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

  • 05/27/2013 4:25 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    When the allocation was finished for the NWSL teams, the prognosticators and talking heads seemed to have a general consensus. That common thought was that the Portland Thorns received a bevy of attacking talent and with both Sinclair and Morgan, would be an attacking force.

    However, something that has become very clear eight games into the season is that the entirety of the success for the Portland Thorns this season has come from the back four and goalkeeper Karina Leblanc who have provided the reliable base that the Thorns have all too often relied upon.

    When writing recaps and stories on the Thorns, it is very easy to fall into the trap of talking about Sinclair and Morgan, but the reality is that while they have been (at times) very good this season that, with the problems the Thorns have had possessing the ball, they would be in very bad shape without the alert playing of Buehler, Williamson, Dougherty, Marshall, and Leblanc.

    In the recent Reign v. Thorns game, this defense was primarily why the Thorns weren’t down a goal within the first 20 minutes of the game as the Reign had multiple chances which were either snuffed out and stopped by Leblanc or stopped by Buehler and company. The Thorns vacillated between link up play followed by a dangerous shot to can’t-get-out-of-each-others-way to turnover and break on goal.

    As frustrating as it can be to watch a team that features Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan, Allie Long and Becky Edwards aimlessly spray the ball around the field, we must look at why this would be the case. The Reign consistently pressured up through the middle of the field thinking (correctly it would seem) that Portland were jittery connecting passes from the defensive midfielder position and forcing them to make what were often the wrong decision. Many of the dangerous pickups and attempts came from Rachel Buehler challenging for the ball and picking a good pass from the back to put Morgan into a good position as is what happened in the 26th minute.

    As bad as the Thorns were at connecting in the first half, they were almost that much better at the beginning of the second. Cone seemed to ask the fullbacks to push up a bit more especially on the right side providing width to a very narrow Thorns attack. This pulled some of the Reign players outside and expanded the amount of room they had to cover to press and try to recapture the ball.

    Many of the issues that the Thorns have had come from the lack of width in their formation set up. With the fullbacks staying further back, the narrowness of the midfield makes it so that there isn’t a lot of room with which to operate their passing game. As we discussed last week this could be by design. A quick note on Mana Shim: the first year player had an up and down game showing some good interplay but also some not so great touches. While she is a promising player who is getting on the ball, she will go through some different phases in her rookie year.

    Now to speak to the first penalty shot controversy. In the 67th minute, Morgan and Sinclair combined with Sinclair chipping a pass that very clearly (to my own eyes) ricocheted off Winters arm and out for an awarded corner. This was as blatant a handball as you are going to see but the ref waived the handball shout off and Portland found their complaints gone.

    Then at 82:20 Becky Edwards tackled the ball away from Jess Fishlock, the Thorns came back at the Reign defense and the referee called a penalty. The incident was not seemingly clear-cut, the replay seemed to show, at most, a very small moment of obstruction. Of course given the incident missed above there is a decent chance that this call was a make up call. Either way, Winters and Solo argued with the referee and Sinclair dispatched the ball into the corner of the net for a 1-0 Thorns lead.

    The Reign had a few more half-chances but the writing was on the wall and the Thorns defense managed to record another clean-sheet on the year. A win kept the Thorns tied up at the top of the league with Sky Blue FC. While the play was very disjointed in the first half, the adjustments made by Portland in the second half and the interplay of Marion Daugherty with the midfield allowed the Thorns to reverse the momentum of the game ultimately giving them dangerous chances and the ability to press, which in turn created situations in which a referee has to make a call. While the refereeing on the evening was not something to hang ones hat upon, the Thorns were able to battle through this and came out on top. Coming up next will be a very large test of the depth and system of the Thorns as they will lose a virtual raft of first team players to international games.  The called up will be  Leblanc, Morgan, Sinclair, Buehler. I suspect that the biggest area of concern for the Thorns will be who steps in to fill the solid and dynamic shoes of Rachel Buehler at center back and who will be tasked as a creative midfielder with Sinclair gone. This will prove a very illuminating and interesting time to those fans who want to see what the Thorns can do when they no longer can rely upon the other-worldly offensive talents of their two forwards.

  • 05/22/2013 4:24 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    There isn’t very much of an argument that the Thorns were tired on Sunday. They looked tired, played in that fashion and even coach Cindy Parlow Cone admitted as much during the post game interview. The long ball tactics seen during the game were placed at the feet of exhausted players and this could certainly be true, to a certain extent.

    However, accepting this idea overlooks that which is also true, that Cone has set up the Thorns in a fashion that may be a different system than others would have expected given the talent at her disposal.

    So while this will be a small game recap, I will also attempt to explain my opinion on the ideals behind what we are watching on the field.

    #1 We must remember to look at the entirety of the work, and not just accept what we have seen in the last game to give us an indication of the current setup of the Thorns.

    and

    #2 We must not look at win in an askance fashion because we may dislike the way it is accomplished.

    Starting with the last item, we must note that the Thorns won on Sunday. They managed to overpower the Spirit, at home, on goals from Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan. They kept pace with Sky Blue FC with 5 wins on the year, one loss and one draw. It is important to note that this record is fantastic, and that for all the criticism of the tactics on the year that the Thorns are producing and producing well in terms of win/loss record.

    During the Spirit game the Thorns tried to link up outside and tried to find that pass into space where players like Shim, Sinclair, Morgan and Washington can play with the ball at their feet. At this place on the field, the Thorns would try to find that pass inside, or at times cut the ball back to play into the midfield.

