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Riley laments absences; unsure on Morgan return

Paul Riley lamented the absence of his World Cup players. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Paul Riley lamented the absence of his World Cup players. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Following Saturday’s Portland Thorns FC loss to Sky Blue FC, head coach Paul Riley lamented his team’s lack of punch, mostly due to the absence of forward Alex Morgan and eight other players due to the World Cup.

The Thorns are expected to get a much needed influx of World Cup players next week, but it appears that Morgan may not immediately be one of them.

“I’m not so sure about that. I’ll have Alex tell you about that,” the coach said following the club’s 1-0 loss at Sky Blue, while discussing his need for the World Cup players. He added, “I don’t think she’ll be ready for Seattle.”

Morgan was at the match but was not made available to the media. The Thorns next play against Seattle Reign FC on Wednesday, July 22. The match is selling tickets at a record pace and it could be the first stadium sellout in club history.

“I thought we should have gotten something out of the game tonight,” Riley said. “If we stick one of those first couple of chances away…but that’s the truth of it we don’t have any dynamics up front. Without nine players, it’s not easy. Most of our dynamic players aren’t here.”

Besides Morgan and Tobin Heath, who was also at Yurcak Field but not in uniform on Saturday, the Thorns have players from Canada, Germany and Australia ready to rejoin the squad. Christine Sinclair, Nadine Angerer and Clare Polkinghorne are all in Portland and ready to join the team upon its return. Jodie Taylor should also be ready to go after a deep World Cup run with England. Stephanie Catley, who has been back with the team but on the injured list the last two games, is also expected to rejoin the team shortly. Rhian Wilkinson, who played through the World Cup at less than 100 percent, is more of a question mark. McCall Zerboni was not at the World Cup but missed the last two games through suspension.

Riley said that Canadian Kaylyn Kyle, who filled in for Zerboni, was not obligated to play but stepped in to take Zerboni’s place in a home-and-home against Sky Blue.

“It’s just hard for the players coming off the World Cup,” he said. “They’re very, very tired. Especially the teams coming from countries that went deep in the tournament. Kaylyn Kyle’s done us a favor to be perfectly honest with you. McCall’s not here with the red card and she knew that she could get her starting spot back.”

The Thorns only won one time after the World Cup players departed and will wake up Monday four points out of a playoff spot with three teams to pass. Riley acknowledged it will be difficult to work in all of the returning players as well as bid adieu to some of the amateurs that worked so hard for the team.

“I think you need that in this league, you need difference-makers,” he said of the returnees. “Our difference-makers aren’t playing at the moment. Without them we’re just a good side that works hard and plays good football. You aren’t necessarily going to get results that way.”

Riley went on to praise his amateur players — he prefers to call them reserves — and said many of them will be sent to play in Europe.


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