Thorns FC Opponent Dossier: Washington Spirit - May 19, 2013
Set to meet for the second time this season, the Portland Thorns play host to the Washington Spirit on Sunday (2pm PT webstream: www.portlandthornsfc.com, radio: Freedom 970). Find out everything you need to know about the opposition.
What happened when the teams last met?
The Thorns recorded their third victory of the season with a 2-1 win at the Maryland SoccerPlex in front of 5,011 supporters. A penalty kick from Alex Morgan opened the scoring before Nikki Washington doubled the Thorns’ lead and then Diana Matheson hit back with a late penalty kick.
While both teams each registered 11 shots on goal, the Thorns had to rely on goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc to make six saves. It was one of the toughest games that Cindy Parlow Cone’s team played, but they still stuck to their attacking style with Christine Sinclair and Morgan both hitting the target twice with shots.
What did the Thorns learn from that game?
Even though Washington proved to be a strong team, the Thorns finished the game knowing that there was room for improvement.
There were periods during the game when the Thorns’ pressure forced turnovers and allowed them to dictate the tempo, but it didn’t happen enough and that allowed Washington to build their own patterns of play. It was also a game that showcased the defensive toughness of Washington, who has one of the best backlines in the league.
What did the coaches have to say?
Portland Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone
“They’re a fantastic team. Their backline is very good with Robyn Gayle, Tory Huster, Ali Krieger and (Domenica) Hodak with Ashlyn Harris in goal. In front of them having (Lori) Lindsey and Julia Roberts, that’s tough to play against. They are a very good defensive team.”
Washington Spirit head coach Mike Jorden
“I’m kind of tired of talking about how young we are, but it’s a reality. You look at Portland and they have a lot of good veteran players. We’ve still got to keep learning a little bit more about each other. The fight is definitely there, just playing a little tighter and less mistakes.”
How have Washington fared since then?
Following that defeat to the Thorns, Washington tied 1-1 with the Boston Breakers before securing a 4-2 victory away to Seattle Reign. That leaves them with a record of 1-2-3, which indicates that they have done okay so far this season – apart from the defeats to the Thorns and Sky Blue FC – but there is still room for improvement.
Head coach: Mike Jorden
After leading the DC United Women to their first Eastern Conference title, Jorden ensured that his reputation as a shrewd coach in the women’s game was cemented. The Ohio native had already done a lot in his coaching career before that with some excellent work at youth level, including working on the Virginia Youth Soccer Association Olympic Development Program. He is also a 10-time Virginia State Cup champion.
Star Player: Ali Kreiger
Able to play in defense or midfield, Kreiger is the type of player that every coach would love to have at their disposal. Intelligent with her use of the ball, the United States international clearly picked up good habits from playing in Germany with FFC Frankfurt. The bulk of her club soccer has been spent with Washington as she played for the Freedom before joining the Spirit this year.
One To Watch: Julia Roberts
No, this is not the famous Hollywood actress, but a 22-year-old midfielder from Maryland. After graduating from the University of Virgina, Roberts went on to play 13 games for Seattle Sounders Women before being signed as a discovery player by Washington. A hard-working player who covers a lot of ground, she has showed already this season that she is capable of standing out in the NWSL.
What can the Thorns expect?
They will face a team that is difficult to break down with a defense that is well protected by a midfield consisting of top-class talent in the likes of Matheson and Lori Lindsey. But even if the Thorns break past those players, they will come up against Kreiger and Robyn Gayle, while Ashlyn Harris is a solid goalkeeper.
Washington are very similar to the Thorns in that they like to move the ball forward quickly and get as much service as possible into their forwards. Yet, they have not clicked as a creative unit and that holds them back at key times – and it also gives the opposition opportunities to push them onto the back foot.
Who are their main threats?
Tiffany McCarty has been a real livewire in recent games and she made a big impact when introduced at halftime in the last outing against the Thorns. She also scored in the win over Seattle, while Matheson, Krieger and Victoria Huster chipped in with one goal apiece to show that they can supply goals from midfield.
The pace of Stephanie Ochs is bound to cause a lot of headaches for teams, so keeping a close eye on her is essential. Although, stopping Matheson and Roberts from linking play needs to be the primary objective for the Thorns as Washington heavily rely on their midfield engine room in defense and attack. In terms of substitutes, both Caroline Miller and Jasmyne Spencer can cause a lot of problems for teams.
Where are they most vulnerable?
Tending to play a lot of their soccer in the middle of the field, Washington can be caught narrow at times and that would open up space out wide for the Thorns to attack down the flanks. And making the most of the width of the pitch can be crucial when trying to keep possession of the ball and attempting to unlock a strong backline.
At set pieces, Washington can also be vulnerable. If the Thorns can get good deliveries into the penalty area, then they may be able to profit from them. But their best chance of winning the game is simply by sticking with their own style – it worked the first time that they met and it should work again, if they can be more clinical in this game.
Did You Know?
Washington has their very own supporter group, who are called The Spirit Squadron, and they have racheted up the atmosphere at home games in Maryland this year.