    It behooves us to talk about the systems that have frustrated Portland this year, FC Kansas City and Sky Blue FC. Both teams are defensively responsible, stout teams that are difficult to break down and less prone to defensive lapses than other teams in the NWSL. While perhaps not offensively endowed as the Thorns, Sky Blue only needed to capitalize on one goal and then their defense shut down the Thorns in an impressive fashion.

    This ability of highly organized and effective defenses to create problems for the Thorns can be exacerbated when the Thorns play with long ball tactics that tend to rely on the talent of the player rather than the effectiveness of the team. This brings us to another point, that is that the Thorns are one of the, if not THE most offensively talented team in the league.

    However, they are not a pass and move, total football team. They are, in tactics, the LA Galaxy of the NWSL.

    Cindy Parlow Cone has set up the team to play in a counter attacking fashion where they rely on the ability of a hyper talented forward (Alex Morgan) to stretch the field like Robbie Keane did, at times, last season. She does this by trying to stay on the back shoulder of the defense and creating space while sometimes having to check back and hold up the ball and bring the midfield into the attack.

    Cone has tasked Christine Sinclair (who we should all remember is one of the best forwards in the world) to play attacking midfielder and link the play up top to Morgan. Both Mana Shim and Angie Kerr are given stretches as another forward/link up player that the team uses to draw defenders away from Morgan and provide avenues for play in the wide positions and (as well) midfield help.

    The play of the Thorns is frequently “get the ball to the most talented players and make things happen”. This is not necessarily a problem in terms of effectiveness, as one can see that the Thorns have been winning. However, in terms of aesthetics, this is perhaps not a philosophy that produces the most glowing style of football. Many times the combinations are team to Alex Morgan or team to Sinclair to Alex Morgan and this comes back to the lack of a dynamic midfielder and the usage of players out of their natural positions. With Sinclair and Morgan already playing together before the Thorns, Sinclair frequently looks for Morgan even if the opportunity presents itself for other players to be involved (well, that and the fact that Morgan is one of the best players in the world). Once again, we must come back to the fact that the attacking midfielder for the Thorns is playing out of position and the other forward for the Thorns is typically playing out of position.

    This, of course, assumes that Cone wants to play in a passing football style and that is where we must step back and question.

    While Cone certainly wants to cut down on the portions of long ball play from the Spirit game, if we look at the method in which the team has been placed this year we see an approach more in line with Bruce Arena or Bob Bradley than the tactics of Joegi Low. Specifically, it seems that Cone seeks to keep the midfield narrow, seeks to create defensive stability by sacrificing the constant pressure in the offensive end, and asks the team to immediately attempt to push the ball up the field to generate offense. This can lead to a bypass of the midfield as the team attempts to pressure through the forward position and generate scoring chances by either capitalizing on defensive mistakes or holding up the ball and bringing the midfield into the game.

    So when analyzing the team it is important to not place the perspectives of other teams on the one currently performing. While the last two games have not necessarily seen the best of the Portland Thorns, they do possess the ability to continue melding together and synchronizing in a more harmonious fashion. However, based on current games we must expect that the Thorns will be more counter attack than pass and move.

    Using this method to analyze the Thorns, it makes sense that they would struggle against teams that are stout defensively. Players like Christine Rampone have the ability to shut Alex Morgan down and, if she is stopped as a distribution end point for the Thorns, the attack is pushed back to a midfield that does not always possess the ability to connect efficiently and create chances. Part of this could be that this team is still finding each other having had a short pre-season together with all the national team players gone for much of the pre-season team building. As Cone noted in her post game comments, she started to see the interplay between Sinclair and Shim more-so than happened before.

    Of course, this begs the question of the fact that Shim is a center midfielder traditionally and as Cone said “one of the best passers of the ball on the team” and playing up top as a forward and Sinclair is a forward and one of the best strikers of the ball in the world and playing in the midfield.  This is a bit odd when written out.

    Certainly the big test will come when the Thorns lose many of their international players to scheduled national team games. Cone will have to deal with the loss of her star players in the current star player, counter attack, beat you with quality approach with which the team has been playing.

    In the end, the Thorns were victorious on Sunday and push on. Up next is a trip to the north, prepare thyself accordingly.

  • 05/16/2013 4:21 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    At some point, it was going to happen. The Thorns were living on their luck for the last week and while a 2-0 win over Chicago seemingly papered over the cracks, the team had been playing on talent rather than cohesiveness for the last few weeks. The empty bucket midfield and the lack of the ability to posses the ball would cause issues eventually with the midfield unable to find the cohesion.

    Then at the 80th minute Taylor Lytle struck and the winning streak was over as the Thorns seemingly couldn’t get out of their own way to effectively create a dangerous chance in the final third. Really it was the tale of a vast majority of their game and a worrying concern for the fans of the Portland Thorns. While the team is exceptionally talented and has won games on talent alone, far too often they concede possession in the midfield and lack the ability to create dangerous chances. Too often this season they have relied on that switch, that one long ball, that one connection that allows Morgan, Sinclair or Foxhoven to find a dangerous channel and pounce. However, with Sky Blue FC playing stout defense, closing down passing lanes, and generally out working the Thorns, the time on the undefeated season ticked down to a close.

