowhere near the energy I was anticipating. Maybe watching Thorns games online (and hearing the sheer noise that goes along with being at JELD-WEN Field) has skewed my opinion, but for a game this important – everything just seemed too quiet!

    The venue has a seating capacity of 13,768, but as you can see as the Thorns have lined up for kickoff, many empty seats! The Flash are a tremendous team and I was disappointed to see a turnout of 7, 606 (even though it the highest attendance for a game this season).

    LeBlanc directing traffic after an unfortunate miscue between her and her defense – no harm came of it though – thank goodness!

    Getting ready for the start of the second half and there was still no scoring! Thorns had only fired three shots at Franch during the first half – much more would be needed for a positive result.

    It was an absolutely beautiful night for soccer. When all was said and done, both keepers kept clean sheets, and LeBlanc had her highest save total for any game this season. A 0-0 draw was the result as the Thorns are adjusting to life without Alex Morgan for now.

    After the game, the announcer made it very clear that autographs were to be signed in “Autograph Alley.” About ten minutes before the final whistle, the barriers were already packed with youngsters waiting to get a glimpse of their heroes! Despite the fact that autographs were only to be had in the ‘Alley’ many of the Thorns players went over the sidelines to sign for people (very classy). In particular, Sinclair and LeBlanc went up into the crowd of Canadians who were behind the bench to sign paraphernalia. I was totally on the wrong side of the field so watched with envy (hence the blurry shot … but you can see Leblanc in yellow and Sinclair is on the field making her way up)!

    All in all it was a fabulous experience and one that I will repeat again next year (that’s me in the red)!!! I have also added a trip to Portland, and JELD-WEN Field in particular, to my bucket list for next summer!!!

    That's a wrap!

  • 08/08/2013 4:59 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    So we know what we know, now. Alex Morgan is injured and potentially out til the playoffs. The Thorns managed to clinch a playoff spot despite another loss with the help of an abandoned game. We also know that the ability to have a playoff game at Jeld-Wen Field is looking a bit tenuous right now.


    Why are we here again? Why are the Thorns having problems? Well, prepare thyself. We go to the tape, err, freeze-framed shots.

    Let me state something here first: DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. Now this defense can be an offense based defense in which the team keeps possession of the ball and prevents the other team from having scoring chances. It can be the strong play of center backs in tandem with their midfield. It can be an electric keeper and 10 people in the 18 yard box hoofing the ball out. However you split it, defense wins championships.

    So why is the Thorns defense (and thus their playoff-hosting hope and win/loss record) struggling so badly? In essence, it is poor player marking, poor decisions, and poor tactics. Make no bones, these mistakes aren’t just the provenance of the Thorns. However, as we will see, Portland have become decidedly worse.

    First, let’s take a look at something. How have the other teams caught up to the Thorns long ball tactics? Well, pretty easily.

    Here we have a shot of Christine Sinclair after receiving a long ball from the back and having to settle and cut back the ball without taking it in stride.

    As we can see, two FC Kansas City players have tracked back and her marker is goal side of the player.  Because the long ball has left the Thorns supporting players in the dust, Sinclair has no option but to attempt to “go it on her own” so she faces her player and attempts to create.

    At this point we can see that the defensive support for FCKC has collapsed back and it is two Thorns players (with Alex Morgan making a far post run) against four FCKC defenders. Kansas City has numbers and there is still no support for Sinclair. By the time she tries to fire in a pass/shot that is deflected…

    There are six FCKC players defending and four Thorns players. This is, in essence, why the Thorns long ball tactics have started to fail as they depend on the absolutely perfect over the top ball to get the player running in stride at the goal and beating two or more defensive players while leaving the Thorns midfield attempting to follow up with the Thorns forwards either not having the time to wait for support or the inclination/instruction to do so.

    Now we go to the first FCKC goal.

    It starts out here in the center of the pitch with the Thorns retreating back, but in position with numbers. We have the back four players for the Thorns with Dougherty extremely narrow in the middle of the field marking the slashing FKCK player at the bottom/mid-left of the screen. All players are goal side while Williamson is dragging the line back with her positioning.

    As the play progresses we see that Dougherty is still tracking in the bottom left, and there is an overlap happening on the right side of the field. This is the danger spot as Niki Marshall is pinched in and seemingly covering the FCKC runner with her back to the wide FCKC player.


    We see in the next frame that the ball is now finally played out wide and Marshall realizes that the run is behind her.  The two players for FCKC are being marked in the box by Williamson and Dougherty. Allie Long jogs into the frame in the lower center of the frame.


