How do you rebound from the worst loss in franchise history? By coming out and taking down a pesky Houston Dash team to lock in a trip the playoffs. It was a much-needed three points for Portland, and "much-needed" way be an understatement. After two straight losses, Portland found itself in search of its identity and in fear of falling out of the playoff race. A loss to Houston would have still left the door open for both Utah and Reign FC to jump the Thorns. Not anymore.
The win locks in the playoffs, and also keeps the Thorns in the hunt for a postseason home game. Portland (39pts) now sits just two points behind second-place Chicago (41pts). The Red Stars have just one game remaining, while the Thorns have two. All this means is that Portland controls its own destiny - Win out, and you're guaranteed to finish in second place (North Carolina has already locked in first place).
All of this is just a long way of saying this was a big, big win for the Thorns.
Smaller score, bigger match:
Last match the Thorns and Courage combined to score six goals - too bad the Courage scored all six of them. On Saturday the Thorns wiped that bad taste out of their mouth and held Houston scoreless. Said Thorns' star Tobin Heath, who happened to score the only goal of the match, "the team came out with a lot of fire and character, and a good response from last week. That was really positive."
After that loss to North Carolina, Coach Parsons talked about how his squad needed to find its identity. They needed to remember what it meant to be a Thorn. It's something he says his team did on Saturday. "We can build and look to improve our quality and look to improve our strengths, and how we can play a little bit better while taking care of the most important thing, which was fight and work like Thorns. I thought we did that tonight."
Bigger than Soccer:
Prior to Saturday's match, the team sported special "I'm not done yet," t-shirts to support teammate Emily Menges. Menges and her family started the Bobby Menges "'I'm Not Done Yet" Foundation after her younger brother Bobby lost his battle with cancer. The foundation raises funds to help "adolescent patients with serious, long-term, and chronic illnesses transition from pediatrics to adulthood." The Thorns showed their support by wearing these specially designed shirts during warm-ups. Fans can purchase them as well, with 30% of all sales going to support the foundation. Unfortunately, the shirts are sold out right now but may be restocked in the near future. You can find where to purchase them HERE.
The Thorns return to the pitch on Sunday, on the road in Tacoma. This could be one of the tougher matches of the season, with Reign FC likely needing a victory to hold on to hopes of making the playoffs. You don't want to miss it. Kickoff is set for 11:00 am at Cheney Stadium.