    Certainly in an undefeated season (like Arsenal, Juventus, or the U-23 Portland Timbers), you need hard work, determination and a fair amount of luck. The team has to find a presence that allows them to believe, work and be able to find that extra gear even when they are tired. However talented this Thorns team is, and they undoubtedly are very talented, they lacked the ability to work tonight against Sky Blue FC. Perhaps it was the weeks on the road, perhaps it was the attention of a very disciplined team, but the Thorns ran out of answers tonight and resorted to long ball play and bypassed the midfield.

    Cindy Parlow Cone ran out another lineup featuring Meleana Shim and Alex Morgan working up top and she tasked the rest of the team to somehow make the connections with a dropping into midfield Christine Sinclair. Far too often though the ball would be lofted up top to nowhere or given away in the midfield to a pressing Sky Blue FC who managed to find the soft underbelly of the Thorns.  Basically the Thorns are playing a bizzaro 4-4-2, in which they almost want to play a diamond formation midfield but they don’t have a true attacking midfielder who can’t collect and distribute the ball into dangerous situations. In this particular case they task Sinclair (as we have spoken about) to try to create. However, this robs Sinclair of her true strength of going at goal and being a dangerous presence challenging the back line. The problem for Cone is that she currently doesn’t seem to have a player who fits this characteristic of a player who can create until Tobin Heath is available for potential selection this summer. Sinclair is a stop-gap at best and the play between the midfield and the forwards has created a gap that results in long lofted balls into nowhere.

    However, having spent these last few hundred words describing why you watched a loss, let me now describe why you should (as well) be happy about this.

    See, this team isn’t talented beyond the rest of the league, it doesn’t possess that ability to run the table in the NWSL. In the end this is a mortal team of talented players who haven’t entirely found their way. This is a good thing, as we want to see growth and we want to see the team come together. In the end, the journey of the team will be the story to watch and how they fit in the players going forward. Hopefully, as the season progresses, we can see Sinclair return to more of her rightful role challenging the back line and linking up with Alex Morgan rather than having to drop deep to pick up the play. At some point, the team needs to figure out a formation (whether a 4-3-3 with Foxhoven up top and Sinclair/Morgan linking off of her or a 4-4-2 with Tobin Heath in the midfield) that will allow them to retain a bit more possession without having to resort to long ball route 1 tactics.

    That is something worth looking forward to as the team turns around quickly for another dangerous game against the Washington Spirit. Hopefully the passion, the pressure and the ability to control the ball is something that the common Portland Thorns fan will watch return, and with that the return to wins and goals.

    Onward, Rose City.

  • 05/11/2013 4:20 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    Our Thorns are taking on the Seattle Reign on Saturday, May 25th, and we want to make sure we show Starfire what support looks and sounds like, so we’re chartering a bus up north for the day.

    Our bus is wheelchair accessible with a lift and will have space for 50 loud and proud Riveters!! If you need tickets to the match and also want to ride the bus, we have 20 of those tickets available at $50 each. If you have already purchased your match ticket and are just looking for a fun and exciting day with us, those tickets are $32 ($30 bus ride + $2 in site fees). Please use the link below to purchase the appropriate tickets. (Please read to the end of this post before attempting to purchase tickets through Eventbrite.)

    http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6656585025

    We have a pretty full day planned, as there is also a Timbers match in DC. We didn’t want to be on a bus while the boys played, so we included a viewing party into the bus trip! The bus of Rose City Riveters will be joining up with the Timbers Army Seattle crew TA Covert Ops at the Elliott Bay Brewing Co in Burien, WA for the Timbers’ 4 p.m. kickoff. Food and beverage at Elliott Bay are not included in the price of the trip.

    After the Timbers match, we will make the 10 minute drive over to Starfire Sports Complex. The Thorns kickoff at 7 p.m. against the Hope-less Reign!!

    A full event itinerary is below:

    11:30 a.m. – Board bus at the Convention Center (NE Holladay St)

    12 – 12:15 p.m. – Depart Portland

     3:30 p.m. – Arrive at Elliott Bay Brewing Co to watch the Timbers v United match

     6:00 p.m. – Depart for Starfire Sports Complex

     7:00 p.m. – Thorns v Reign kickoff

     9:15 p.m. – Depart Starfire Sports Complex

    12 a.m. – Arrive back in Portland

    Some smaller details – Personal food and beverage is permitted on the bus. We will not be providing a keg on this trip, though adult beverages are permitted as long as they are not in glass bottles. No glass is allowed on the bus.

    Please note: bus tickets/combos will be available through Eventbrite starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, May 12. Please plan accordingly.

  • 05/05/2013 5:52 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    Coming into the game versus the Washington Spirit, I thought we could potentially see a lineup change for the Portland Thorns. Angie Kerr had been not been linking up well in the midfield, the large gaps in the interior between offense and defense, the narrowness of the Thorns formation in the first place and the play of Danielle Foxhoven had me believing that perhaps Cindy Parlow Cone would trot out a 4-3-3 formation that would put Foxhoven at the tip of the attack and allow Morgan and Sinclair to create for her.

    However, the move at this time was the aforementioned removal of Kerr for the 22-year-old Meleana Shim who filled the position that Kerr had previously held, namely rotating between playing up top with Alex Morgan and dropping back to provide support to Christine Sinclair.