    The ball is played in as Marshall does not/can not close out the service and is stranded in between the play. FCKC players are still marked but there is a huge avenue in the middle of the box in which to pass.

    Inexplicably, Williamson leaves her marked player to stab at the pass as it is sent through the box. This player is now wide open as Williamson’s gamble fails and FKCK goes up 1-0

    Note that, in the previous, Long is still coming back into the frame and a number of Thorns players are ball watching. Thorns player’s ball watching, playing narrow and caught out of position is something that happens repeatedly in this game.

    Now this ball watching isn’t just reserved for the Thorns defense as we can see here that FCKC gets caught watching as the ball settles in the box for the pass (indicated by the arrow) that supplied the Thorns equalizer in the second half.


    But of course a perfect example of the problem with organization and the Thorns is exemplified on the second goal. Here we see the start of the play as Dougherty has been beaten, Williamson steps out to confront the ball carrier with Buehler marking her player through the zone. We see here at the bottom of the screen how narrow Marshall is playing on the left. The Thorns still have containment as it is two against three with two players (Dougherty and Long) chasing back in support.

    However, Williamson’s challenge fails as the ball slips through two Thorns defenders (Williamson and Dougherty) and FCKC retains possession. The next shot illustrates that despite this, the Thorns still have numbers as Portland still have 4 players against three attacking FC Kansas City players.

    However a slick interplay and passing sequence and poor challenges again from the Thorns allow FC Kansas City to slip through the Thorns defensive position, allowing Lauren Holliday to get in on goal.


    So the Thorns are caught up field with players chasing the play and Kansas City slots another shot home. This is the repeating message as poorly timed challenges, marking and collapsing defensive responsibility doom the Thorns.

    Even on the third goal for FCKC we see that the Thorns players crowd the player WITH the ball leaving both runs outside and inside available as somehow Mewis for Kansas City manages to get a shot off with FOUR Thorns players around her, practically watching her tee up a shot.

    Now granted that Karina Leblanc probably should have done better with this shot but the fact is that Leblanc had a back line/midfield combination that seemed to panic, play narrow, leave their marked players alone and ball watch letting her try to clean up the mess behind them.

    This “Hodge-podge” thorns defense seems to happen at many different positions on the field as we can see a freeze frame of a FCKC attempted possession.

    If the FCKC player was able to pass (indicated by the blue arrow) out of the position she was in to the KC player calling for the ball (indicated in the green circle) she would have the entirety of the field on that side to run with as there is no Thorns player ready to pressure the ball in that area of the field. Fortunately for Portland the Kansas City player doesn’t see how open that side of the field is and plays the ball back instead of out to the wing. With Foxhoven tucked way inside most of the game and Tobin Heath essentially playing as an alternative central attacking midfielder in the middle of the field with Mana Shim, the Thorns played so narrow as to afford Kansas City an enormous amount of room on the wings. There was (at times) zero defense on the right side of the field in front of Marion Dougherty. This really happened on both sides of the field but was extremely noticeable on the Thorns right.

    It is no surprise then that two of the three goals for FC Kansas City originated from the right side of the Thorns defense.

    It really comes back down positioning, marking players on the field appropriately, having a semblance of defensive responsibilities and playing as a team. These are all things that FC Kansas City were able to cobble together and things that the Thorns have been struggling with for some time.

    Congratulations to the Portland Thorns for making it to the NWSL playoffs, but unless these defensive issues get fixed, they are going to have a very difficult time advancing.

  • 08/05/2013 4:58 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    By an overwhelming margin, the Rose City Riveters have chosen Thorns goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc as their Player of the Year.

    With 70 saves over 1,620 minutes in goal, Karina leads the league as its winningest goalkeeper.

    But it’s been more than just her skill and her stats that have endeared her to supporters in Portland. Her personality, her joie de vivre, has been infectious. When Karina smiles, we smile with her. When she dances, we dance with her. When she colors her hair Rose City Red, well, we do that, too.

    So, with this, we thank you, Karina.

    It should be noted that several Thorns made notable showings in the Player of the Year poll. Congrats to Meleana Shim, Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, each of whom garnered a significant number of votes.

  • 08/05/2013 4:53 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    The 107ist provided the space, the cloth, the paint, and the rigging. It would have been rather more difficult to pull off without these things.

