Discover more from Stumptown Footy
NWSL Challenge Cup Recap: Portland Thorns 1, Angel City FC 2
In matchday 5 of the NWSL Challenge Cup, the Portland Thorns had a small chance to still qualify for the knockout stage, but fell on the road to Angel City
The Portland Thorns’ hopes of making the NWSL Challenge cup knockout stages had come down to being the top 2nd place team. OL Reign clinched the ‘group of death’ thanks to a Bethany Balcer penalty kick on Friday night. The Seattle side clinched with a 1-0 win over San Diego Wave.
To have any chance of making the Challenge Cup semi-finals, Portland would have needed to win their final two games on the road at Angel City and OL Reign. Additionally, they’d need Gotham and Kansas City to not win their final game.
Mike Norris has made more personnel in Challenge Cup and this was no different against Angel City.
Reyna Reyes would occupy the ‘Hina Sugita’ right winger role
Izzy D’Aquila who had been playing out of position at winger, would be the top option off the bench.
Portland would roll out their first choice starting XI.
Angel City head coach Becki Tweed, since taking over for Freya Coombe, has been unbeaten in five matches.
Hannah Betfort who had 4 goal contributions (3 goals, 1 assist) in the past two games, would look to keep her incredible form rolling.
In the first half, Angel City dominated the proceedings. They played through their fullbacks and it paid off. Paige Nielsen and Jasmine Spencer spent most of the half delivering good crosses. Spencer has been one of the most underrated and under appreciated players in the league for her entire career.
That strong play paid off for the hosts as Savnnah McCaskill got her head to the end of a Spencer cross in the eighth minute
Portland had chances on the counter, but the final product was not there. The passing and purpose was so much quicker. The backline had trouble clearing the ball away from danger and almost gifted ACFC more goals.
However, all it took was one moment. Hannah Betfort collected the ball by standing strong and wielding off her defender. She dribbled to the top of the box and laid it off to Natalia Kuikka who hit a low driven cross across goal to Morgan Weaver. Her right footed curler would put the Portland Thorns level at the half.
In the second half, the start could not of been any worse. Emily Menges took a heavy touch and lost the ball. She was called for a foul trying to recover from the turnover. McCaskill took the free kick and hid it behind the wall to beat Bixby to put the home side up, once again, 2-1.
Head Coach Mike Norris also took out Morgan Weaver at the half for Natalie Beckman. With the team still able to potentially make the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, it was an odd decision unless Weaver is on a minutes restriction.
Angel City under Tweed has played on the front-foot in their matches and Portland didn’t much to counter it. Norris has stuck to the 4-3-3 and has rarely gone away from that. Their xG was at 0.13 at the half and did not creep up much at all in the second half.
ACFC throughly outplayed the Thorns in both halves. Norris and Portland had no answer. The backline continued to struggle clearing the ball and pressuring the ball.
Olivia Moultrie drew a PK in the 82nd minute, but could not convert on Angelina Anderson.
A few minutes later, Moultrie got a shot off in the box, but was denied yet again by Anderson.
The match ended after 10 minutes of stoppage time, with the Thorns falling 2-1.
In losses this year, the team has played with no cohesion and has an over-reliance on individual talent and abilities. Angel City deserved the win and played like a team the entire game. Portland showed spurts on the counter, but just looked sloppy and could not match the energy from ACFC.
And so, the Challenge Cup is no longer a trophy the Portland Thorns can win as they have been eliminated from any chance of making the knockout rounds.
In the final match, it’s time to give players like Shelby Hogan, Meaghan Nally, Tegan McGrady, Izzy D’Aquila, Natalie Beckman, Hannah Betfort, Gabby Provenzano, and the National Team Replacement Players a chance to start. If they don’t get these opportunities in a game that has nothing at stake, it would feel like a waste.
9’ 0-1 ACFC - Thorns fail to put any pressure of Jasmine Spencer who delivers the perfect cross into Savannah McCaskill who calmly finished past Bella Bixby.
18’ Bixby denies McCaskill who was played a beautiful cross by Paige Nielsen
34’ Weaver collects a pass from Betfort, but the shot sails over the bar.
36’ Bixby comes up big again! Nielsen has the ball fall onto her foot off a corner and got off a shot.
44’ 1-1! - Portland works one of their best goals on the counter. Hannah Betfort shields off her defender and plays the ball to Kuikka. Natu slips the ball across goal and finds Weaver who curls it with her right foot to the upper 90 to tie it up.
HALFTIME: Angel City - 1, Thorns - 1.
46’ Natalie Beckman and Izzy D’Aquila on for Morgan Weaver and Natalia Kuikka
47’ 1-2 ACFC - Emily Menges takes a heavy touch and has to foul to make up for it. McCaskill takes the free kick and sneaks it past Bixby who could not see it coming for her brace.
55’-65’ The announcer/commentator team being brutally honest about Portland’s lack of attack. They mentioned their xG nonstop during this span.
70’ Alyssa Walker on for Hannah Betfort and Meaghan Nally on for Meghan Klingenberg
82’ Olivia Moultrie draws the penalty!
84’ Angelina Anderson saves. Poorly taken PK from the young star.
85’ Anderson denies Moultries again!
90’ 10 minutes of stoppage time
90’ + Last chance for Portland and Bella Bixby comes up for the final corner kick. The Thorns create chaos in the box, but Anderson once again saves the final point blank shot by Porter.
FULLTIME: Angel City - 2, Thorns - 1