Portland Thorns Olympians return with medals; the club strengthens its place at the top of the NWSL: Soccer Weekend
The five Portland Thorns players who went to the Tokyo Olympics will return with medals in hand.
In a thrilling final, Christine Sinclair and Canada won gold by beating Sweden on penalties. Sinclair –– who was born in Burnaby, British Columbia, but spent most of his academic and professional life in Portland –– scored his 187th international goal earlier in the tournament, played 86 minutes in the final and was won his first gold medal.
The other four Thorns Olympians won bronze medals early Thursday morning after helping the United States Women’s National Team beat Australia 4-3. Adrianna Franch, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn and Lindsey Horan played all 90 minutes of the bronze medal game.
thorns on an unbeaten streak
The Thorns continued their momentum last weekend, beating KC NWSL for the third time in a row this season and solidifying their place atop the NWSL standings.
It is easy in football to become complacent. To differentiate between dominating a game and playing nonchalantly, especially as the night progresses. For the most part, Portland hasn’t had this problem. He never seems nervous to hang on to leads, as has happened in the past.
Since their 2-0 loss to North Carolina, the Thorns are undefeated in their last five games, with two of four wins thanks to a single goal. When he has just one goal, Portland seems more likely to score a second than conceding an equalizer.
“Instead of stretching out as the game progressed, we made sure to be more compact and smarter when we went out or held,” said midfielder Rocky Rodríguez. “I think it was a big step forward compared to previous weeks, especially in Houston. We still have work to do, but I think we have taken a step forward today.
Now, the Thorns continue to build on the consistency and discipline that has seen them keep several clean sheets over the past few weeks. They haven’t allowed a goal since Orlando Pride’s Marisa Viggiano scored in the 95th minute. In fact, it’s the only goal Portland has allowed since June 26, and only the third since late May.
This consistency, especially defensive, is what allowed the Thorns to open a lead of five points at the top of the table.
It is not easy to get results in the NWSL. Challenging road sites and nearly even teams help create a league with a lot of parity. These factors worsened with most teams missing several players from international competition.
That makes the Thorns not dropping three points in nearly a month all the more impressive. When asked how they managed to accomplish the feat, coach Mark Parsons acknowledged the way his team approached each game.
“The mindset, instead of being annoyed by this time, is to change that and not see it as a challenge, but as an opportunity,” Parsons said. “See this opportunity to give people key development time and help them on their journey, and therefore watch what happens. “
Every team in the NWSL faces a lot of player absences during the Olympics and, as Parsons said, it’s the way the teams think about the situation that affects the way they play. He admitted that in the past he thought more about players who weren’t available to him. Now he and his team are using a different mindset; they ignore the annoying little difficulties and instead focus on the opportunities that the month’s stretch brings to different players.
From midfielder Olivia Moultrie who got late minutes to defenseman Kelli Hubly’s long run as a starting center-back, the Thorns have prepared themselves to succeed in what is considered a notoriously tough series of games. It comes down to coaching, but also the state of mind.
After a month-long absence, outside-back Claudio Bravo and midfielder Eryk Williamson joined the Timbers in a 1-1 draw with San Jose on Wednesday.
Bravo started the game, while Williamson came off the bench in the second half. The two were quick to remind fans of what they had missed over the past month. In the 16th minute, the Argentinian played a pass separating the line which almost created a first scoring chance. When Williamson entered the second half, he immediately exercised control in midfield.
Portland now has all of its returning international players available for selection, with the only other absences being health related. Instead of having outside factors dictating roster decisions, Savarese now has to keep players out of the roster due to depth. It means more difficult staff decisions, but it’s a more favorable situation for a coach.
“The fact that we are leaving players out at this time will create more competition,” said Savarese. “(It) will make the players understand that the games will be important to them and we have a better selection to be able to choose in the future.”
As Thursday’s transfer deadline quickly approached, Timbers general manager and president of football Gavin Wilkinson pulled the trigger on a move that sent forward Jeremy Ebobisse to San Jose in exchange for $ 1.167 million. general allowance dollars.
Fans found out about the move right after the team announced Wednesday night’s lineups via the Washington Post’s Steve Goff, who initially reported the exchange. Shortly before kick-off, Paul Tenorio of The Athletic confirmed the report.
“He is a player that I have seen growing up at the club,” said Savarese. “He is a player who is dear to all of us.”
Ebobisse ended his five seasons in Portland with 26 goals in 88 games. He spent time with T2 before breaking through in Savarese’s starting 11. Most recently, Ebobisse scored a late game-winning goal against FC Dallas and helped the Timbers come back to steal a point from Houston.
Ebobisse, a native of Maryland, came to Portland with a memorable Vancouver goal as the Timbers were without 12 players and had to call the T2 rookie. From there he became a reliable contributor. Now Ebobisse moves on to a new opportunity in San Jose, as the Timbers close the window shaking the roster.
WILLIAMSON A GOLD CUP CHAMPION
Days after hoisting the Gold Cup in Las Vegas, Williamson returned to Portland with much to share. After playing a few minutes in the previous United States Men’s National Team games, Williamson received the starting nod from coach Gregg Berhalter in the team’s 1-0 win over Mexico.
Williamson spoke of being on stage and watching the disappointed Mexican fans as his team lifted the trophy. He was also able to play with other players his age, all fighting for a spot on an ascending American team. The 24-year-old said he really enjoyed the opportunity to play alongside Kellyn Acosta and Gyasi Zardes, the latter of whom he had never met until last month.
“It’s good for my career,” said Williamson. “It’s good to play in a competitive tournament, not only with Portland but internationally. It is always an honor to represent your country at any level, but especially at the highest level.
Now Williamson is hoping he’s at the point in his career where call-ups are more common. He spent his time with the national team last month making his way to the starting lineup and winning a trophy. His next goal? Making Berhalter’s job tough when it comes to selecting his final roster for the World Cup qualifiers from a few weeks away.
INJURIES AND ABSENCES
The spikes: The five Olympians of the Thorns –– Forward Christine sinclair (Canada), midfielders Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, defender Becky sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Adrianna franch (US) –– have completed their stay in Tokyo and will return to Portland in the next few days, but not in time for the team’s game against the Washington Spirit this weekend.
Cheeky Tyler lussi is still absent as she recovers from an injury to her right hip.
Morgan Weaver missed last weekend’s game against KC NWSL. It is still unclear if she will return for the game against Washington.
Drink : Midfielder Eryk Williamson and outside the back Claudio Bravo returned to the lineup and played minutes Wednesday after returning from international competitions with their respective countries.
Goalkeeper Steve clark left the game against San Jose midway through the first half. After the game, Savarese said he was dealing with a strain that will be further evaluated in the coming days.
Drink : vs Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 7 (Root Sports) (Tickets)
The spikes: at Washington Spirit, 4:30 p.m. Saturday, August 7 (Paramount +)
– Portland Timbers and Thorns FC