It’s amazing how a jersey can change perceptions of the player underneath it. During the Portland Thorns – Seattle Reign contest on Saturday night, my wife was sitting in the stands when a fan complained about how dirty the Reign’s Megan Rapinoe was playing. My wife, Amanda, remarked about how we don’t seem to mind her hands-on approach when she plays for the national team. There was no argument from that fan.
Rapinoe received plenty of boos from the 16,000-plus in attendance at Providence Park, though most of the jeers were reserved for the referees. But, it’s true how well liked Rapinoe is as a player here in Portland – until she puts on a green uniform when she might as well be driving into our city with an “I love Donald Trump” bumper sticker while announcing how Seattle is the real Soccer City, U.S.A into an enlarged megaphone.
Portland and Seattle’s rivalry was in fine form this weekend. In a physical, mistake-ridden game, the Thorns eked out a point against their I-5 nemesis.
For most of the first half, the Thorns’ offense was pretty much this.
Seattle, meanwhile, scored in the opening minutes of the match and outshot Portland 8-1 in the first half. The Thorns caught a break when Jessica Fishlock, who scored that opening goal for the Reign, deflected the ball into her own team’s net, resulting in an own goal.
— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) May 7, 2017
The Thorns awoke from their slumber in the second half and tied the game at two on a beauty of a header by Allie Long from equally beauty of a cross from Meghan Klingenberg. The goal saved the Thorns from handing over three points to the Reign. Both teams walked out with a point and Portland’s unbeaten streak at home remained intact at seven games and counting.
Unfortunately, Seattle will not be coming back to Portland this season, but the Thorns do have two more games against the Reign in the emerald city, where the atmosphere will no doubt be just as hostile and dynamic. As with Rapinoe, there will be no love-loss for Portland’s own national stars like Long and Klingenberg. And that’s the way it should be.
Hopefully, by then, Tobin Heath will have returned from her ailing back; the Thorns’ offense struggles at times to find a spark of life without her. Though they have proven they can score without their super-star, it sure is a hell of a lot easier when Heath is on the pitch for the Thorns.
Rapinoe, who is no stranger to being jeered, will once again be loved by fans here in Portland until the two teams meet again in Seattle on July 1. We wish her well playing for a second-rate soccer town and look forward to the next meeting. Aren’t rivalries fun?