    It has to be said that we have reached a point where we can admit that contributions of certain players in the Thorns system and Portland as a whole would be lost without the contributions of Christine Sinclair and Rachel Buehler. Sinclair has given up the ability to play simply as a forward and has been the person creating the offense for the Thorns in the midfield. With Tobin Heath not yet an option for the Thorns (and who knows if she will be), Sinclair has attempted to pick up the slack in the midfield and provide the cutting through balls and link up play that needs to happen. Meanwhile, Buehler has been the rock in the back four who has actually cleaned up quite a few of the mistakes that the Thorns have let happen whether through positioning, give aways, early season miscommunication, or just fine passes from the opposing team over the top. Even when it seems like the Thorns are going to be in trouble from a dangerous situation, Buehler seems to ghost in and pick the pocket or pass out for a throw and break up the attack.

    In the 12th minute Morgan settled a long pass over the top, turned her defender into an awkward position and looked to be brought down with a tangle of legs after which a penalty was called. Morgan strode to the spot and dispatched the penalty calmly to the left side of the net to a good-sized cheer from the crowd. This “good-sized cheer” rather irritated the Washington Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris who made some remarks later on twitter

    Of course the response from many fans in the stands indicated that perhaps Harris is just not used to there being travelling fans as a small group of the Rose City Riveters were there as well as a contingent of fans from the East Coast Platoon of the Timbers Army. There were, as well, a group of Thorns fans right behind the goal (according to reports from twitter). Either way, the Alex Morgan circus continues unabated and Morgan almost scored again as she pressed up against the Spirit defense, picked off nervous defender and fired a shot that just ricocheted off the post.

    The Spirit came right back and created a dangerous chance down the left side of Portland’s defense before Sinclair cleared the ball out and the Thorns blocked the ensuing shot from that.

    A perfect example of the play of Sinclair in the midfield is around the 22nd minute in which she wins a ball in the midfield, and while doing this the ball gets passed off to Dougherty, who passes off to Edwards to Sinclair to Dougherty who plays a ball to Morgan to Sinclair who tried to loft a ball to Shim. She generates that connection that certainly one would hope to see from your attacking midfielder, a position that the Thorns are still in desperate need.

    Even when the Spirit were able to break in the first half, Rachel Buehler was there patrolling the field and punting the kicks downfield for Karina Leblanc. This was a continuation from the second half of the Red Stars game in which Buehler started coming back to kick the ball back into play for Leblanc. While Leblanc hasn’t had the need for too many acrobatic saves this year it is worth watching to see if she has any issues pushing off when going to punch the ball or making a diving save, or if this is just a temporary strain/fatigue issue with Leblanc.

    Now I’ve written a fair few game recaps this season, and I’ve oft belaboured the issues with the midfield, the open space and the (at times) cheap giveaways (those giveaways that somehow Buehler seems to clean up) but it has to be said that so far the Thorns haven’t been challenged yet by that dynamic presence on the field that could take the game to them from the forward position. The game that gave them the biggest problem so far was the first game against FC Kansas City in which Kansas City was aggressive, well-organized and defensively compact enough to shut down the talented players of the Thorns.

    In the first half, Washington had a number of interesting opportunities on the counter attack but were unable to find the connection from the forward position often stranding players up top and seemingly trying to earn corners. Many times the Spirit kept 8 players behind the ball seemingly intent on stopping Portland first and then generating an attack.

    A quick word about Alex Morgan and the “jawing at the referee” that happened in the first half. Interesting to me that somehow we equate this as a special advantage for Morgan when this “leeway” seems to happen to every superstar player whether male or female. There was a decent chance she could have received a yellow card for what happened but, at the same time, it’s a part of the game that exists when you are a considered a “prestige player.” Yes, it might be annoying if you are the opposing team, but from Kobe Bryant to Abby Wambach to Michael Jordan to David Beckham, this tends to happen quite a bit.

    As the second half started it remained to be seen if Washington could generate enough offense to actually make the game… a game. Interestingly enough, they managed to find a dangerous counter within the first five minutes as the shot of the Spirit was only stopped by the thigh of Karina Leblanc.

    Minutes later, though it was the truly hard working Nikki Washington who pounced on what can only be deemed a truly AWFUL pass by Ali Kreiger and struck in a gorgeous curling shot from distance. Nine times out of ten that shot is booted well wide, well over, or struck out for a goal kick but in two consecutive weeks we have seen a Thorns player (Sinclair and Washington) strike home a beauty of a curling goal.

    After the goal, Portland began trying to attack down the right side of their offense while Washington tried to play down their right, but ultimately seemed to end up with a few long hopeless balls that were collected by Karina Leblanc.

    There was a bit of back and forth with Portland having the better of the chances until Nikki Marshall went in for a tackle on the field and came up injured. She limped off the field and was replaced by the multi-talented Jazmyne Avant. Avant was thrown into the fire immediately as the Spirit, already playing down Avant’s side of the field, started making an empahsis of coming down the left side of the Thorns defense. At the other end of the field Sinclair hit an absolutely filthy shot from roughly 20 yards away that Ashlyn Harris palmed over the top.

    Allie Long decided to jump into the yellow card lottery as she was cautioned in the 70th minute and the Spirit attempted a long ball into the box from the restart that ended up with a wide ball into the arms of Karina Leblanc.

    With a substitution and a positional shift, the Spirit went with a three woman back line and tried to overwhelm the Thorns midfield with numbers. The ability of the Thorns to hold the ball and reduce their giveaways allowed them to break away from the pressure and keep possession in the Spirits half for the first 5 minutes of the positional shift as the Thorns do have quite a few very talented players with the ball at their feet.