    2013-07-20 14.29.08

    On the (wo)manpower side, CoryHolly, and Lexi came up with the idea.
    Cory designed it and drew all the players. Holly put the drawings into a computer and pushed the pixels around. Lexi and Mike got everything organized and arranged for the space and for people to help. (60.5 hours)

    2013-07-22 21.58.11
    On July 22, CoryHollyChrissieIgor, and Michelle spent a night tracing the first half of the image onto cloth. Then, on July 25, HollyChrissieMichelleRachel, and Nichol spent another night tracing the second half. (43.5 hours)

    2013-07-27 14.13.23 2013-07-27 14.13.05
    July 27 was the big day. HollyChrissieIgorMichelleRachelLexiRichardPatchKevinSaraJoshuaChucklesSatoMirandaRichardBrittneyJustinJadeLukeJohnMarcelloJulieToddVanessaWarrenPaulKristinMoKimMarnieSydJanetPatrickMeganThomasIsabellaTeresaHeather, and Gabby spent a beautiful afternoon indoors and painted the whole thing including the explosion two-sticks. Straight From New York donated a whole pile of delicious pizzas at the painting party. They are Thorns fans and we love them. (186.25 hours)

    On July 30, CoryHollyChrissie, and Rachel went back for another night to do touchups and repaint the green grass which had originally been painted an unfortunate wan shade of guacamole. (22 hours)

    Then, on August 1, CoryHollyChrissieMichelleRachelLexiRichardPatchLukeToddPaulKristinKimMarnieGabby,  Nissa, and Kristen rolled streamers, taped instruction sheets to them, and did some last touchups on the paint and spent some time finalizing the Cindy Parlow Cone element. (42 hours)

    Game day was August 4. CoryHollyChrissieIgorMichelleLexiPatchChucklesSatoToddVanessaPaulKristinKimMarnieJanetTeresaGabbyNickAlexKrisHeidiJohnLaneJonannaToddMikeRyanRhondaDougSaraDennisSunday, Lora, and a ton of wonderful volunteers pulled ropes, lifted heavy things, distributed streamers and flags, and generally pitched in to make the whole thing happen on game day. (20.5+ hours)

    So, 60+ people (374.75+ person-hours) and a staggering amount of donated material. That’s where it came from.

    Please support the 107ist. We would absolutely not have been able to do any of this without them. This organization is a major part of what makes us the best supporters in the league. You can support by joining them or by buying Riveters or Timbers Army merchandise.

    Thank you all so much for everything you did to make this happen. Here’s hoping we need another one for the playoffs. Stay tuned.

  • 08/02/2013 4:51 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    Christine Sinclair. There’s really no ambiguity about how to say that. That’s pretty clearly a hard /k/ sound in her last name.

    Some people call her Sinc. Same consonant sound. No problem.

    Now here’s where things get confusing, because there’s no good way to spell her other nickname. The way it usually appears in print preserves the spelling of her name, but violates the rules of English pronunciation. The alternative, using an actual k, looks stupid. Sinky?

    But the thing is, that’s more like how you actually say “Sincy”. Not like this:


    Course, people started saying it with the /s/ sound around here, and then other people heard that and started saying it too. I think we should stop and fix it.

    It’s easy. Just remember, more like this:


    And less like this:


    Maybe we could even come up with another chant...

  • 08/01/2013 4:49 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    Well, probably not all the things. Just whichever ones I remember to write here.

    Okay. Sunday is match day. This is the last guaranteed home match this season. As of right this second, the Thorns hold second place in the standings and, if that holds, they will host a semifinal playoff match. If they slip to third place, they’ll travel. We’ve officially entered ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN territory here.

    The forecast for Sunday shows temperatures in the low 90s, but your Thorns need you to bring it. They need you loud and proud. They also need you to bring sunscreen and drink lots of water. Hydrate, people. Don’t let them down because you wilted. You know that brand new scarf you just got from the fine folks at the merch Rav4? Even 90 degrees isn’t too hot to wear it – just go soak it in water first. Trust me on this one.

    So, let’s talk a little about location. Ideally, we want everyone on their feet in 106-108. Sing your hearts out, brothers and sisters. If you want to sit and spectate, please to be moving elsewhere. While all of the North End is considered standing/singing/etc., there are some perfectly lovely pockets of 109/110/204/205 that are less active and more appropriate for those who really enjoy the feel of a hard plastic chair or wooden bleacher on their behind.

    As some of you may have heard, we had a little confusion over two-sticks last Sunday. All is well. Bring your two-sticks, but there are two things to remember about this. Please be respectful of those around you and don’t put your two-stick up during the run of play. Secondly, if your two-stick requires twenty-seven interlocking pieces of pvc and six bungee cords to hold it together, it’s best that you just build that particular (peculiar?) fort in your back yard and don’t bring it to JWF. Okay, I guess there’s a third thing: if your two-stick is big enough to drape an aircraft carrier, it might be best displayed hanging from the rail at the front of the 100s. Holly usually has some zip ties. (Someone please remind me to mention to her that I’ve now announced on the internet that she might have spare zip ties to share.)

