Pilots Host Thorns Rose City Debut
On a beautiful Saturday evening at Merlow Field, nearly 5000 Portland soccer fans got their first look at the Portland Thorns. Everyone seemed to be itching for a game after a Timbers bye week, and several months without college soccer.
No Thorns jerseys to be revealed, the team wore simple grey nike dry-fit tee shirts and red shorts and socks. Pilots of course wore their purples.
No National Team players in attendance, but the team has been building has been progressing, and was ready to been seen.
Game started a bit slow, Thorns kept decent possession but it was of a slow tempo. Pilots showed flashes of danger as a couple quick passes flowed into a long ball to test the speed of the Thorns back 4.
This tactic paid off in the 30th minute half when Pilots forward Amanda Frisbie got behind the Thorns defense. Thorns gk Roxanne Barker came out and made herself big, but Frisbie somehow managed to smuggle the ball through and everyone watched as the ball slowly made its way into the net.
But even by that point, the Thorns had started to find a bit of a rhythm and were beginning to press the game.
The Catalyst for much of it was Angie Kerr, who on her return to Merlow, absolutely bossed the midfield. She calmly kept the ball in quick combinations or easy runs; and was always looking to slide a teammate into dangerous spaces. She often played just behind the two center forwards and created both space and numbers on the edge of the Pilots defense.
Its worth noting at this point the formations of the two teams. Both Played a 4-4-2, but they did it differently.
The Pilots played a flat midfield with 2 center mids and 2 wings. The Thorns however played with 4 center mids, each who could/would spin wide to create/exploit space.
This meant that for much of the game, the Thorns had a numbers advantage in the center of midfield, and the Pilots would look to escape wide/high. This helped Kerr maintain control of the midfield, because she always had a numbers advantage to help maintain possession options.
By the second half, the gap in experience started to show. That and the Thorns started to gel. Allie Long started to push wider and run at the Pilots right back. Slowly the 4 center mids pulled themselves further apart while still linking up well. The ball started to move quicker and the shots started to come.
In the 52nd minute Jessica Shufelt took a right footed shot from the edge of the box that the Pilots gk pushed onto the post. the ball defected out into the left side of the penalty area and Danielle Foxhoven capped an otherwise quiet homecoming with a goal. Her shot was first deflected off the goalkeeper, then a sliding pilots defender to creep across the line.
in the 73rd minute Allie Long put the Thorns ahead with a great right footed shot from the top of the 18.
The Pilots missed a great chance to equalize late in the game, and the Thorns held on for their first win in the Rose City.
Looking forward to the next one.
Next post, positional discussion, player observations.