PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Thorns (8-4-2, 26pts.) struggles continued as they were handily defeated by the Boston Breakers (5-5-4, 19pts) in front of 12,436 at JELD-WEN Field in Portland Oregon.
The loss continued a recent losing trend for the Thorns, who have not scored in nearly 300 minutes, despite a starting strike-tandem of Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair.
The Thorns came out applying early pressure on an evolving Breakers defense, but it went all for naught as opposition tallied the first goal of the match.
Pushing Portland’s high-line defense in the 11th minute, Breakers midfielder Heather O’Reilly brought the ball down the flank and found a streaking forward Sydney Leroux, who was able to pull goalkeeper Karina Leblanc off her line to defend, and Leroux easily found the back of the net, putting her in the league-lead with 9 goals on the season.
“Heather has been playing me the most amazing through balls,” Leroux said following the match,
The Breakers would continue to push the Thorns back line, which struggled to contain the speed of Leroux, and as a result, they were able to break through once again in the 38th minute.
On a break on a counterattack, Leroux found herself once again with only the goalkeeper between herself and the goal. As she did with the first, she was able to bend the ball just enough out of the reach of LeBlanc and into the bottom corner for her second of the match and 10th overall.
“I think in the first half we were playing exactly to Boston’s strength,” said Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone. “We were giving the ball away in the midfield and allowing them to counterattack against us. Sydney Leroux is a world-class forward. You just can’t give her chances like that, having her turn and run at our defense. She’s going to put those away nine times out of 10.”
The Thorns pushed for much of the remaining time left in the first half, but were unable to capitalize on any of their chances, going into the half down two goals.
The second half was much of the same for both sides, though the Thorns began pushing more and more, only to find Breakers goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher with seemingly every shot. Even the inclusion of “super-sub” forward Danielle Foxhoven and a more attacking-minded 4-3-3 led to no results, though the Thorns did have several opportunities on goal and the Breakers went into a defensive shell.
The loss marks the third straight match without a victory, including a string of 293 minutes without a goal, while the Breakers improved to 5-5-4, closing in on the top four of Sky Blue FC (30pts), Portland (26pts), FC Kansas City (25pts) and Western New York (22pts).
While the Thorns attempted a season-high 20 shots, only 7 were on goal, including 3 from Morgan, while the Breakers had 16 shots, with 10 on goal, led by Leroux’s 4.
Outside of Leroux, the star of the match was Naeher, who handled the late Thorns onslaught with relative ease.
“I thought today was one of [Naeher’s] overall best performances I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Alyssa since she was about 13 — maybe even younger than that,” Breakers head coach Lisa Cole said. “I thought she was outstanding today, not only making saves, but coming for through balls and then being good on her distribution.”
Cone saw the match as a learning experience for her Thorns side. “It was just a mentality shift. We had been talking about it for the past few weeks, and this was the first time we saw it. They finally came together and realized that if we go together, if we press together, if we build the attack together, we can do this. We can create lots of chances. We can be tough defensively. I think it’s been difficult with players coming in and out and we’ve had a slew of injuries, so people are in different positions and I think there’s a little bit of uncertainty, but we finally put it together in the second half.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Breakers, as they head to Piscataway, New Jersey to take on Sky Blue FC on July 13th at 7:00pm EDT.
The Thorns will remain home and host all-time international goal-scorer Abby Wambach and the Western New York Flash on June 14 at JELD-WEN Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00pm PDT (5:00pm EDT). Midfielder Tobin Heath is expected to make her Thorns debut.