    Courtney Wetzel came on for Allie Long covering any issues with Long’s yellow card as Becky Edwards received a yellow card just previous to the substitution.

    The Spirit kept up with their tactic of long set piece attempts from deep that were cleared by Thorns players. Even with all the long ball attempts, one of the better tries for the Spirit came from rarely seen (in this game) combination play from forward position as the resultant long distance shot was off target.

    Suddenly the Thorns started giving up cheap possession, the Spirit switched the field and worked on Avant who was beaten by Mccarty who passed to Matheson who Avant probably thought was going to be covered by Rachel Buehler who (uncharacteristically for her recent play for the Thorns) seemingly deadlegged herself and fell down. This cavalcade of errors resulted in Matheson getting taken down in the box for a penalty. Matheson dispatched the shot and the Spirit got a goal to send the game to an exciting finish.

    This exciting finish was helped by the on-screen clock not counting anymore and the ping-pong frenetic play that resulted in the Spirit looking fresher and more threatening than they had for most of the game.

    BLARING CAR ADVERTISEMENT

    Still the Thorns defense stood up and managed to keep the game 2-1 for another road win and another massive statement in the NWSL.

    MOAR BLARING ANNOYING CAR ADVERTISEMENT

    It has to be said that while the Spirit threatened at the end of the game that at times in this game, it seemed like the Thorns’ biggest enemy is themselves. If they continue to play switched on and engaged they have the talent to overcome quite a few mistakes and the lack of a true attacking midfielder to win on the road against a number of talented teams.

    EVEN MOAR BLARING CAR ADVERTISEMENT AND MY C@R WAS BIT BY A M00SE 0NC3

    Oh wait… no… let’s not do that kind of intrusive stupid advertising, for that would be silly and would probably make everyone hate the car company that did that. My apologies for the people who did that above as they have been sacked.

    BLARING LLAMA CAR ADVERTISEMENT AGAIN

    Oh, indeed (llama) that is just very silly…

    See you back in Chicago for “Portland versus the Red Stars Redux“, or “Can Chicago learn how to Stop the Thorns” or… “how I learned to to love the Galumpki at a Polish food festival“.

  • 04/29/2013 5:51 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    If one looks at the tape of  the Portland Thorns versus Chicago Red Stars, one could be confused into thinking that there was no viewer left side of the field and that the right back and attacking left midfielder just disappeared into a black hole as the video for the NWSL game was shot on what appeared to be a tripod through a window.

    Such is life for the fan of the NWSL in the early days of the league as Portland took on Chicago at the Benedictine University Sports Complex April 27th. Beggars cannot be choosers though, and the ability to stream the feed is far better than not being able to watch the games. I can only hope that this league performs well enough that all fans of women’s soccer in North America can eventually make light of the field conditions and the video from the early games of the NWSL as they do now with the older days of MLS.

    Coming off an inspired win against the Reign, Portland looked to ride the momentum from the brief home stand into three additional points away from home. The Thorns continued their experimentation into the weird world of narrow formations as they focused their attack through the center of midfield. Seemingly giving up the outside while keeping their fullbacks back, the Thorns showed their impetus in combination play, groupings, and attempted one touch passing. They also have been dangerous from set pieces as a “How on earth did that not go in?” header attempt by Alex Morgan in the 13th minute was palmed away by goalkeeper Erin McLeod.

    Despite the Thorns’ good forward play and great results (so far), there is still an issue in the midfield as several times Chicago was able to pick up second chance balls and counter attack out to the wings to generate chances in the box.

    Let’s just have a chat about the field for a second as the “primary use for American football gridiron line and bouncy castle surface” jumped the ball up in the air like a basketball on a hardwood floor. At one point I thought Karina Leblanc would pull a Brittney Griner and slam the ball down for an “and-one” jam. Both teams decided to play soccer instead and pushed ahead as the Red Stars tried to pressure the ball when it was played into the Thorns players.

    As we are now into game three for the Thorns, we have started to see the pattern of play for the team. The fullbacks typically advance when the opportunity presents itself to advance but as a general rule they play defensively. Becky Edwards and Allie Long see-saw in the midfield to attempt to win the ball back (with Edwards staying relatively deep) and Nikki Washington and Angie Kerr both pinch in and play combinations up to Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair (that is, when Kerr isn’t playing up top next to Morgan and Sinclair isn’t in the midfield but more on that twist later).

    On the whole, the Thorns play a very narrow formation, even when they have the ball out on the wing the play collapses to that side leaving vast tracts of field open for the switch. With this available space, Chicago was able to intercept and push the ball up but was lacking the ability to find a final ball and this manifested itself in goal kicks and skipping through balls picked up by Karina Leblanc.

    While the Thorns had some very dangerous chances (and one fantastic save kept the game even) they certainly didn’t have much sustained pressure in the Chicago end. Head coach Cindy Parlow Cone, over the course of the first half, moved Christine Sinclair back into the midfield in an attempt to fix the issues with the connection in midfield/service and as the second half started, the Thorns had Angie Kerr further up the field playing as a second forward with Alex Morgan.

