LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — You don’t want to say that everybody knew it was going to be ugly when Racing Louisville FC visited Portland Thorns in a well-past-prime-time matchup Saturday night — but everybody knew it was going to be ugly.
A travel nightmare didn’t hurt. But what was really painful was when Angela Salem found a slowly bouncing cross that wasn’t fully cleared in the eighth minute and sent a low drive into the back of the net that gave Portland an early 1-0 lead.
And while Portland never really could open the floodgates against Louisville, thanks to former Thorns goalkeeper Michelle Betos, it did damage enough in a 3-0 victory.
Racing trailed just 1-0 at halftime thanks to six Betos saves. Racing even mounted some chances of its own late in the half, though shots by CeCe Kizer and Savannah McCaskill were not on frame.
In the end, Betos was outstanding, but couldn’t stop everything. Rocky Rodgriguez rocketed home a sharp cross from Lindsey Horan just three minutes after halftime, and then Horan added a goal of her own in the 77th minute, sending a cross into the box that needed no help in finding its way into the back of the net.
"We know, listen, that we’re sitting in the middle of Portland with a brand-new team against a team full of World Cup winners," Racing coach Christy Holly said. "We know it’s not going to be easy. We just want to make sure we’re chipping away at everything we’re doing and trying to get better every week."
It’s little consolation when a game’s epitaph is that it could have been worse. But the score could’ve been far worse.
Portland took 28 shots to Louisville’s four, and Racing did not manage a shot on goal. Betos saved nine of Portland’s 12 on-frame shots.
The Thorns controlled 59% of possession, and of Racing’s 40% of possession, much occurred on its own side. It was no surprise. Holly knew that Portland’s firepower meant it would control possession.
Betos said that the key during this difficult stretch is for the team to remain upbeat and keep working.
"The message is to keep working," said Betos, also Racing's captain. "Look how young we are. I’m not making excuses. We’ve said from the beginning we will never make an excuse, but there’s going to be growing pains. Probably half this team hasn’t come up against the likes of a Lindsey Horan, a Crystal Dunn — you look at the list of players they have — and it’s an incredible challenge for us. My message is just like let’s move, let’s grow, let’s do better."
Holly moved Emia Ekic back into the starting lineup, and Brooke Hendrix, slowed by an injury, was replaced by Nealy Martin in the midfield.
Racing is likely to look different once it returns from the league’s international break on June 20. Gemma Bonner, who was available but did not play on Saturday, should be in position to see the field. And Racing is expected to have the services of forward Ebony Salmon when play resumes. Holly is hoping to regain back Julia Ashley and midfielder Taylor Otto from injury.
"There’s reinforcements coming in," Holy said. "And it’s not a reflection that they’re coming in to take someone’s job. But it allows us to take a little bit of weight of the shoulders and allow for a little bit more of a rotation and physically be a little less demanding on each player."
In the end, it’s difficult to look at the stat sheet and see progress, but Holly said it’s there in stretches of the game, if not the entirety.
"You’re probably looking to be as positive as possible," he said, when asked if he saw any progress from a 5-0 loss at Charlotte. "... There’s definitely some progress. It’s difficult to look at that after a 3-0 loss, but we’ve got to zoom out a little bit, look at where we are, and where we knew we would be, and make sure we’re slowly chipping away at where we want to be."
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