The opening weekend of the 2017 National Woman's Soccer League brought the Orlando Pride to Providence Park to face the Portland Thorns. Both teams were sporting newly acquired players and came out to show what they all had.
This game was the first to be televised with the new partner Lifetime as the "Game of the Week".
Lifetime signed a three-year partnership with the NWSL and will broadcast one game every Saturday during the regular season and all the playoff games.
A Busy First Half
As Portland started the game, it was apparent the pace of the match was going to move quickly. Straight off the bat, Thorns forward Mallory Weber tested the Pride goalkeeper but Ashlyn Harris was able to collect the shot without any trouble. Even though it was early in the contest, the Thorns were making statements right away.
The Pride showed up just after that with a run of their own. Jasmyne Spencer worked hard all match up the right side, as she tried to make something happen but could never connect with anyone. Spencer then caught Adrianna Franch, the Thorns goalkeeper, make a bad clearance but her shot went wide of the goal.
A few minutes later, Portland forward Christine Sinclair broke through the Pride back line and was able to get one on one with Harris. Harris came up big again with a huge save, taking the bullet of a shot straight to the chest. It was clearly a hard hit ball as Harris took a knee just after the ball was cleared by the Pride. She was able to get right back up after catching her breath.
Just moments later, Sinclair caused more troubles for Harris with a long ball in, but Harris came out of her box to perform a spectacular diving header to clear the ball out. It was a very risky maneuver but she was able to make it work.
On the half hour mark, Pride defender Alanna Kennedy was penalized for ahandball in the box; Kennedy did not receive a yellow card since the handball was not intentional. Nadia Nadim stepped up for the penalty kick and was able to get Harris to dive the wrong way and easily put the ball in the net.
Orlando played with some urgency after falling behind, but the first half ended with Portland on top, leading 1-0.
Portland Picks up the Pace
The second half started off with Portland picking up where they left off. On the other hand, Orlando got the ball into he final third, but they were unable to make anything develop despite winning a few corners.
In the 67th minute, the Pride committed a terrible turnover, as midfielder Allie Long won the ball in the midfield and after just a few touches sent if forward to Sinclair. Sinclair was able to get behind the Pride back line and got Harris one on one again but was able to get the ball past that gave Portland a commanding lead, 2-0. Long proved to be a headache for the Pride as she tried to get behind the defense. A
lthough she was able to beat Harris two more times, she was called offside both times. She did get another shot off late in the game but was denied by Harris. Portland wound up victories, winning 2-0 over Orlando.
With a hard loss to the Thorns, as the Pride watches the tapes, they will see they would repeatedly lose the ball in the midfield. This was the downfall for Orlando. The Thorns controlled the midfield which helped them be that much closer to goal. And the inability to control the midfield led to the second Thorns goal. Head coach Tom Sermanni will need to figure out how to make his multiple defenders push forward into the midfield to help.
The Thorns, on the other hand, seemed to be firing on all cylinders. The back line will still need to tighten up a little, especially after the poor clearance from French, but they look good early on in the season.