Heart and Grit
The Portland Thorns gave Racing Lousiville a fat lip early on Saturday after a defensive lapse gave up a goal in only the sixth minute. Although they lost their footing for a bit, Racing came back swinging and scored two goals in four minutes in the second half to seal the win. First, Abby Erceg headed in a cross off of a corner from Wang Shuang in the 60th minute. Next, Thembi Kgatlana sent in a blast through traffic in the 64th minute off of an assist from Rebecca Holloway.
On the importance of this win, defender and goal scorer Ereceg said it was huge. “Everyone is desperate for points – the table is so close – so for the girls to show up the way they did today was unbelievable. It was at the right time, a huge performance. I haven’t seen us play with that much grit and heart. You can tell that the girls really want it.”
It’s not hyperbolic to call this the biggest win in Racing Louisville’s history. Not only did they beat the current number one team in the league for the first time in two-and-a-half years, but they also scored multiple goals against them for the first time, essentially dominated them, and did it without four key players and a critical back-up player. While Portland was definitely missing Sophia Smith and Becky Sauerbrunn, the fact Racing was without Savannah DeMelo, Jaelin Howell, Carson Pickett, Nadia Nadim, and Jordan Baggett should have arguably weakened them even more. But, instead, Racing came out and played with an immense amount of heart and grit, as Erceg said. And as a result, they’re well in the playoff running as well.
“It shows the potential–that we can beat all the teams in the league,” said head coach Kim Björkegren. “I think this is the first time Racing actually won against Portland so it shows we’re getting closer to the best teams and on a good day like this we can beat them.”
If their playoff chances seemed to be slipping away last week, they’re back in the running better than ever after this match.
Going into this match, Racing was in ninth place after Angel City’s win against Kansas City on Friday pushed them further down the standings. Racing has been calling their games must-wins for the past three weeks but only pulled draws, so it was easy to see all the ways this match could go wrong with so many key players out.
According to Erceg, who wore the captain’s armband with Howell out injured, the players knew this and came out ready to…