The United States U-23 squad fell 4-1 to the Portland Thorns on Wednesday evening.
In a surprising turn of events, the U-23s got on the board first in the 13th minute off a goal by Sarah Weber of Nebraska. They held that lead through the first half, but Portland began to sub in an increasing number of starters in the second half. Finally, in the 74th minute, Thorns’ draftee Izzy D’Aquila found an equalizer.
After that, it was the Thorns in the driver’s seat as they scored three more goals in just eight minutes. The ultimate game-winner came in the 84th minute via forward Sophia Smith, followed by another in the 90th by forward Morgan Weaver, and in the first minute of stoppage time, the final goal from Japan international Hina Sugita.
It was obvious Portland wasn’t going to accept a loss to the U23s, so it’s not surprising they started bringing out the big guns around the 70th minute with Sophia Smith, Crystal Dunn, and Morgan Weaver clocking. Even so, it was rookie Izzy D’Aquila that ultimately broke through and put the Thorns on the board. The fact that D’Aquila had signed with Portland through 2025 with an option for 2026 had been announced only a few hours prior to the start of the match, so it’s definitely a good feeling for Thorns fans to know one of their newest players is already producing results.
Speaking of D’Aquila, she was subbed on in only the 20th minute due to a very worrisome injury to Canadian national team member Janine Beckie. In the 18th minute or so she attempted to toe-poke the ball away from a U-23 player but got her leg tangled. She was eventually stretchered off the pitch and was on crutches at the end of the match. This is an awful development for both the Thorns and the Canadian national team – especially in a World Cup year – but, hopefully, it’s not as serious as it immediately seems.
All in all, the Thorns are using this tournament to demonstrate that they’re the same championship-winning club as last year. Despite yet another off-season coaching change, they seem like they’re going to continue to be one of the more formidable teams in the league. The first goal was given up with almost no starters on the pitch. Their performance against Racing previously was also strong and if they failed to score earlier, that’s probably as much due to Racing’s improvement in the off-season as anything. The bottom line is that Portland was still able to pull out both these wins when they had to and that’s the sign of a team that’s going to continue to win throughout the regular season.
U.S. U23’s Takeaways PreseasonRE
Ultimately, the scoreline of this match makes the game seem rougher for the U23s than it was. They were able to score first on last year’s league champions (even if they were heavily rotated) and hold them off through three-quarters of the entire match. That’s a great accomplishment.
In addition to Weber who scored the goal, goalkeeper Ryan Campbell also had a very strong performance in goal and made some critical saves to keep her squad ahead as long as it was.
After losing to OL Reign 3-0 and now Portland 4-1, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to rally and make additional progress against Racing Louisville. Even if they don’t win against Racing, scoring more than one goal and/or holding a lead for a substantial period of time would be a sign of success. Unlike the NWSL teams, the U23s don’t play together consistently at all, so even the heavily rotated NWSL squads have more time to build chemistry together than the U23s. It’s also worth noting that none of the players who might regularly be called into the U23 squad from NWSL teams were eligible for this tournament. So there was no Emily Madril or Tarryn Torres to round them out. Therefore, the fact they were able to put together strong games at all is a positive sign for their future success.
USA U-23: 1-Ryan Campbell; 9-Quincy McMahon (10-Ayo Oke, 68), 19-Eva Gaetino (8-Lauren Flynn, 46), 20-Talia Staude (Capt.), 6-Kate Wiesner (15-Peyton Linnehan 74); 17-Sarah Weber (11-Jillian Shimkin, 57), 22-Annie Karich (21-Sunshine Fontes 46), 18-Felicia Knox (16-Lexi Missimo 68); 24-Brittany Raphino (3-Reilyn Turner, 46), 13-Taylor Huff (7-Ellie Wheeler, 46), 2-Avery Patterson (14-Simone Jackson, 68)
Subs not used: 12-Neeku Purcell
Head Coach: Margueritte Aosaza
Portland Thorns: 18-Shelby Hogan; 45-Natalie Beckman (14-Natalia Kuikka, 62), 44-Gabby Provenzano, 5-Emily Menges, 39-Meaghan Nally (2-Reyna Reyes, 72); 46-Taylor Porter (9-Sophia Smith, 72), 11-Rocky Rodriguez (17-Sam Coffey, 62), 12-Christine Sinclair (Capt.) (19-Crystal Dunn, 71); 16-Janine Beckie (24-Izzy D’Aquila, 20), 33-Hannah Betfort (22-Morgan Weaver, 72), 15-Michele Vasconcelos (8-Hina Sugita, 46)
Subs not used: 1-Bella Bixby, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 13-Olivia Moultrie, 20-Kelli Hubly, 25-Meghan Klingenberg
Head Coach: Mike Norris
Both teams are back on Saturday, March 18th when Racing will take on the U.S. U-23s at 8 PM ET /5 pm PT while OL Reign will play the Portland Thorns at 10:30 PM ET /7:30 pm PT. Preseason
All photos courtesy of Taylor Vincent