PORTLAND — The clock is ticking for at least some of the Portland Thorns. And after Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Sky Blue FC, coach Paul Riley made it clear that he expects better from his team.
“We just didn’t have enough bite to us tonight, in the first half especially,” Riley said. “You can’t play at home and not have bite — not when you’ve got a crowd like this supporting you.”
An audience of 13,427 at Providence Park watched the Thorns attack pick up steam as the game moved along. But Portland was unable to put a ball into the goal, then saw the visitors from New Jersey turn a long free kick into a game-winning goal in the 84th minute.
Kelley O’Hara scored on a perfectly-placed header after drifting to the right post and meeting a long free kick taken by Christie Rampone.
The loss dropped Portland to 4-2-2, leaving the Thorns in the middle of a tight pack of teams well back of National Women’s Soccer League leader Seattle.
As has been the case in recent games, the Thorns created plenty of chances. After a lackluster first half that Riley said was unacceptable, the Thorns had 10 shots, five on goal and took 10 corner kicks in the second half.
Sky Blue’s only shot on target in the second half ended up in the goal.
Goalkeeper Jill Loyden finished with eight saves, including a diving stop on a Christine Sinclair effort in the 63rd minute. Sinclair, who hasn’t scored yet this season, was denied moments earlier when a Sky Blue player was positioned to block her strong header off a corner kick.
Playing up top, Sinclair made runs off the ball that at times weren’t seen by teammates in time to send the striker in on goal.
“It does get a little frustrating,” Sinclair said. “But maybe there is something I need to do differently. Maybe demand (the ball) more from my teammates. But we’re growing.”
Also growing is the frustration level for Riley, who in his postgame comments noted that players due to join the lineup soon – including Alex Morgan who was on the bench but did not play Saturday – means jobs are on the line for some of the Thorns.
“The clock’s ticking for some of them," the coach said.
With a Wednesday game in Boston ahead before key players arrive -- including Verónica Boquete, Stephanie Catley, and Tobin Heath – Riley tried to find something positive.
“The second half I thought we were really good, created a ton of chances,” Riley said. “You always take positives from everything, but I’m not feeling too positive right now to be honest with you.”
NOTE — Columbia River graduate Kat Tarr played the full match at left back. She took one shot that was blocked and committed two fouls.