Portland wins Shield with 3-1 victory over Sky Blue

Eric Scatamacchia September 25, 2016 84

On the final day of the 2016 NWSL season, the Portland Thorns took on Sky Blue with a chance to take the Shield with a win or draw.

The Thorns earned the Shield in style coming back from an early deficit to defeat Sky Blue 3-1.

Sky Blue got out to an early lead in the sixth minute when Kelley O’Hara found Tasha Kai at the back post off a corner kick. Kai won a header and sent the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-0.

Portland looked for a quick response following Kai’s goal as Lindsey Horan struck a shot in the box, but her attempt was blocked by defender Kristin Grubka.

In the 18th minute, Portland’s Meghan Klingenberg sent in a cross to Christine Sinclair, but her header was directed right at Sky Blue goalkeeper Caroline Casey.

Late in the first half the Thorns found an equalizer off a Tobin Heath free kick. Heath sent the ball into the box and Allie Long flicked a header past Casey to make it 1-1.

Heath’s assist was her 10th of the 2016 regular season, an NWSL record.

In the second half, Portland found a breakthrough in the 57th minute as Horan got on the end of a Nadia Nadim cross and converted a diving header to give her team the lead.

Long clinched the victory and Shield for Portland in the 84th minute as she scored her second goal of the match to make it 3-1.

The Thorns remained in control for the rest of the match as the team earned a 3-1 victory and the 2016 NWSL Shield. The win was Portland’s first ever win at Yurcak Field.

The Thorns finish the 2016 regular season with 41 points and will host the Western New York Flash in the semifinals of the NWSL playoffs on Sunday, October 2 at 5 p.m. ET. Sky Blue finishes the season in seventh place with 26 points.

  • Guest

    10 assists in 13 games for Heath is pretty crazy.

    • Constant Weeder

      Not to take anything away from Heath, but it doesn’t hurt to have Sinclair, Long, Nadim, Horan, and Brynjarsdottir to serve to.

      • DNG

        It definitely helped having Brynjarsdottir and Horan in the box. They are 2 very dangerous targets. Sinclair isn’t really that anymore and Nadim was never really that. I’ve been pretty impressed with the Heath Long connection recently although Long might have been offside tonight. After all is said and done she still needs to put the ball into a great area and for the most part she has done it consistently all season for the Thorns.

        • Constant Weeder

          It’s really hard to tell from the stream/replay whether Long was offside on the free kick from Heath, although the AR clearly didn’t think so. She was certainly flirting with it. I notice, though, that not one of the Sky Blue players put her hand up.
          This was almost a duplicate of Long’s back-to-goal header against WNY.

          • Arcie Tillydee

            That was telling to me, too: none of the SB players called for the offside. Lovely ball in, that one…

        • Steglitz49

          Ask the Swedes about Nadim if you have forgotten Algarve 2014.

        • Donjerue

          Sinclair not that good? What planet are YOU on? She’s a better player than anyone on SBFC and has the hard https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1837749bb2c8163e0dadd1af288d73f70b223eb64ff8479fda7447bd21d217c2.png ware (and stats) to prove it. And Nadim? All she did is lead the Thorns (and we know who is on the roster) in goals, finishing 3rd in the league. Guess you guys gave her away Bwaaaaahhh!

          • DNG

            Where did I say that Sinclair or Nadim weren’t good? I said they weren’t main targets on set pieces.

          • Lorehead

            We do have Dagny, and she’d be the main target on set pieces, but a lot of them go to Long or Sinc. If you ignore PKs for the moment, the Thorns’ offense has mostly gone through Heath, and the scoring has been very balanced, with Sinc, Dagny, Long and Nadim all good options. The same is true of the Spirit, who have four players with four or more goals.

          • DNG

            I’m not disputing any of that. My original comment was about targets on set pieces. I think Long, Dagny, and Horan have been the most effective targets for the Thorns on set pieces this year. Sinclair and Nadim have been good in the run of play but haven’t really been too dangerous on set pieces.

          • Arcie Tillydee

            Yeah, that’s what I figured you meant, although I can see how that could be interpreted differently. Nadia’s not a target forward, for sure. Excellent scoring threat (now that she’s found her shooting boots…she had trouble finishing earlier in the season, and you could tell it was frustrating her), and I also love how she really sticks it in on the defensive side of the ball.

          • DNG

            Nadim has a lot of goals from PKs but she has definitely rebounded nicely. Her touch and dribbling seems to have improved as well although no one will mistake her for Heath. She’s a good player.

