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Star power not enough as Thorns lose big

So much for star power.

Saturday marked the season debut for Thorns star and U.S. national team striker Alex Morgan, Australian national team player Steph Catley and Spanish national team player Veronica Boquete, who all started the match. It was also the season debut for defender Rachel Van Hollebeke, who subbed into the match after halftime.

The Western New York Flash was without its superstar striker Abby Wambach (left knee sprain).

That did not matter, though. In the worst performance in franchise history, the Thorns were humiliated before their home crowd of 13,838 in a 5-0 Flash blowout.

“It’s disappointing,” Thorns coach Paul Riley said. “We just weren’t sharp enough. I have to look at everything and try to improve it. Right now we’re way off track. Completely.”

Samantha Kerr and Carli Lloyd each recorded a brace and Vicky Losada added a goal against a truly awful defensive effort by Portland, which saw little marking as well as goalkeeper Nadine Angerer being shown a straight red card in the 25th minute.

Over the past two matches, the Thorns (4-4-2, 14 points) have been outscored 9-1 after a 4-1 clobbering by the Boston Breakers on the road on May 28. At the time, the loss to Boston was the worst in franchise history.

“We got tanked in Boston,” Riley said. “I thought there would be a better reaction. If I was in Las Vegas this week, after seeing the team in training, I would’ve put money on us. We had a brilliant week of training.”

On Saturday, the Thorns controlled little of the possession. They were outshot 21-17 and the Flash put nine shots on goal, compared to six shots on frame by Portland.

The only dangerous player on the pitch for Portland was Morgan, who finished with seven shots, but was not able to put any of them in the back of the net.

“The first 65 minutes I felt good,” Morgan said. “I have to be realistic with myself in the fact that it’s seven months to the day since I played a game. I’m happy individually with how I did. But collectively as a team, it’s frustrating and disappointing. We didn’t work hard for each other. We didn’t run for each other. We were so predictable.”

The Flash (4-5-2, 14 points) took control of the match in the 10th minute. A corner kick from the right side went into the middle of the 18-yard box, where it bounced off the heads of several Thorns and Flash players. The ball wound up at the feet of Losada inside the 6-yard box. Losada was unmarked, which gave her time to turn and fire a pointblank shot that beat Angerer to the left post.

Things got wild in the 25th minute.

Thorns defender Nikki Marshall tried to send a pass to Angerer. The ball was under-hit, though, and turned into a 50-50 ball between Angerer and Kerr. Angerer tried a slide tackle, but referee Juliana Duncan whistled her for a foul inside the box and awarded Western New York a penalty kick.

A moment later, Angerer was shown a straight red card by Duncan for the reckless foul on Kerr.

“She didn’t touch her,” Riley said, of Angerer fouling Kerr.

The Thorns were forced to immediately sub out defender Courtney Niemiec for backup goalkeeper Michelle Betos, who was forced to face a penalty kick by Lloyd.

Lloyd put her PK high and to the top left hand corner. Though Betos guessed correctly, Lloyd’s shot was out of her reach and Western New York had a 2-0 lead.

The Thorns played the rest of the match 11 vs. 10.

“The penalty changed the game,” Riley said.

The Flash took an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the 32nd minute.

Western New York took a corner kick from the left side. A header by a Flash player went off the right post, but bounced directly to Kerr, who had inside position on the Thorns backline. Kerr sent shot inside the near post and into the back of the net.

In first-half stoppage time, the Flash turned the match into an embarrassment.

Flash striker Jasmyne Spencer made a run down the middle of the pitch. She sent a ball into the box, where Kerr had beaten her marker. Kerr got the pass, took a touch and sent it in, to the right post, giving the Flash a 4-0 lead.

“In a game you lose 5-0, the easy thing is to say the defense was not good enough,” Boquete said. “But, the pressure up high was not good enough. They found the space between the midfielders. We can’t go into halftime down 4-0.”

The Flash kept pouring it on in the 51st minute.

Lloyd was left wide open to take a 16-yard shot that she put inside the left post, giving the Flash a 5-0 lead.

Despite Betos giving up four goals, Riley said he was not too disappointed in her performance coming off the bench.

“It’s a tricky situation,” Riley said. “But it was difficult circumstances. It’s always difficult. I’m pleased with Michelle. It’s not an easy place to go without a warm up. I give her a lot of credit for going into the game.

The Thorns will try to turn around their fortunes when they finish their two match home stand on Sunday when they play host to Sky Blue FC at 2 p.m.

“We’ve got to get to work tomorrow morning,” Riley said, “and see if we can put it right.”