Meghan Klingenberg on facing N.C. Courage: “We freakin’ hate em’”

Meghan Klingenberg on facing N.C. Courage: “We freakin’ hate em’”

While previewing Friday's quarterfinals matchup against the North Carolina Courage (4-0-0), Portland Thorns FC (0-3-1) defender Meghan Klingenberg did not hold back. 

The way that we feel about [OL Reign] is the way that we feel about North Carolina: We fricken hate 'em. -- Meghan Klingenberg

As of late, the Courage haven't had to worry too much about Portland, however. 

Last season, North Carolina humiliated Portland 6-0 in Providence Park and then defeated them 2-1 to open the NWSL Challenge Cup in front of a record-setting audience. North Carolina topped Portland in nearly every statistical category: shots (15-10); shots on goal (5-3); corners (13-5); crosses (36-17)...

Despite that, Portland believes they can turn the tide in the rivalry. 

Thorns head coach Mark Parsons will approach this match a tad differently.

Maybe last year we tried to defend Carolina and play Carolina. That’s not who we are. Our identity is to attack teams so this will be no different. — Head Coach Mark Parsons

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

Portland is 0-3-1 at the Challenge Cup and still looking to play that complete game and one they know they can do. The Thorns have seen plenty of action in the box, but just haven’t had the luck with finishing. 

The more we are a team in this game, in every element of the word team, our chances increase. — Thorns Head Coach Mark Parsons

I think as a team we have gotten better and better. It’s going to come and we feel that… It’s been shoeing in every game. — Rocky Rodriguez

Kickoff for this quarterfinals matchup is at 9:30 AM (PT) on Friday, July 17.

We've never seen the Portland Thorns dominated like this

We've never seen the Portland Thorns dominated like this

Five goals. That was the most goals the Thorns had ever lost by. It happened twice in the 2014 season: Once to the Western New York Flash and once to the Seattle Reign. 

But now those 5-0 losses are just footnotes to the debacle Portland had at Providence Park on Wednesday. The defending champion North Carolina Courage came to town and handed the Thorns a 6-0 smackdown. 

It was the worst loss in the history of the franchise, and for a team that has long been the torchbearer for the league, it was something no one in attendance was used to seeing. 

Coach Parsons simply put it, "we were probably at our worst."

Portland looked sluggish from the get-go. A step behind the Courage at every corner of the pitch. North Carolina outshot the Thorns 22-11, with 17 of those 22 shots coming from inside the box. Adrianna Franch, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, looked nothing like herself. 

No one wearing a Portland kit was playing with fire in their eyes, and Parsons said it all started with how the team approached the match. 

"It starts and ends with me. Tactical and game prep. Through physical, through mental, through emotional, it was probably down there at the very, very worst."

Portland started the week atop the standings but two straight losses saw them fall to second place in the NWSL, just a point above third-place Chicago. How does Parsons plan to get the Thorns back to form?

"Fortunately we have a bit of time before our next game to be able to first identify who we are," said Parsons. "Find that. Remind ourselves of that. We know who we are. Put that right at the top of the list and say this is who we are and this is what we're fighting for, this is what we're working for. On the good nights, and on the bad nights like this, that will guide us. That will be our shining light."

Hopefully, that light shines brighter than ever before. Because following a 6-0 loss, the Thorns are in a pretty dark place. But if you know Coach Parsons and you know the Thorns, this is just a minor bump in the road. 

NEXT UP:
Portland remains at home to host the Houston Dash. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm on Saturday, September 21st at Providence Park. 

Goliath vs Goliath. Thorns victorious in championship rematch

Goliath vs Goliath. Thorns victorious in championship rematch

In sports we always talk about the battle of David vs Goliath. Can the heavy underdog come out and upset the monster favorite. Well, what we had at Providence Park on Sunday was the opposite of that cliché storyline.

Instead, it was Goliath vs Goliath. Two monsters of the NWSL going at it for a chance to jump to the top of the league standings. The matchup between North Carolina and Portland has quickly become a marquee main event, not just in the NWSL, but in American soccer.

Including North Carolina's time as the Western New York Flash, (they moved to North Carolina in 2017) the Courage and Thorns have combined to win four the NWSL's six league championships. No other team outside of these two has won the championship since 2015. In fact, no other team has even played in the championship match since 2016.

Portland beat North Carolina in the championship match in 2017, and North Carolina won the championship rematch in 2018. The two could be on a crash course for a third championship matchup in as many seasons, but first, they had some regular-season business to take care of.

In front of a Thorns and new NSWL record crowd of 25,218, the Thorns pulled off the 2-1 victory over the Courage. Unfortunately for the Courage it was two own goals that gave Portland the victory. Well, two own goals and an incredible home-field advantage.

Fans fill Providence Park:

The home-field advantage was on full display Sunday. 25,000 plus sold-out Providence Park to watch the to best teams in the league go at. It seems like every week the NWSL is setting an attendance record, the league at an all-time high following the Women's World Cup. But Providence Park has always been at the head of the pack.

Courage head coach Paul Riley, who coached the Thorns from 2014-2015 said of the attendance, "it's a fabulous place. The atmosphere was fantastic. We didn't keep the crowd quiet enough... It's a pleasure to play here, to be honest with you. If every game could be played here it would be great for the league."

Current Thorns head coach Mark Parsons gets to experience this home crowd for half of the season, but it hasn't lost its luster. "the advantage of being in the best place in the world with the best fans paid off today," said Parsons. "We're grateful on a record-setting day that we have, on all sides of the stadium, people coming here and supporting these players and setting a new high standard on how to support."

Portland is a special place for women's soccer, and it showed itself off on Sunday.

No match bigger:

When you think Portland rivalries it always takes you on a quick drive up I-5. You think The Timbers vs Sounders. You think Thorns vs Reign. But perhaps the biggest rivalry in women's soccer in 2019 takes place with opponents nearly 3,000 miles apart. Portland and North Carolina have long been the gold standard for the NWSL and their record of excellence has made each match between them must-watch television. Back-to-back meetings in the championship game will do that.

Even Parsons compared it to the rivalry with Reign FC. Said Parson, "when Seattle and Reign come play in this stadium, and that epic rivalry, it's absolutely huge. The fact that Thorns and Courage have developed a similar (rivalry) is a complement to what they've done over the last couple of years."

Riley also loves where the rivalry is going because it's great for the league. "A little bit of...not so much love between the two teams. I think that's good, it's an important part. Rivalry is important in women's sports. We've got a great rivalry with the Thorns and hopefully it can continue."

Bigger Than Soccer:

The NWSL family is sending its best wishes to Toni Pressley of the Orlando Pride. It was announced early in the week that Pressley had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The Pride defender underwent surgery on Friday and was placed on the 45-day disabled list as she begins her treatment and recovery.

Following his team's big win over North Carolina, Parsons took the time so send a special message to Pressley:

"One last thing. All of us at Thorns give our love to Toni Pressley, who obviously got some bad news this week. Amazing athlete. Amazing person. All the best to Orlando and Toni as she goes through her fight through cancer. We know she'll crush it and we know that she'll be back causing us problems in the future."

Next Up:

Portland remains at home to welcome the Washington Spirit to Providence Park on Saturday, August 17th. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm.