The week couldn’t have gone much better for Portland Thorns FC.
The top-level women’s professional soccer club came away with two wins, 15 goals, two clean sheets and a new legion of ecstatic followers during its preseason training in Tucson.
The Thorns managed another convincing win Sunday afternoon, this time over a Valley of the Sun team, as the Thorns defeated Arizona State 5-0 before 1,032 at Kino Sports Complex North Stadium.
Playing two matches in three days — the Thorns defeated the Arizona Wildcats 10-0 on Friday night — and having two-a-day training sessions during their week in the Old Pueblo kept the Thorns busy.
“We looked a little bit tired today, a little bit jaded from all the preseason,” first-year Thorns coach Paul Riley said after Sunday’s match. “It was a good game for us. … (ASU) put us under a little bit of pressure, which was nice.
“They had some decent possession for periods in the game which helped us a little bit defensively because most of our preseason games so far have been the opposite — we’ve been in total control of the game and transition’s been easy for us. We got to work a little bit on our defensive transition.”
In Sunday’s match, the National Women’s Soccer League defending champions started their backup goalkeeper and two trialists in the backline. They also had three offseason acquisitions in the lineup.
Despite the changes, the Thorns jumped ahead early. As they did in Friday’s match, the Thorns opened the scoring in the third minute.
This time, it was midfielder Allie Long, who put in a tireless performance all day, scoring off a tight angle in which her shot struck goalkeeper Chandler Morris’ arm before crossing the line inside the near post.
Arizona State had a chance to answer back quickly. Portland was whistled for a back-pass violation, giving the Sun Devils an indirect free kick inside the box. With the goal line littered with Portland players, the ball struck the wall and rebounded away.
Portland followed with more pressure, and fended off a couple of ASU counters, before Long netted her second of the day. She controlled a cross that went off a defender and, while falling away from the goal, slotted it across the goalmouth and over the line to make it 2-0 in the 20th minute.
Mexican international Jackie Acevedo upped the lead to three with a goal in the final minute of the first half.
“That was really her first game” for Portland, said Riley, whose team will open its regular season on April 12 in Houston. “I think she’ll settle down. She looked a bit nervous, just to be around (Christine) Sinclair and players like that. But I think she’ll settle in.”
Sinclair, who has 200 goals for the Canadian national team, scored her third of the weekend when she headed in a corner from Long in the 51st minute.
Phoenix native Jessica McDonald wrapped up Sunday’s scoring with her third goal in two matches. She scored on a diving header off Angie Kerr’s cross in the 82nd minute
The Thorns day wasn’t over after the final whistle blew as they spent quite a while meeting the fans.
Star forward and U.S. international Alex Morgan, who did not play in either of the weekend’s matches because she is coming back from an ankle injury, and the others signed autographs and had their pictures taken with their supporters.
“I think Alex Morgan will be out here till 6 a.m.,” Riley said in Sunday’s postgame interview. “It’s been a busy week, a good week.”