Alex Morgan scores twice as Portland Thorns crush Washington Spirit, 6-1
June 21, 2014 Thorns FC
BOYDS, Md.– If the return to health of Alex Morgan creates a log jam at forward for the Portland Thorns, Christine Sinclair is all for it.
While Morgan’s two goals and an assist to Sinclair keyed a 6-1 thrashing of the Washington Spirit Saturday at the Maryland SoccerPlex, substitutes Jessica McDonald and Allie Long showed how the Thorns’ might turn abundance into ruthlessness.
McDonald entered for Morgan in the 82nd minute and by the 87th had her team-leading seventh and eighth goals, and Long scored her fifth in second-half stoppage time as the Thorns (6-4-2, 20 points) bettered last weekend’s 2-0 victory against the Spirit (6-7-1, 19 points) at Providence Park.
Saturday marked the first time the Thorns have scored more than three goals this season.
“I think we’re going to be a dangerous team,” said Sinclair, “Because we’re always going to have at least one of us coming off the bench against a tired back line.”
That of course assumes the continued health of Morgan, who scored her first two goals of the year and was playing in just her second game for the Thorns due to a slow-healing left-ankle injury that originally struck last fall.
Without Morgan, it’s been an uneven start for the NWSL’s defending champions. And her first match back quickly turned sour when goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was sent off in what ended a 5-0 home defeat to Western New York on June 7.
But Saturday brought echoes of 2013, in which Morgan and Sinclair each scored eight goals en route to a title in the league’s inaugural season.
By the 10 minute mark, Morgan had fashioned a goal and an assist from opportunistic situations, before seizing upon goalkeeper Chantel Jones’ horrific clearance to add second goal that made it 3-1 in the 70th minute.
This despite joining the team just 24 hours earlie after scoring a pair of second-half goals for the United States in Thursday’s 2-2 draw with France in Connecticut.
“I knew that those first goals (with the national team) were going to really kind of set me free mentally and just put me more at ease, and that’s what it did,” said Morgan. “Today I just felt like I was playing a little more freely and a little bit more with confidence.”
Still, it was McDonald’s insertion that proved lethal when she slotted home a rebound of Sinead Farrelly’s saved effort in the 84th minute.
Three minutes later she banged in a second goal with her kneecap off Sarah Huffman’s fierce cross to cap a stellar first substitute appearance of the season. v Long added the sixth goal off recent acquisition Veronica Boquete’s feed in the first minute of stoppage time in what had to be a cathartic win.
“The players in all honesty have never changed their whole demeanor towards training,” said manager Paul Riley. “They’ve been working hard, and now they’ve got the fruits of their labor, which is a win on the road, which is what we wanted.”
Christine Nairn scored in the 62nd minute to pull Washington within 2-1 on a strike squirmed beneath reserve goalkeeper Michelle Betos. (Angerer missed Saturday while serving her red card suspension.)
Morgan said the next step is bringing the same kind of performance back to Providence Park, where the Thorns have lost two straight.
“The crowd deserves a win like this,” she said.
And as for the players, Sinclair said neither she nor her teammates had lost confidence despite perhaps failing to live up to lofty expectations set after last year’s success.
But a full complement of players might make work more enjoyable.
“For me, as an attacking player,” she said, “to get someone like Alex back, to get someone like Vero and then obviously Jess is playing tremendously well, it’s going to be fun.”
— Ian Quillen, special to The Oregonian
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