    Merch! The merch Rav4 will be in the Koi Fusion lot at 20th & Burnside pre- and post-match. It’ll be stocked with scarves, buttons and t-shirts, photos of which can be seen on Twitter (@pdxriveterssg) or on the Facebook page. Please to be buying all the things. Scarves are $15. Buttons are $1. T-shirts are assorted sizes, $15 each, $17 for extended sizes. We’re working toward an online purchase option, but we’re not quite there.

    Tickets! If you’ve got extra when gameday rolls around, please consider dropping them off with the merch crew. They’ll get them into the hands of folks who need them and any donations will go to the 107ist. Oh, do you still need tickets? Go here:

    Freeway! So, because ODOT hates the east side of Portland, they’ve chosen to close I-84 westbound from 11 p.m. Saturday night through 5 a.m. Monday morning. Please plan accordingly. Ride MAX. Timbers match Saturday night? Get a hotel room and just stay downtown all weekend. It’s kind of like a staycation but with turndown service and three footy matches in 24 hours.

    So, that’s all the Sunday stuff, I think. Here comes All The Other Stuff.

    The Riveters are hosting next Wednesday’s away viewing at On Deck in the Pearl (910 NW 14th). Match starts at 4 p.m. and they’ll also show the Timbers/RSL USOC match following the Thorns/Breakers match. Happy hour until 6 p.m. Kids welcome. Wifi available. Please RSVP here so we know you’re coming.

    Playoff tickets! Season ticket holders should have gotten an email about deposits for playoff tickets. To secure your seats, you need to respond by August 9th. Do this. Deposit is $2. TWO DOLLARS. The balance of the ticket price will be charged later. It’s all in the email. If you didn’t get the email, please call your ticket rep.

    Tukwila Away! We’re making another trip north to see the Thorns take on the Reign in lovely Tukwila. Get on the bus. Tickets are available here. Please don’t wait until the last minute. We don’t want you to miss out. Our first trip up was amazing. You don’t want to miss this. Seriously.

    And here’s the thing I’ve saved for last. There’s a pretty epic thing that’s going to happen Sunday. Lots of folks put a lot of hard work into it but, without the help of the 107ist, it wouldn’t be happening on this scale. If you haven’t already, please consider joining the 107ist. Membership is $25 per person and nets you a ton of discounts for area businesses in addition to supporting both the Timbers Army and the Rose City Riveters. Click here to join and tell them we sent you.

    Did I miss anything?

  • 07/29/2013 4:45 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    If you put a lobster in water and turn up the temperature, they will stay. If you try to put them right into boiling water they will try to escape.

    This latest game against Chicago Red Stars was the equivalent of turning up the heat slowly on the fans. At first you get comfortable with the idea that the Thorns have a 3-1 lead, and then suddenly you are bubbling and steaming with anger as three points slip away and a precarious standings situation becomes even more dangerous.

    When the Portland Thorns were winning games earlier in the inaugural NWSL season, they didn’t do this just by scoring more goals than the other team, they did this with a stingy defense that was (at one point) one of the best in the NWSL. As the season has progressed and the teams in the NWSL have gelled offensively they have started coming at the problems that exist within the Thorns defense and have managed to find the spots to attack the back four while the Thorns went through an offensive slump.

    The insertion of Tobin Heath into the Thorns lineup was supposed to fix some of these problems but at one point I pondered what she would fix and what would happen with her addition to the lineup. The issue here, in the end, is that YES, the Thorns offensive lineup needed fixing as the endless long-ball tactics were grating even the most loyal Thorns enthusiast. However, the Thorns back line is also in some difficulty and the way in which the Thorns give up the ball in the midfield, while improved, still places additional stress on a back line that isn’t currently seeing their best days.

    As the game progressed in the second half the Thorns reverted to sending passes further and further up the field and the frustration started to show on the players. Alex Morgan received a yellow card after petulantly flipping a ball over the end line sign board in the 70th minute. Meanwhile the Thorns began to give up possession cheaply in the midfield as Parlow Cone subbed Emily O’Neil in for Nikki Marshall and then a few minutes later Alex Morgan was subbed off for Tiffany Weimer.

