August 18, 2014
By Charles Cuttone
BACK IN THE POST SEASON
Riley leads Thorns into playoffs
Former Philadelphia Independence head coach Paul Riley has another team headed to the post season. The Portland Thorns clinched a spot in the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs on Sunday with a 1-0 win over the Seattle Reign, only the second loss suffered by Seattle all season.
The win propelled the Thorns into third place in the NWSL, a spot they occupied last year when they won the title under head coach Cindy Parlow Cone, who resigned for personal reasons, handing the helm over to Riley.
While coaching the Independence in 2010 and 2011, Riley led the team to back to back appearances in the Women’s Professional Soccer championship game, losing both times to Marta-led teams, first with the Bay Area Pride, then the Western New York Flash.
To get into the playoffs, the Thorns had to overcome a mid season slump, and needed some help on Saturday.
“Obviously yesterday we were scoreboard watching,” Riley said after Sunday’s game which was played in front of a crowd of 17,109 at Providence Park. “Lot of text messages floating around after the games yesterday. We just wanted an opportunity today to play for it. It still would have been a derby game. We would have prepared for it like any other game, but I think the fact that the results went our way yesterday almost gave us an advantage going into the game. We almost felt like we were 1-0 up before we went into the game.”
With a lineup that includes Alex Morgan, who scored Sunday’s game winner, Canadian international Christine Sinclair and German international goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, Riley used some help down the stretch from a former Independence player, Veronica Boquette who joined the Thorns midway though the season.
The former Women’s Professional Soccer MVP scored four goals in 15 games, but led the team with sox assists.
The Thorns will face FC Kansas City in the NWSL Semi-final next Saturday. That game will look like a Cheesesteaks reunion.
“Nine of their players played for me in Philadelphia, so I know the team pretty well,” Riley said of FC Kansas City, whose lineup includes Amy Rodriguez, Jen Buczkowski, Leigh Ann Robinson, Nikki (Krzysik) Phillips and Nicole Barnhart.