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Thorns Down Under: Matchday One
How are the Portland Thorns faring in the World Cup?
Once every four years, world-class players from the Portland Thorns get to play on the grandest stage of them all.
In the club’s history, there have been some of the greatest footballers who have played for the team.
In this edition, we are honored to have Sophia Smith (USA), Crystal Dunn (USA), Christine Sinclair (CAN), Hina Sugita (JP), and Rocky Rodriguez (CR).
We would be remiss if we did not mention Becky Sauerbrunn (USA) and Janine Beckie (CAN) who are recovering from injury.
These players are living out their dreams in Australia and New Zealand.
This tournament has lived up to the billing so far and has been action-packed!
She is the reigning, defending, undisputed MVP of the NWSL.
She is her!
After a sizzling start to the 2023 NWSL Season with 10 goals and 5 assists, Sophia Smith has taken her game to the next level internationally.
Sophia Smith tallied double digit goals for club and country in 2022.
The superstar scored the first goal of the World Cup for the USWNT in the 14th minute with a finish that she makes look too easy.
In first half stoppage time, she did it again. This time, off a rebound, with the left foot, once again.
In the 77th minute, Smith beat the Vietnam backline to the ball and laid off the perfect pass to former Thorn Lindsey Horan who finished to put the final touches on the 3-0 win.
Sophia Smith has been featured on many commercials, ads, and in the media, and rightfully so. Everyone in Portland has always known how special and transcendent her talent truly is, and now the whole world gets to see as well.
In her very first game, the Portland Thorns megastar recorded three goal contributions (hat trick in my book). She had a part in every goal and was the only forward to play the full game.
There is no ceiling for Soph.
One of the most underappreciated players in the game. How many individuals can play multiple positions at an elite level?
In her first World Cup as a mother, Dunn was back on the USWNT as their starting left-back. She played 84 minutes before being subbed off for Kelley O’Hara.
The backline and Alyssa Naeher did not have much work on their end in the first match against Vietnam, but they were ready for all that came their way. Dunn was exceptional in defense and will have plenty of opportunities to join the attack in the games ahead.
Her form as a midfielder for Portland has yielded the question, “should she be a midfielder on the national team?”
The correct answer is obvious.
USWNT Overall Performance
Unfortunately, this game was very sloppy. Since Vlatko Andonovski has taken over the USWNT, the team’s back-to-back World Cup winning form has all but disappeared.
This is another example of the U.S. unable to connect passes consistently, make good decisions in the final third, and finish when presented opportunities.
If the USWNT is going to find a way to win the World Cup, they have got to clean it up for the next match against the Netherlands.
Make no mistake, Vietnam goalkeeper, Trần Thị Kim Thanh, was the best player in that match. Her heroics and bravery was clutch and shown off all match.
Reasons for Concern
His final roster decisions are a huge cause for concern. Julie Ertz who should be starting at defensive midfielder, was instead at center back. That leaves Andi Sullivan as the only 6 on the roster.
Leaving Sam Coffey off the roster, makes absolutely no sense. He now has 3 attacking midfielders in Rose Lavelle, Ashley Sanchez, and Savannah Demelo.
The imbalance of the roster at defensive midfielder, left back, center back, are all baffling. He has 2 full-time center backs in Naomi Girma and Alana Cook. At right back he has Emily Fox, Sofia Huerta, and Kelley O’Hara. Although Dunn and Fox can both play the left, it doesn’t allow to smooth rotations unless he plays one of Huerta or O’Hara out of position (he played KOH on the left first game).
Just to be clear, every player on this roster has earned their spot and deservedly so. The issue is the roster is so imbalanced.
Make no mistake, the frontline they possess is the best in the world and could carry the team to the three-peat.
In the 48th minute of Canada’s opening match against Nigeria, Christine Sinclair drew a penalty. She stepped up to take it and tried to go low and to the keeper’s left, but was denied by Nigeria’s Chiamaka Nnadozie.
Canada has struggled mightily to score in the run of play for quite some time and this game was no different, as they opened the tournament with a scoreless draw.
However, the ball movement was there and opportunities too. Sinclair played a huge role in the build-up and creating in her shift.
In the 71st minute, Sinclair was subbed off for Sophie Schmidt.
Now they’ll face off against a Republic of Ireland side that has been one of the best, defensively.
In Costa Rica’s 0-3 loss to Spain, Raquel “Rocky” Rodríguez did not play any minutes.
Her recovery from injury has allowed her to be on the roster and hopefully play the final group stage games.
The ‘Hina Hive’ will have to wait a tad longer as the Portland Thorns starting winger did not play in Japan’s 5-0 win against Zambia.
Hina Sugita figures to be a huge part of Japan moving forward in the group stage and possible knockout rounds too.
Look for her to be featured in Japan’s next matches against Costa Rica, especially against Spain.