The old adage states that defense wins championship. These words are ones that the Thorns are willing to live and die by. However there’s more to Parson’s style than a holistic defensive approach; rather than start anything new, him and the Thorns are seeking to double down on everything they’ve done right.
When asked about his defense, rather than speaking of a specific player, or even limiting it to the back-line, Parsons referred to the 11 as a whole, “This group has fallen in love with stopping the ball from going in the back of the net as much as getting it into the net.” Their adaptability to differing forms of offense was also well noted.
From his first moments with the club, it was clear that team would be emphasized above all. He doubled down on team building activities, and gave the players means and a voice. Whilst there’s no doubt that he’s the coach, a design of collaboration is clear. Everybody, from the still unpaid amateurs to the heart and soul of Canada, is seen as an important part to every game, and core to the club itself. “Everything we do is as a team,” as Sinclair put it.
Emphasis on constant growth is the final piece of the Portland puzzle, as it was for Carolina this season. In particular, Parsons commented on the improvement to Carolina’s defense this season; they only conceded two more goals than Portland. The rest of the league were anywhere between 10 to 31 goals away. Parsons also noted players willingness to want to learn and improve, both as humans and as professionals, as key to their development. “I think we’re peaking at the right time,” was the comment from Sinclair.
On facing the more or less the same team responsible for the home playoff loss of last season, him and the captain, Sinclair, both refused to be sucked into any form of revenge narrative. Whilst the Thorns aren’t unwilling to buy into a rivalry narrative when it fits. The win against Seattle last season, and the first win in Seattle this season are admittedly Parson’s favorite Thorns moments, they clearly don’t feel it here. There’s also not going to be an underestimation of the Courage, regardless of what underdog narrative they may try and sell. “We definitely took our foot off the pedal in the last game,” Franch said, referring to what they learned last time they faced the Courage, “and we don’t want to do that again, because it did allow that team to come in and possibly, you know, stay around. Once we figured out that we allowed them back in the game, we had to put our foot right back on the pedal and I think that mentality is keeping our foot on the pedal the whole time.” Both her and Sinclair stressed that this game was part of a formula the Thorns had been working on since the beginning. It’s one more game towards their ultimate goal.
When asked about the neutral site, Franch painted it as a positive for the league; even if it has a negative effect on the thorns. “I think for this team, it makes a difference. You know, if this was at home you have 19,000 or more fans in red.”
Home advantage or not, it’s clear that the Thorns are going to win, and nothing – location, narrative, or opponent – will sway them from that.