      • Steglitz49

        That is why the assist is an odd measure because it depends on the recipient as well as the passer.

        • DNG

          Chances created, passes that lead to a shot, is another stat used now.

        • Constant Weeder

          Agreed; odd and interesting in that it’s a way of quantifying teamwork, a quality I think is generally underrated in commentary (both professional and amateur) on soccer. Commentators (or commenters) will say, ” Oh, that was a nice bit of combination play.” when, in fact, the entire scoreline is built on how well each team connects its passes.

          • DNG

            Sometimes the goal giving pass is the tougher bit of skill than the actual goal. That’s impossible to quantify though and you would need to examine every goal see it. I doubt Heath cares how much she is individually recognized anyway, she just wants to win.

        • DNG

          It’s funny that in Hockey the most important stat is points which includes secondary assists as well. Neither are perfect but I think Hockey does a better job at recognizing playmakers than football traditionally has.

          • Steglitz49

            Probably reflects the differences in the type of games they are.

            Soccer and cricket come from England, a foggy island off the continent (of Europe). Cricket has about as many statistics as baseball while soccer has few. If it was easy to judge soccer mathematically, those stats would already be in place. After all, the first ladies FA Cup final was played in 1971 and the men’s about 100 years before that.

          • Constant Weeder

            So if soccer counted secondary assists, would the ref get one on the Sky Blue goal?

          • DNG

            It makes less sense in soccer since there may be as many as 11 players involved in a 30+ pass goal. Hockey is much more end to end. Every thing would be considered very direct in soccer terms. Still, it seems like in soccer playmakers don’t always get recognition unless their teams win trophies and it is evident from watching the games how important they are to their team.

          • Lorehead

            American football, though, valorizes assists (touchdown passes) more than anything else. How many people could name the NFL’s top scorer in history? All the top scorers are kickers.

          • DNG

            Fair. I think Hockey and Soccer are more similar to one another than either is to football though in terms of scoring. I think that matters for this discussion. The comment on the importance of quarterbacks is a good point though.

    • DNG

      10 in 14 she didn’t start one of the matches.

  • Rdalford

    Sky Blue FC attendance 3780 (from match report on NWSL site)

    Sky Blue 2016 season attendance total=21621 avg=2162 (mean) with median 1899
    by match (2571+1252+1275+2754+1542+1732+1552+3108+2055+3780)=21621

    for reference,
    Sky Blue 2015 attendance total=21889 2015 avg=2190 (mean) with median 1681
    the 2015 attendance was helped by post WC (3104, 2067, 3152, 5547) bump

    • Rdalford

      goes without saying, but I am saying it anyway, Sky Blue attendance continues to be lowest in the league. Contrast with Portland is significant. The last home match in Portland was sold out 21,144 while the total 2015 season attendance for Sky Blue was 21621

      • obo

        On the other hand, Sky Blue outdrew Chicago this week.

        • Steglitz49

          Also, 3780 is only slightly (8%) less than attended Man City’s match vs Chelsea which won them the FAWSL title.

        • Lorehead

          Which really worries me, because Chicago is back in the stadium that was too expensive for it in its WPS days, but with worse attendance. And there isn’t an obvious quick fix: it was an Olympic year, the USWNT won the World Cup, the team is good.

          Sky Blue doesn’t seem to be making any progress, but at least it’s consolidated its gains from last year. The league’s expansion plans might include buying out some of the existing franchises and relocating them.

          Portland, on the other hand, might see its attendance finally fall next year: it raised its season-ticket prices considerably.

          • Steglitz49

            More likely that they will add clubs in pairs till they reach some magic number and they can create an east and west division etc.

            If they had a 16 team league, they could run a play-off of the top 8 teams.

          • Lorehead

            If they had a 14-, 12- or 10-team league, they could run a playoff of the top eight teams.

          • Steglitz49

            For a play-off to be meaningful, don’t you want to restrict it to the top half?

            Most European countries run a challenge cup as well as a league. The English also runs the Conti Cup (in additon to the FA Cup). The Conti cup is open to the teams of FAWSL1 & 2. Spain has a 16 club league and since a few years now the 8 top teams go into the Queen’s Cop (Copa de la Reina).

          • Lorehead

            League cups are essentially a playoff for everyone! In practice, leagues want to strike a balance between giving more teams a chance and not making the regular season meaningless.

          • Steglitz49

            Nobody calls either the FAWSL or the Spanish Legaue meaningless, in spite of the structure their Cups.

