PORTLAND–Presented with the 2016 NWSL Shield prior to the match, the Portland Thorns appeared very much a team that has no intentions of sharing their silverware dominating an overmatched Orlando Pride team in a rematch of teams’ opening match last year.
“It was kind of bittersweet. Obviously it’s a huge honor and goes to show the body of work we did last year, but we came up short. I think for all of us, there’s some unfinished business and still have that bitter taste in our mouth. Obviously to see the tifo our fans created was incredible, but we’re not just going after the Shield this year.” –Christine Sinclair on her thoughts of receiving the Shield prior to the match
Despite the accumulation of preseason rust and missing three key players, the Portland Thorns made a statement in their season opener, defeating the Orlando Pride 2-0 in front of a large and boisterous home crowd on Saturday.
“Shields Up” was the beautiful tifo unveiled before the match began and it was very much in line with an epic Star Wars space battle. Play was open in a back and forth manner that Thorns head coach Mark Parsons intoned, “It was like a basketball game,” in his remarks to media members following the match.
Parsons had his challenges selecting a lineup for the match. Defender Katherine Reynolds, and midfielders Tobin Heath and Dagny Brynjarsdottir were out. Lindsay Horan and Hayley Raso both began training with the team this week. Others, returning from USWNT duty.
Orlando had similar problems but had one advantage over the Thorns: Orlando had film from the Thorn’s recently completed preseason tournament. Orlando did not take part in any preseason matches.
“Shields Up” would be an appropriate name for the match as well as there were gaffes on defense which Portland was lucky Orlando was not able to capitalize on. “It looked like it was the first game of the season,” Parsons would remark.
“The first 15-20 minutes were going both ways, but once we settled in, we stuck to our game plan,” midfielder Allie Long said.
In the first half, an Orlando player had a free look at goal as Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch got caught outside of the six-yard box. The shot was placed wide left. An back in front of the goalmouth was very nearly captured by a rushing Pride player. Orlando would have another dangerous opportunity when Franch committed a foul outside of the penalty box when she failed to clear the ball.
Parsons remarked that he felt the second half was “more balanced.” Orlando would have two golden opportunities in a sixty second period early in the second half. Again Orlando would be stymied by an inability to finish.
The shields came back up at that point and Orlando would not threaten again
“I think the first half we sat back a little more,” Long explained. “At halftime we adjusted some things and just had more of the freedom that if we think we can win [the ball]we can go. Just to step up the pressure and make them uncomfortable, winning more balls in the midfield.”
The match was effectively finished after Nadia Nadim converted her penalty shot. Christine Sinclair’s goal in the 67th minute was the exclamation mark. Long won the ball and fed a brilliant pass which Sinclair buried. From there on out, the biggest obstacle Portland faced was the Offside Rule as two goals were waved off and Orlando appeared to get away with a handball in second half stoppage time.
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