PORTLAND — The 2014 debut of Alex Morgan, Veronica Boquete and Steph Catley was anything but a party for the Thorns.
Taking advantage of a Thorns lineup playing together for the first time Saturday, and organized and ruthless Western New York Flash throttled the Thorns 5-0 at Providence Park.
Samantha Kerr and Carli Lloyd each scored twice for the Flash, who improved to 4-5-2 to pull into a tie with Portland (4-4-2) for fifth place in the National Women’s Soccer League.
After a week of practice that coach Paul Riley described as brilliant, and with three elite international players joining the Thorns lineup, a much different result was anticipated.
“I thought that the odds were in our favor,” said Morgan after playing her first match in seven months. “But we didn’t work hard for each other. We didn’t run for each other. We were so predictable. It was not a good game for us at all.”
Finding gaps in Portland’s midfield and defense, and pouncing on defensive breakdowns, the Flash scored four first-half goals. It started in the 11th minute, when Vicky Losada finished a header from Lloyd on a Flash corner kick.
But the match turned in the 27th minute. A weak back pass from Portland’s Nikki Marshall crated a chance for the Flash and Thorns goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was called for a foul that produced a penalty kick and a red card. Michelle Betos took over in goal, and Portland played the rest of the night down a player.
“Obviously, the penalty changed the game. From that point on we were chasing the game, fighting the game,” Riley said.
But even playing 11 on 11 the Thorns’ defense struggled with Western New York’s speed up front. The Flash played without injured Abby Wambach, but had Portland on its heels from the start of the game.
“Even before (the penalty kick), we looked like we’d lost our way. Early in the game we got rattled again,” Riley said.
A second goal from a corner kick made it 3-0 when Kerr scored in the 32nd minute. The back breaker came moments before halftime, and after Morgan sent a header from a Thorns corner kick just high.
On a quick counter attack, Kerr took a pass from Jasmyne Spencer and beat Betos to make it 4-0. Lloyd’s second goal six minutes into the second half of a combination with Kerr made it 5-0.
Portland’s attack did have its moments. The Thorns generated 17 shots, six on goal (compared with 21 and nine for the Flash).
Morgan, who said she is only fit enough to play 65-70 minutes, displayed her trademark speed and did not seem hesitant. Morgan will now join Thorns teammates Allie Long and Tobin Heath with the national team for two weeks.
“Hopefully I can continue to improve and recover,” she said. “Because even though my injury has recovered, physical yand mentally I’m still recovering.”
The loss was disconcerting for Boquete.
“We can find a lot of problems today,” Boquete said. “Defense, offense. With the ball, without the ball. Everyone has to take their responsibility: Forwards, defense, midfielders, people on the bench, coaches. Everyone has a piece of responsibility for this big loss.”
The Spanish midfielder was amazed by the support from the crowd after such a disappointing performance.
“I don’t have words. I’ve never seen anything similar or close. After the game, we lost 5-0 and they stay there and they cheer for us,” Boquete said. “This is not good enough. They deserve a big team. We have to be great. Not good. We have to be great.”