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Morgan scores, Thorns win, but Portland’s crowd steals the show

Apr 21, 2013, 11:04 PM EDT

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC came good on their home debut, dominating Cascadia neighbors Seattle Reign FC during a 2-1 win Saturday afternoon. Goals from Marian Dougherty and Alex Morgan gave the home team their first NWSL victory, but amid the post-match reflections the same, transcending theme kept emerging: The atmosphere made the match.

An NWSL record 16,479 people came out to what’s normally the Portland Timbers’ home field, and while record attendance in a two-week old league deserves a skeptical context, broader descriptions prove even more laudatory of the Portland’s support.

Saturday’s crowd out-drew any match from the three years of Women’s Professional Soccer, the professional league that preceded the NWSL. You have to go back to the Women’s United Soccer Association to find a women’s professional match that drew more people, and while a handful of crowds in WUSA bested the Thorns’ support, it’s been 10 years since that league played its final game.

“This was awesome,” was Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone’s reaction after her first professional victory. A veteran of 158 caps during her time with the U.S. Women’s National Team, Parlow Cone has perspective on big games, experience that came in handy while trying to describe Sunday’s environment.

“I was walking around the field with Rachel Buehler and we looked at each other and she’s like, ‘This is like the World Cup.’ That’s what it felt like … It was an unbelievable atmosphere.”

Packed into seats normally occupied by the Timbers’ Army, the Rose City Riveters were able to replicate most of the environment that makes JELD-WEN Field one of the more notable destinations in MLS. The crowd was noticeably different – a bit smaller, and more skewed toward a family demographic that’s stronger in the women’s game – but outdrawing the combined attendance for the league’s four opening weekend matches, Portland still created a landmark event.

“Over the past few weeks we’ve heard about the number of tickets being sold, but I don’t think any of us expected that,” Thorns captain Christine Sinclair said after the match. “It was just incredible.”

The numbers alone were impressive, but for the few international stars on the field – U.S. internationals Alex Morgan and Rachel Buehler, in particular – they’re numbers they’d see multiple times each year playing for their national team. What made Sunday different was the type (and depth) of supporter culture that’s been hard to come by in the women’s game.

“It was a great Portland vibe,” was how Morgan described it. “We weren’t sure what to expect, but right from when we went out (for) warmups until game time, you hear the fans loud. I think every team that comes to Portland will not want to play us because they will be intimidated by the atmosphere.”

Sinclair echoed the sentiment. If the Rose City Riveters can replicate Sunday’s performance, Thorns FC will have a distinct home field advantage.

“This is going to be the only city that gets this type of crowd,” Sinclair explained. “When you haven’t been here before, it can be intimidating. Hopefully you can punish teams in the first half before they get used to it.”

On Sunday, Thorns FC took their first lead of the season, a late first half goal that did the punishing Sinclair described. With momentum coming out of halftime, Portland put the game away with an early second half goal.

If that becomes a formula for success, the value of Portland’s crowd will transcend these opening day headlines. It will become something that matters on the field.

  1. lunasceiling - Apr 21, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    Score was 2-1: Jess Fishlock (who was terrific) got one back a little ways after the 70 minute mark. Great game, insane atmosphere, and the Thorns looked much more in sync with each other after only a week. I’m feelin’ real good about those season tickets! =)

    • Richard Farley - Apr 21, 2013 at 11:37 PM

      Thanks for the correction. What you see there was a writer writing his lede before fulltime. Much appreciated.

  2. jerichowhiskey - Apr 22, 2013 at 12:33 AM

    While Buckshaw Stadium is rather limited, it is great to still see many supporters singing in the Thorns’ game.

  3. Hil - Apr 22, 2013 at 2:47 AM

    Way to not even really talk about Seattle. The other team playing. The one with Fishlock, the international who is a breakout star already, and Deines with a terrific goal line save against Morgan. I guess since this is going to be a pro-Portland league the other team doesn’t really matter. All Star Portland against [insert meaningless team here]. Was there another team out there? I’m not really sure anymore. The Thorns were playing someone, but maybe not. There were a lot of fans there watching something. That much is sure. I congratulate the fans. Great job at watching. The best ever it’s been said.

    • korules - Apr 22, 2013 at 3:00 AM

      Hil, honey,
      this piece is about the crowd, not the game, so don’t try and start shit where there’s no shit to be started.

      It’s also way too early in the league to start feeling sorry for yourself and your team.
      So, can you not?

      • Hil - Apr 22, 2013 at 4:26 AM

        Oh crap. You are completely right. When I got here I looked around and thought this was some kind of sports article covering a game of soccer that took place earlier today. It is the only article after all. But it was totally my mistake. I’m not sure how I made it, but here we are. It’s very embarrassing.

        Shame on me. So much shame.

      • charliej11 - Apr 22, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        Honey ? What the heck is wrong with you ?

  4. jmillmac - Apr 22, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    Actually, no it’s not an article covering a soccer game, it’s a blog column exploring a topic, in this case the topic being the huge fan support for a new team in a new women’s league – a concept that has died out twice before through lack of fan support. Kind of a big deal.

  5. korules - Apr 22, 2013 at 5:40 AM

    @ Hil,
    Drop the attitude, it’s completely unnecessary.

    This article does not cover the game, it covers the crowd. (who knows, the game may be covered in a later article, or it may not, it’s not like this site plays a lot of attention to women’s football, we’ll have to wait and see)

    If you had actually read it, instead of simply commenting on EVERY piece on the Thorns you can find online, you would have seen your original comment was, well, as unnecessary as your second.

    • charliej11 - Apr 22, 2013 at 2:38 PM

      Korules calls Hil honey, then tells the poster to drop the attitude. Wow.

      Then (s)he tries to make some lame excuse that the article wasn’t about the game when the title says Morgan scores, Thorns win…then mentions the crowd.

      A demeaning blogger who isn’t very bright, who would have thought the two would go hand in hand ?

  6. SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Apr 22, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    The Thorns did control most of the game, and Morgan showed she is one of the best in the world. My only gripe was she selfishly took a poor angled shot rather than pass to a completely open Sinclair to make it 3-1. But for Seattle, Fishlock was unbelievable. In her own box defending then next in the Thorns box taking shots. She seemed to be everywhere all the time. That was my first pro women’s anything I’d ever watched and I was impressed by the skill and talent compared to other women’s sports.

    That was a great game to be at and it makes me proud to live in Portland.

    New chants, more families and many more girls. Even men had Sinclair jerseys on. Portland is developing a generation that will be immersed in Soccer like no other place in Canada or the US. The future of Soccer is in Portland.

    Truly Soccer City U.S.A.

    • SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Apr 22, 2013 at 5:22 PM

  7. ndnut - Apr 22, 2013 at 6:46 PM

    Hil, please quit shaming Seattle, the capitol of American soccer.

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