Skip to content

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

Apr 21, 2013, 11:04 PM EST

IMG_2847

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Watch Live: Hull City vs. Swansea City (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:51 AM EST

    George Boyd AP

    Abel Hernandez and Nikica Jelavic will form the Tigers strike force.

  2. Watch Live: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Burnley (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:47 AM EST

    Kane Getty Images

    Can the Clarets upset Spurs at White Hart Lane? Watch live.

  3. Watch Live: Southampton vs. Everton (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:42 AM EST

    Swansea City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Can the Saints stop their slide against the Toffees? Watch live, here.

  4. Watch Live: West Ham United vs. Leicester City (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:41 AM EST

    West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Andy Carroll starts up top with Diafra Sakho, with Stewart Downing in support.

  5. Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. Manchester United (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:23 AM EST

    Falcao Getty Images

    United looks to keep back with their noisy neighbors this morning on NBCSN.

  6. Raheem Sterling named best young player in Europe, wins ‘Golden Boy’ award

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:11 AM EST

    Source: Liverpool FC Source: Liverpool FC

    Sterling, 20, follows the likes of Rooney, Messi and Aguero after being named the best youngster in European soccer.

  7. Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:20 AM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-CSKA MOSCOW-MAN CITY FBL-EUR-C1-CSKA MOSCOW-MAN CITY

    Can the Citizens make it six wins on the spin without a striker? Watch live, here.

  8. WATCH: Premier League online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 17

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:10 AM EST

    Live Extra

    How and where to watch every single PL game from Week 17 live online or via the app.

  9. QPR could take a chance on troubled midfielder Morrison

    Dec 19, 2014, 11:20 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    Harry Redknapp believes he could be Ravel Morrison’s “last chance” to prove he is ready to play top-flight football.

  10. Michael Carrick named vice-captain of Manchester United

    Dec 19, 2014, 10:25 PM EST

    Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Since returning from injury, the England international has been key to United’s six-game win streak.

  11. Men in Blazers: Saint or scummer?

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:40 PM EST

    Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 9.11.14 PM Getty Images

    Rog and Davo are joined by Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael, who discusses her short stint selling hot dogs at St. Mary’s and the rivalry between Southampton and Portsmouth.

  12. Bayern Munich sets record for most points at halfway stage

    Dec 19, 2014, 8:50 PM EST

    FC Bayern Muenchen v SC Freiburg - Bundesliga Getty Images

    With 45 points through 17 matches, Bayern Munich is having the best season in Bundesliga history.

  13. MLS announces home openers for 2015 season

    Dec 19, 2014, 8:00 PM EST

    mls Getty Images

    The opening weekend of MLS play features Orlando City SC and New York City FC facing off in a battle of expansion teams.

  14. Pardew and Poyet call for peace ahead of Tyne-Wear derby

    Dec 19, 2014, 7:10 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Newcastle and Sunderland may be bitter rivals, but their managers are telling supporters to behave on Sunday.

  15. Mourinho says Eden Hazard can become an all-time great

    Dec 19, 2014, 6:20 PM EST

    eden Getty Images

    The Blues’ boss said his Belgian playmaker can become a Chelsea legend, but must win titles first.

  16. Joe Hart signs new contract at Manchester City

    Dec 19, 2014, 5:30 PM EST

    jh Getty Images

    England’s number one keeper finally put pen to paper with a new deal that will keep him at the Etihad until 2019.

  17. Nigel Pearson suspended one match for verbal spat with fan

    Dec 19, 2014, 4:40 PM EST

    Southampton v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    The Leicester City boss was also fined $15,000 by the FA following his altercation with a fan.

Featured video

Man United thrash Liverpool