            I suspect it helps that the FA women’s Cup has been contested since 1971 and the Spanish Queen’s Cup since 1981 (like the Swedish Cup). The patina of age has established them in the minds of people. The Conti Cup is only 5 years old, I think, but the fans have swallowed that, line hook and sinker, too.

          • Arcie Tillydee

            Yeah, the season ticket increase was pretty big. I’m in dire financial straits these days (and re-upped anyway, because I’m a fool), and it was a bit of a blow.

          • Steglitz49

            As a curiosity, how much is the season ticket?

          • Arcie Tillydee

            I sit in Section 120 (see image), in the fifth row. The field seats and Root Sports Lounge are right at field level, and most of those are bought by companies (seldom see the same people twice). You get food service, etc…sat in one for a Timbers match once. Nice service, but you can’t see the game that well at basically player shoulder level. =P

            I like my seat a lot. Good view of the field, but still close enough to really get immersed in the game (and hear the coaches swear). It’s also the section the seat VIPs in, so I’ve gotten to meet Abby, Rapinoe, Shannon Boxx, etc. My seat’s still a good deal…it’s just that the increase came at a bad time for me. Struggling these days in our horrible economy… =/

            http://portland-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/elfinderimages/2017ThornsSeatingMap_v1.1.jpg

          • Steglitz49

            $275. WoSo season tickets in Europe are more like $75, maybe as high as $100, but usually not a reserved seat just a section of the covered stand. I guess it varies from team to team

          • Arcie Tillydee

            The $135 General Admission tix are like that: non-reserved, covered section. I thought about downgrading for next year, but the problem is I’d not be able to sit very close. That’s the Riveters’ section, and they stand up all game (I’m not physically able to do that: I need a hip replacement, and it hurts too much to stand that long).

          • Steglitz49

            It is all about the experience and spirit on the day.

            Btw, I am told that some companies are putting together packages for going to Holland next year for Euro-17. I have not seen any details so it could be pricier than one might think.

          • Lorehead

            Yeah, I enjoy standing with the Riveters, but whenever I take my parents, I get touchline seats.

          • obo

            Unlike TA, the 200s behind the Riveters sit most of the game.

          • Arcie Tillydee

            Yeah, and I gave a lot of thought to a G/A ticket, since I can sit up in the 200’s. But I really like my Row E seat in 120! =P

          • kwhatch

            More games added for 2017. The 4 team preseason tournament (3 double-headers) is now included in the package. Was a extra cost option in 2016. If there will be more league games they are already included in the price.

            We’re now Annual Members, not Season Ticket Holders. One of the problems the Timbers faced was what to do if any of the 3 Bonus Games (friendlies, Open Cup home games, etc.) included in the package didn’t occur. (Answer: credit applied to next year’s fee.)

            Key Bank Club will get free hot dogs, sodas, pretzels, etc. like Timbers matches. With a 54% ticket price increase that’s a lot of free food to eat to break even.

          • Lorehead

            I hope things look up for you!

          • Arcie Tillydee

            Thanks! Me, too…Dicey…but we’ll see what happens. I kind of suck at adulting…but by golly, I have my season seat!

          • Craigaroo

            taking a guess from the chart posted by Arcie below, I’m guessing most seats went up about 25% and some seats, like the Field Seats and Root Lounge went up consdirably more than that? For 2016, did season ticket holders get about a 20% discount off the individual game price?

          • tonysocref

            Discount for Touchline Reserved was about 18%.
            Increase for my seats (TR) was around 30% per seat. ($190 to $275)

      • Steglitz49

        The median for 2016 about 15% (200) higher than 2015 while the means are essentially the same. Thus, considering the post-WC-15 bump, 2016 was a better season than 2015.

        • GT

          As a said above, purging most of the wid-week games helped a lot.

          • GT

            “Mid-week”. That’s what I get for pointing out other peoples editorial mistakes.

    • GT

      I think reducing the number of weekday games helped attendance across the board. However I don’t see that “seminole moment” in WoSo yet. If the World cup victory and the wonderful celebrations afterwards, as well as the Olympics this year didn’t do it, I’ m not sure what will. Orlando’s “pretty good” attendance this year provides some hope. Clearly the “right market” with the “right organization” is the hope for the future.

  • guest

    i have to give credit where credit is due. the nwsl did a great job building the portland thorns roster this year.

    • DNG

      If you want to blame anyone blame Orlando for entering the NWSL and demanding Morgan.

