The Portland Thorns have typically been praised for his or her attacking expertise.
That’s not surprising provided that they boast a roster that features world-renowned striker Christine Sinclair, U.S. Soccer’s 2016 Female Player of the Year Tobin Heath and U.S. Women’s National Team mainstays Lindsey Horan and Allie Long.
But their protection deserves simply as a lot recognition. Over the final yr, the Thorns have quietly develop into the perfect defensive team in the NWSL.
“Everyone defends,” Thorns coach Mark Parsons stated. “It takes all 11 gamers on the sector and anybody that comes in. On top of that, what (goalkeeper Adrianna Franch) and the again 4 have achieved this yr, like final yr, has been necessary. They’ve been implausible.”
In Parsons’ first yr on the helm in 2016, the Thorns conceded simply 19 objectives in 20 video games, which was fewest in the NWSL, regardless of dropping their star gamers to the 2016 Olympics in the course of the summer time.
And this season, they’ve proven that wasn’t a fluke. The Thorns have been the most effective defensive team in the NWSL in the primary third of the 2017 season. Portland has earned 5 clear sheets and conceded simply 5 objectives in eight video games, fewest in the league.
“We’ve been able to build off our success from last year,” Menges stated. “We have a very strong philosophy defensively. No matter who goes in there, it has been drilled into us enough that when (Parsons) puts anyone back there, they’ll get the job done.”
Menges and fellow middle again Emily Sonnett have been an enormous cause why the Thorns have had a lot success on protection.
Portland named Menges its membership MVP and defender of the yr in 2016 and her efficiency final season earned her a call-up to the U.S. Women’s National Team in November. This yr, Sonnett, a U.S. Women’s National Team common, was named to the inaugural NWSL Team of the Month in April.
With Menges and Sonnett on the sector, the Thorns have conceded simply 18 objectives and recorded 10 clear sheets in 23 video games since 2016.
“When those two are playing center back next to each other, we don’t concede many goals,” Parsons stated. “They compliment each other really well. There’s a great connection of teamwork between the two and there’s no ego there. They just want to get better.”
But whereas Menges and Sonnett have anchored the again line, they have not been the one cause for the defensive success.
U.S. Women’s National Team veteran Meghan Klingenberg has been a mainstay at left again for the Thorns, whereas Katherine Reynolds fought to earn the beginning proper again place and excelled final season. This yr, as Reynolds has dealt with a lingering groin damage, 23-year-old defender Celeste Boureille has stepped into the suitable again position and has enabled the Thorns to hardly miss a beat.
Along with the efficiency of the again 4, the Thorns have benefitted from a robust season from Franch in the web. Franch made seven saves to steer the Thorns to a 2-0 road win over Sky Blue on June Three, together with stopping a penalty kick and profitable NWSL Save of the Week for a point-blank cease on a header.
“It was the first time where we probably gave her too much to do and she came up big time,” Parsons stated. “There’s a lot of individual talent on this team, but that doesn’t mean anything, especially in this league. It’s about consistent hard work, togetherness and a commitment to putting the team first.”
The Thorns (Four-1-Three, 15 factors) at present sit in third place in the NWSL standings, simply three factors out of the top spot thanks in giant half to their defensive prowess.
While it took a short while for Portland’s assault to click on early in the yr, the protection has been top-notch because the begin of the season. Now, with the protection and assault showing to be in type, the Thorns are wanting like a team that golf equipment all through the NWSL ought to worry.
“It has been a hard unit to break down for other teams and I’m proud of their work,” Parsons stated. “I do feel like it’s going to get better. I feel like there’s more.”
— Jamie Goldberg | email@example.com
503-853-3761 | @jamiebgoldberg