    The difference between the organization and positioning of the team in the first half and the organization of the team in the second half is noticeable. As the game progressed the initiation of contact zone retreated and the amount of involvement of the fullbacks (something that traditionally hasn’t been a huge part of the Thorns arsenal) reduced even further.  At the beginning of the game the Thorns were playing a diamond 4-4-2 with Morgan and Sinclair up top, Foxhoven at RMF, Shim at CAM, Tobin Heath on the Left and Allie Long playing DCM. Interestingly enough, when Portland would exercise a throw in, Heath would usually receive the ball (which is how Heath ended up on the right center of the field ready to take the free kick that resulted in the first Thorns goal).  In the second half however, the Thorns started getting stretched and didn’t seem to consistently find that 4-4-2 diamond formation that they had been running in the first half. Whether due to people jogging back into position, the heat on the field, or/and the information passed on by the coaching staff, most of the team seemed to drop the intensity at 74:00 into the game. Almost immediately after 74:00, Chicago scored a header which really was the result of poor defensive marking, the Thorns defense not closing down the player with the ball, and poor positional awareness.

    There is almost no excusable reason as to why the tying goal for the Red Stars happened.  The ball comes in from a throw-in for Chicago, is played through the middle of the field, the Thorns defense separates and Buehler is left to clean up the ball for another throw. The throw comes in and is headed out for another throw from Leon for Chicago. The throw is headed up and then kicked into the box to a group of Thorns and Chicago players. At this time there are two Thorns players marking two Chicago players and the ball comes into a patch of sun remaining on the field and seems to get lost to the group of four, it pops up in the air and Rachel Buehler comes in to attempt to clean up the ball. She attempts to head it out but it pops right down to Tobin Heath who loses position and gets muscled out-of-the-way by a charging Sitch who smacks a very nice shot in for the tying goal. The Thorns, during the play, had seven outfield players in the 18 yard box and Karina Leblanc while Chicago had five. Whether due to communication problems, a lack of focus, endurance, tactics…. The Thorns simply capitulated as Julianne Sitch swept Heath aside for the goal.

    As was happening earlier in the year, the separation between the back line and the midfield grew, the line of initiation changed, and the team, at times, looked like they hadn’t played together.  There were times where the Thorns looked like traffic cones as Chicago pressed up on the ball carrier, pressured them to make the pass, and then attempted to break when they got the chance. So many times there were passes to nowhere, to players that didn’t make a run, to locations where no one was.

    Chicago, in the end, simply outworked Portland. They pressured, kept their self-belief, and took the opportunities that the Thorns midfield handed them. The Thorns three goals were indicative of the way in which they tend to try to score goals (they try to play with skill over brute force even if this means bypassing the midfield to get to the skill). Chicago’s goals were scored because the skill of the Chicago players and the Thorns lack the ability to possess the ball in the midfield and close out games. Simply, there is no reason for a championship caliber team to lose a two goal lead on their home turf, unless that team has some very exploitable flaws in either plan or personnel.

    The main thing that concerns me is that it seems that the Thorns just don’t have seem to have the plan to stop the other team from shutting down the ball carrier, disrupting the attack and then pressuring the Thorns into retreating. Yes, it is early days for the Thorns if we look at this season being the inaugural step in a long journey. However, there are only three home games left and only five games left on the season. If there was a time for the Thorns to have an identity it seems like it should be starting to be decipherable by now.

    Certainly the more that the Thorns play together and bond together they will develop an innate chemistry. With that chemistry you hope that the right plan is in place to utilize the players and the bonds they form. With only 5 games left in the season and 2 games in the post season…. They better hope they effect that chemistry and plan really soon.

    Despite the disappointment there ARE good things at which to look. The Thorns played better for 74 minutes, scored 3 goals and seemed to be doing a better job at trying to have a consistent formation and style of play. However, if they are unable to have the ability to respond to the other team efficiently in the moment of play and dictate the game on their own terms they will have a very short end to the year for such an incredibly talented team.

    Four Quick Notes:

    #1 The 41st minute collision between Long and Mautz was as awful in the stadium as it was on the television later. Mautz came in late on Long without a real chance of winning the ball and left herself open to the judgment of the referee who awarded a yellow card.

    #2 The 14th minute challenge by Tobin Heath on Chalupny was one that I have seen given a red card. It was exactly the kind of challenge that MLS has been cracking down on after injuries to Javi Morales, and it injured Chalupny to the point where the Chicago captain had to be removed from the game.  Fortunately for Heath she, just like Mautz, only received a yellow card on the play.

    #3 Mana Shim has really begun to express herself in recent weeks, especially in goal scoring form, if we are looking for things positive to take away from this match.

    #4 The goal by Weimer was correctly called back due to her straying offside.

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