    With the Thorns still playing quite narrow, and pushing players up to the top of the field, there was still a sizable gap in the midfield that Chicago was able to exploit as they had two good chances in the second half that the Red Stars were unable to capitalize upon. As the game moved towards the 60th minute, the balance of a win, loss, or draw appeared to up for grabs, that is until the substitution of Danielle Foxhoven for Angie Kerr. With the dangerous Foxhoven playing up top, the Thorns went back to the effective and morphing 4-4-2/4-3-2-1 with Foxhoven up top playing off of and in front of Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair. This move began to reap dividends as the Thorns started to get on the front foot and nearly capitalized off a set piece header down for a one time strike at the 62nd minute that was hit off target.

    As the announcers for Chicago gently mocked the Chicago Red Star supporters group “The Core”, the Thorns took a corner kick that resulted in a mad scramble and another shot hit wide of goal. With the pressure mounting, the Thorns finally capitalized after a uncharacteristically bad pass from Chicago Red Stars back line. Morgan intercepted the aforementioned pass, fired at the keeper who deflected the ball into Danielle Foxhoven’s path and Foxhoven struck the ball home for the opening goal. After that, the Red Stars began pushing every available player into the attack presenting an opportunity for the Thorns forwards and attacking players to go directly at the back line of Chicago. That approach ended up costing Chicago a second goal as a beautiful counter attack by the Thorns ended up with Christine Sinclair hitting a hooked ball into the corner of the net from roughly 19 yards out. The goal surely would have been replayed quite a bit on Ye-Ole-Internets had the game not been streamed through a 1998 JVC Hi-8 video camera.

    Finally Chicago ran out of steam and the game was over with an important Thorns win 2-0. While Chicago certainly had their chances, the insertion of Danielle Foxhoven into the lineup and the progression of the lineup to allow Morgan and Sinclair to play off of the former Pilot gave a spark to the team. It has to be said that Foxhoven has been fantastic when given the opportunity to play and it might be only a matter of time before she starts a regular season Thorns game.

    The Thorns next game is on the road against the Washington Spirit at the Maryland SoccerPlex May 4th. With the Spirit coming off a 2-1 loss to Sky Blue FC, they will be gunning for a home win and it will be important to see how the Thorns lineup progresses with the play of Foxhoven at the forward position.

  • 04/23/2013 5:50 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    The tone of the game was set via Nikki Washington, who charged a lost cause ball down to the corner and pressured the Reign defense into caroming the ball off her back and out for a throw. With less than a minute in the game Portland was showing the pressuring, showing the instinct, and showing idea of a game plan that was missing from the very first game against FC Kansas city. This was followed up by Angie Kerr, Christine Sinclair and Nikki Washington combining for a ball knocked out for a corner, and the Thorns were on the front foot less than 2 minutes into the game.

    There was a subtle tweak in formation as the Thorns came out in quasi-4-4-1-1 with Sinclair tasked to link up with the midfield behind Alex Morgan. This move paid dividends as, while it removed Sinclair from the continued threat of taking on the back line, it allowed her to get on the ball and start that partnership that she had with Alex Morgan at Western New York Flash.

    With Hope Solo out with a long-term injury that will keep her out til late in summer and Megan Rapinoe strategically hanging out with the fine folks in Lyon, the Reign started Michelle Betos in goal and Jessica “I’m trying to fill Levesque’s boots” Fishlock from Wales, who did absolutely nothing in the game to endear her to the Portland crowd. More on that later.

    Cindy Parlow kept Nikki Washington out on the right who consistently made early deep runs in the first half pulling players with her. She also had Angie Kerr threatening who frequently tried to push up the field and combine with Washington, Sinclair, and Morgan while Allie Long played the pivot and create role in the midfield.

    Speaking of which, congratulations are in order to Allie long who pulled in the first yellow card in Thorns history at Jeld-Wen Field on a play where she came through the back of Kaylyn Kyle and promptly received a card, popped up and ran back into position.

    The Reign attempted to threaten on set pieces in the first half but never really could get a rhythm through the active Thorns defense who frequently broke up the attacks towards them and then speedily transitioned to offense. Often time these attacks by the Thorns offense transitioned a bit too quickly and passes would be misplaced into the feet of a dense crowd of players.

    Of course 13 minutes in brings us BIZARRO RAPINOE as Jessica Fishlock put an arm through the back of Becky Edwards, a trend that would be continued as Fishlock was the heart and passion of the Reign for most of the night. Fishlock was the majority of the Reigns thrust on the night providing a holding presence in midfield, an attacking presence and the only goal for the Reign.
    When the Thorns started to drop into gear they became more and more threatening. Offensively the team transitioned between a 4-3-3, a 4-4-1-1 and a 4-3-2-1, depending on the positioning and the situation. At times (on resets) you could see Nikki Washington pushing up top next to Alex Morgan and playing as a RMF , other times she would drop back and you would have Sinclair playing behind Morgan with Kerr next to her. The only issue that happened (at times) in this game was that the Thorns collapsed into narrowness and lacked the ability to spread the ball out wide.

    In this particular game (in the first half at the very least), the fullbacks for the Thorns stayed back and kept defensive integrity rather than bombing up the field. At the 28th minute, off a Thorns corner kick, Portland had their first chance as a rocket Becky Edwards header from a Nikki Washington corner cannoned towards the far post only to be plucked from the air by Betos for a very nice save.

