Sports event

Portland Thorns beat Kansas City in Oregon’s first professional sports event with fans in a year

In Oregon’s first major league outdoor sporting event since the state announced outdoor venues could accommodate crowds at limited capacity, the Portland Thorns won 2-1 over Kansas City in their 2021 Challenge Cup opener on Friday evening, April 9.

Goals from Rocky Rodríguez and Tyler Lussi brought the win, while the final minutes saw Simone Charley leave the game after a second yellow card, coach Mark Parsons sent off shortly afterwards and KC’s Morgan Weaver and Kristen Edmonds with red cards after a fight on the sidelines. . The team are appealing the red card for Weaver, who appeared to throw up her hands and walk away after being punched in the face by Edmonds, but if that happens she will miss the next game, along with Charley and Parsons. Three players and a coach sent off represent the most red cards ever issued in a match in the history of the National Women’s Soccer League, which began play in 2013 and does not use video during matches.

The drama provided a supplement to what was for many an emotional throwback to Providence Park. At 25% capacity, just over 6,000 tickets were available for the game, offered first to season ticket holders and grouped around the stadium in distant groups of one to eight people.

” We are pleased. It’s like being able to go back to church,” Samantha Lutskovsky said in the red headscarf before the game. Even though the scattered seating arrangement meant she wouldn’t be seated in her regular section with her regular crew (the Upchucks), she said, “It’s like family.”

“Like coming home,” added Pavel Lutskovsky, adorned with a patch, who said they were both inside the park for the Timbers’ game against Nashville on March 8, 2020, three days before that professional sports begin a shutdown of several months. .

The first professional league to return to play last summer was the NWSL, with the Challenge Cup bubble tournament. This second Challenge Cup kicks off the 2021 NWSL regular season, which begins in mid-May. The five NWSL teams from the Eastern time zone will play each other, while the Thorns will play the other four “western” teams: they will face the Chicago Red Stars on Thursday, April 15; host Tacoma-based OL Reign on Wednesday, April 21; and travel to play the 2020 Challenge Cup champions, the Houston Dash, on Sunday, May 2. The top team from each group will travel to a league game on May 8.

“We watched every Cup game last year,” reported Rachel Bunke and her family, who had traveled from Vernonia and were excited to see part of the 2021 Challenge Cup in person – and hopefully a victory for the Thorns.

The Bunkes, Lutskovskys and others in attendance were rewarded with a Thorns shot within two minutes and a goal within 10. Rodríguez had scored at Providence Park in the 2020 Fall Series, but his header from a free kick Meghan Klingenberg’s ninth-minute goal was her first goal as Thorn to be celebrated by fans in the stands. The Thorns added another goal from Tyler Lussi in the 58th minute, Amy Rodriguez responding two minutes later with a goal for Kansas City.

Some big names were missing due to injury or international duty (Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan and Becky Sauerbrunn were on the pitch the following day in Stockholm for a friendly against Sweden), but plenty of familiar faces were in attendance : Adrianna Franch was in goal for the first time since 2019; in midfield, Celeste Boureille played with a protective headgear around her nose and eyes that made her (rightly) look like a superhero. In addition to Rodríguez, the game also featured fan-first Christen Westphal, traded to the team last year, and 2020 draft pick Weaver, whose long runs on the field provided some of the most memorable moments. exciting second half. It was the NWSL debut for Finnish defender Natalia Kuikka.

Inside the park, messages from league sponsor Budweiser and new team partner TikTok joined the familiar logos of Widmer, Jersey Mike’s, Tillamook Cheese and Old Trapper Beef Jerky. (Editor’s note: We just like to write the phrase “Old Trapper Beef Jerky.”) Arrows and aisle markers kept aisles organized, and fans were directed to for information on the entrances and exits, directional maps and ordering food and drinks. The water fountains were closed and there was no red smoke released for the Thorns’ goals.

While the stadium was at times quiet enough that those in higher ground could hear the players calling out to each other, the North End of the stadium was always a sea of ​​swirling scarves and waving rainbow flags. and trans and the city of Portland. The masks didn’t muzzle chants of “PTFC” or, whenever Franch made a save, “She’s our keeper.” There was even a sense of shared joy in anger, with the thrill of booing the referee – over a disallowed offside goal from Madison Everett, say, or the red card for Weaver – in a stadium with strangers sharing the same ideas instead of booing at the referee alone on a couch. Fans might even have welcomed the collective grief of a loss. But seeing roses bestowed on triumphant goalscorers as Madness’ “Our House” came on the sound system after the win – that was, of course, even better.