      • dumb

        and Morgan is hardly worth it…

        • mockmook

          Ticket sales matter.

          • DNG

            I’m curious as to how much she influences ticket sales for her own team. She definitely fills seats for the away teams because lots of kids want to see her in that one chance they get per year. The Orlando fans get to see her 10 times though so maybe they don’t get a bump or as big of one. As far as what Portland ended up getting in that trade (Sonnett, Horan, and Klingenberg), they robbed Orlando blind from a personnel stand point. Then again, the only reason Orlando got that no. 1 overall was to trade to Portland for Morgan so maybe it’s the Breakers who get the short end again. Also, I realize Zerboni wanted to leave but after that trade Bostons defense was never the same.

          • obo

            Portland’s average attendance is up by a little more than SBFC’s worst 2016 attendance (1,252) without Morgan.

            Even in the most charitable sense, Orlando missed their preseason target of 10,000/game by a little less than the same amount.

          • DNG

            Their yearly attendance figures are skewed by that first game with 23,000. Without that match I think they missed it by more and their attendance has been going in a negative direction for most of the year.

          • obo

            7,161 average without the opener

            7,098 average in their last three home matches

          • Steglitz49

            and the median is?

          • obo
          • Steglitz49

            Hence, judge by medians, not means.

          • Steglitz49

            Not judged by their median, only by the mean.

          • obo

            Median was not far off the non-opener mean (7,195, +34)

          • Steglitz49

            with or without that opener?

          • Steg Planet

            Why don’t you do the math yourself, since you are an expert at median and mean, preaching about it incessantly for the past four years? Troll.

          • Steglitz49

            Please register yourself so that we can follow your comments.

    • chive-on

      Here we go…… Always going to be haters. Whaaaa….

    • Arcie Tillydee

      More the Thorns’ front office than the league, really. That FO is the same as for the Timbers, who have had to try and build competitive teams with far fewer gifts from the league than, say, LA or Seattle (or either NY team, etc…MLS kisses major market butt). They’re good at it…and they worked the NWSL’s system perfectly. Doesn’t hurt to have players willing to play for less (that is, for the league’s very low non-allocated maximum) just to land in Portland.

  • SEM

    Well deserved Portland!! Seattle must be seething about it, that and that they aren’t going to the playoffs.

  • Timber Dave

    Tobin Heath for MVP. She has been astonishing this season. I realize that MVP awards are usually given to goal-scorers, but she has really driven this Thorns team forward.

  • Calci0

    Side story, is the successful comeback of N. Kai!

    • Silver Frost

      Poor woman seems to get hit in the head an awful lot.

    • GT

      Disagree. She’s good in the air. Nice head goal last night. But the number offsides, the give-aways, and generally dumb soccer that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, tells the complete story. I hope Sky Blue is not intending to keep her in the future (if they have a future.)

      • Calci0

        She has scored multiple ways, and I think when taken into account her long absence from the game, her return could still be considered a success. Not to mention, her age.

        • GT

          OK, her absence from the game, her age, sure I give her credit. But in terms of building for the future, if I’m the decision maker, I’m looking for the Rocky’s, the Galtons, the Killions, the Kerrs etc.

  • Silver Frost

    Rasso comes up with the assist, as payoff for hard work in the corner. IMO Rasso would start on most other teams. It’s absurd the amount of talent Thorns have on their roster. Dagny as a sub.

    As for SB, Rocky didn’t look too good competing with the big girls last night. I realize she was competing against the USWNT midfield and a French WNT star in Henry. But she’s a rookie and may improve.

    • GT

      Disagree. I thought Rocky, Kerr and Killian hustled their asses off and “held their own. But I do agree that Portland was clearly the better team with more talent.

      • GT

        Also I hate to say it, but Maya Hayes has been a disappointment. She always seems to be chasing” the play rather than “dictating” the play. They never seem to be able to exploit her speed.

      • Constant Weeder

        Their ability to get Kerr behind the defense, and Kerr’s ability to manage the ball at speed make them very dangerous on the counter. Without some serious speed on the back line the Thorns would have been in trouble.

        • Arcie Tillydee

          Agreed. The Thorns have some serious speed back there. I recall Kat Reynolds running Kerr down twice (Sam’s fast, but like all but a handful of players, slows down while in possession), and Menges is a “fastest in the league” contender.

    • Arcie Tillydee

      Raso was a great addition. While she comes off the bench when the team is all available, I have confidence in her when she’s needed to play 90, too. She’s got really quick recognition and the pace to match.