    Even with the positive Portland play, the Thorns still had issues with the connection between midfield and the forward position. Both Morgan and Sinclair were required to drift back to the center of midfield to pick up the ball and knock it back to either Becky Edwards or Allie Long. However, as the game transitioned into the 30th minute, Portland started playing with their heads up and moved their lines further up the field. Dougherty (at right fullback) moved up the field establishing the line of contact at the half way line and preventing much of the attempted break out play of the Reign in the later stages of the first half.

    Then at the 44th minute, another great delivery from Nikki Washington cruised into Marian Dougherty who hit a glancing header through a crowd of players and past Betos for the first Thorns goal at home. The crowd erupted and the Thorns had their impetus for the second.

    From the very first kick of the second half the Thorns were all over the Reign, playing with confidence, and disrupting the passing lanes. Allie Long, Angie Kerr, Alex Morgan all combined with a final shot coming from Nikki Washington and out for another Thorns corner. Fueled by the goal, the Thorns played combinations, triangles, and one touch passing soccer.

    However, this wasn’t the reason for the second Thorns goal as that was the result of a turnover by the Reign and Christine Sinclair hustling into position to deliver a killer ball into a streaking Morgan who slotted it home past the keeper. This play devolved the Thorns attack a bit as they then attempted to play the “get the ball into empty space quickly” routine a bit too often after the goal which allowed the Reign (through Jessica Fishlock) back into the game as the Thorns stopped pressing the back line engagement zone up to the halfway line. Fishlock fouled, passed, and made a nuisance of herself until it all paid off in the 73rd minute as she one-timed a misplayed ball past Karina Leblanc for a goal. She then proceeded to pound the Reign badge, celebrate and overjoy herself a might much for many of the fans in Portland.

    I would be remiss to point out a few items as well including the thunderous applause for Danielle Foxhoven as the Portland Pilot replaced the other Portland Pilot, Angie Kerr, in the 77th minute. This Thorns crowd knew their history and showed their appreciation for the local talent that many watched play just a few miles up the road.

    The game was over, the team saluted the fans, the fans saluted the team and the joy was palpable in the stands. Everything went according to plan, from the fantastic tifo to the beginning of the chants to a Thorns FC 2-1 win. This was the beginning of something new, something amazing, fantastic and, despite all the prognostications and naysayers, it was something organic and authentic.

    Certainly a few songs were something you might hear at a Timbers match, just like many of the songs you would hear at a Timbers match you might hear at a Livorno or Chelsea match. However, the passion, creativity and love shown to the team were authentically Portland.

    A good day for one and all who came together to root on their city and their team. Next up, the Thorns take on Chicago Red Stars in Chicago. The next home game is May 16th and I hope to see you there.

  • 04/22/2013 5:48 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    Were you distracted by all the festivities this week? Did you miss the deadline for the logo contest? Well, today’s your lucky day. We heard about some good designs out there, and we don’t want to miss them. So we are extending the contest until Thursday, April 25, at noon.

    Vector files are best, but a raster file will be okay if it’s at least 12 x 12 inches at 300 dpi. I can answer questions about file types if you have them.

    Email your entry to rosecityriveters@gmail.com before noon on Thursday.

  • 04/21/2013 5:25 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    I’m tired. I’m very tired. But every minute has been absolutely worth it. Thank you all.

    It hasn’t all been easy. At every turn, there were naysayers. “Let it grow organically.” “Don’t force it.” “Don’t try so hard.” “You’re taking this too seriously.”

    Yes. We did take it seriously. And the work put in by dozens of volunteers resulted in what we saw this afternoon.

    We are, as promised, setting the standard for the support of women’s soccer in North America.

    I just got home and received the following email. It is posted here with the author’s permission. And I offer him my sincere thanks. 

    Anyone that felt the Portland Thorns FC supporters group was going to be forced from the beginning, rather than growing organically, would be very pleased by what happened today. This afternoon, we were able to see the fruits of a few dozen people’s labors. It was imperfect. It was awkward. It was committed. It was awesome.
            A true test of the quality of support came early for the Rose City Riveters, as a few members were forced to ask the folks in the 200s – opened up last minute by the Thorns FO – if they would come down for a few minutes to help with the home opener tifo. As it turns out, it’s much easier for 40 people to cut a thousand seats worth of table roll than it is to fill those thousand seats. The Thorns version of the North End is going to take time to figure itself out. But when people are willing to do the prep work for the tifo, and brave enough to ask for help when the GA section is roomier than anticipated, the opportunity for a new supporters group to succeed is great.
            Despite weeks of snarky comments on Twitter and elsewhere, the chants developed for the first printing of Riveters chant sheets were pretty good. No, not all were stellar, but they were fun and new, and – thankfully – not re-workings of old Timbers chants. Yes, there were PTFC chants and Rose City chants that were used word for word, but no chants featuring the word “Timbers” were used at all. This was a huge relief. We were even able to use a couple of anti-Seattle chants in the first home match. That was a nice touch.
            Bottom line, we all have given the Rose City Riveters and its organizers a hard time throughout this endeavor. Turns out they were up to the task, and appear poised to move forward in a positive – and big – way as the main supporters group for the Thorns. Patch and Sunday were the only capos the entire match, and should be commended for reigning in ten sections of fans to the best of their ability. The tifo crew did a fantastic job of planning the display, getting the player two-sticks designed and painted, then presenting them to our newest athletes upon completion of the match. It was nice to be excited and enthused over something that, more often than not, was the butt of so many jokes leading up to the home opener. Yes, there will be snark in the future, as there is with anything related to Portland soccer. But if this group of supporters continues on in the same way it began, I have no doubt Jeld-Wen Field will be home to the two greatest groups of football supporters the world has ever seen.

    Caterjunes

  • 04/19/2013 5:24 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

    I went to the inaugural NWSL match in Kansas City this past weekend. I was one of 6,784 people to see two squads battle it out on a high school football field. I saw Christine Sinclair battle her Canadian National Teammate Desiree Scott for 90 frustrating minutes, I cheered on Dani Foxhoven when she came on in the second, and applauded the team at the final whistle. It was great fun. But it was also a very different experience than what will be happening at JELD-WEN on Sunday so I thought I would share a different perspective in the new National Women’s Soccer League.

    I wanted to go to support the new league and it just happened that this first match was a Thorns FC game. From my perspective, everything was lining up so well. I have been traveling to watch the US Women’s National Team play in various US cities for the past year so I’ve made friends with other women’s soccer supporters and 5 of us met up in KC for this match. I was the only one going for the Thorns, though. Fortunately, the Rose City Riveters family is already large and I was able to meet Patricia, Tara, Colby, and Robby from Champaign, IL (a 6 hour drive) and Luke Howitt from Long Beach, CA. Together, the six of us cheered on the Thorns that night.

    I knew there was a tailgate. It was stocked with sandwiches, chips, dips, soda and water. They had music blaring from a couple of cars and cornhole all set up, decked out in “Blue Crew” fashion. It was more than I was expecting for a first ever tailgate, but I was in. I got to know the founders of this supporters group, which got started almost as soon as FCKC was announced.

    The tailgate didn’t have a ton of people attend or stick around, but it was a great way to network fans into something larger. Blue Crew shirts were on sale as a fundraiser so they can start to do more and they were able to sell quite a few from what I saw. People were mingling and talking about women’s soccer and it was all a very good vibe.

    Getting there so early, I was able to see a lot of the set-up for the game. There was a slick Mexican food truck that ended up being one of the concession stands, a band started playing cover songs (and drowning out the tailgate music), Jimmy Johns had a tent and was giving out samples. ESPN had a reporter and a photographer there who interviewed the Blue Crew.

    At one point we even started seeing the teams driving around trying to figure out where they were supposed to be.

    About 2 hours before kickoff, a line at the gate started to grow. By the time they let people in, I’d estimate there were near 300 people waiting to get in. Mostly families of players, hoping to get front row seats. The seating at the Shawnee Mission Stadium is by section, so it was first come, first serve for bleacher seats. I went in and headed toward the top section, as we had a 2 stick that we wanted to keep up the whole game. That and I didn’t see many flags in the crowd so knew we could wave them proudly at the top and not interfere with anyone else’s gameday experience.

    Before the match, as the stands started to fill, the six of us were joined at the top by a couple of youth clubs. These kids were cute, the younger ones interested in our swag (scarves, hats, flags) and the older ones trying to talk smack about the Thorns or talk up KC. It was adorable. We let them wave the flags, we told them about the Rose City Riveters, and we even tried to get them to participate in PT-FC, at least until the older kids realized we were converting them. During the game, the kids went and sat by their parents and we were closed in on by more fans and families.

    When the teams came out for the first time, the Blue Crew got loud. They were having a blast. They even had a Rosie two-stick, though I don’t know what it said. I don’t think it was a slight in our direction, as we had just announced our SG name that week.

    I won’t write much about the game, as I’m not an analyst, but I will say that our players looked tired. The crowd seemed into it, from what we could tell. Again, we were at the top of the bleachers, but we heard the Blue Crew horns and drums for most of the game. A lot of the same songs were played on repeat, and we would interject “Thorns” in where we could to sing along. We weren’t prepared with many chants or all that organized, but we stood and had fun the whole game.

    At half they played a couple of audience participation games and had a couple of mascots come out and interact with the crowd. A lot like what I’ve seen at Pilots games over the years.

    The second half it started to cool down a bit (it had been about 70 degrees at kickoff, cooled down to maybe 50 degrees) and around the 75th minute I noticed that the crowd was thinning out a bit. We started chanting “Game’s not over!!” as it looked like the majority of people leaving were across the stadium, then the people in front of us left. I wouldn’t say it was a mass exodus, as a majority of people stayed until the end, but I was surprised by how many people left before the final whistle.

    After the final whistle, the teams made the rounds to thanks the crowd, as expected. We waved our flags as the Thorns came over. It was a nice moment.

    Then there were The Autographs. A phenomenon I’ve only seen in women’s soccer. Crowds of fans waiting for players to acknowledge them. A lot of FCKC fans looking to get Morgan’s autograph were a little distraught that she was whisked off to the side right away. We didn’t stick around to get any autographs, but it took us a little while to take down our 2 stick that was zip-tied to the top of the bleachers so we saw a lot of the hub-bub.

    We stopped by the merch table on the way out to see if they had any “Inaugural Match” gear but it was all FCKC gear. Some different stuff I haven’t seen from the Thorns yet, like stadium seats, mini soccer balls, lapel pins, and the more basic stuff like kits, hats, tees.

    All in all, I had a great time at the game, wished our team did better but it felt good to get the first match out of the way. Also, we met up with some KC supporters at the local pub, Sully’s and had some good talks about women’s soccer and our new markets. Everything I could ask for from 31 hours in Kansas City, really.


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