It is deep in the Black Months now. The rain – and the snow, and ice – has arrived. The trees are bare, the wind blows cold, and, perhaps the worst of all, the pitch down at the old barn on SW 18th and Morrison is empty and silent.
And the damn Sounders are in the Cup Final.
Let’s not forget that it was only just over a year ago that we all were raised to topgallant delight by our Timbers’, and Cascadia’s, first MLS Championship. I don’t think any of us who lived through that mad run up to the Final, and that epic Final match, will forget that season and the joy that came with it.
From Chara’s “Assassin’s Creed” header in LA to the madness of the play-in match and 22 rounds of PKs.
From the cold calculation of the scoreless draw here to the clinical beatdown in Vancouver.
From the wild ride on the FC Dallas bull to the 95th minute Melano dagger to the heart of the beast.
From Diego Valeri’s ridiculously improbable 27-second goal to the final whistle that crowned the Timbers the 2015 MLS Champions.
What a long, strange trip it was.
And now, just as we await the end of the 2016 season and begin to think and wonder about 2017 comes a reminder that it was a stranger, more magical, and less probable trip even than it seemed at the time.
Now that we’ve booted the roster ball around the Thorns’ pitch there’s not much more to talk about professional women’s soccer this year, but I thought I’d wander about playing a bit of wee heidies with some of the tag-ends of the season as well as possibilities for next year.
Of course, the NCAA playoffs are still going on (and down to the Final Eight starting today). A handful of surprises; The #1 ranked Stanford Cardinal is out. Florida State is out already, too, to Utah (Utah?) who was then ousted in turn by USC. The luckless Badgers and Rose Lavelle – who will end her college career without a title – went out in the second round to Florida and Savannah Jordan (who then got shot down by Auburn in the Round of 16). The quarterfinals should be interesting to watch, if nothing else to see if anyone stands out as a prospective draft pick for January.
Of course, there’s another, less pleasant reason to keep an eye on the tournament; checking up on who gets injured. Andi Sullivan (Stanford) will be out for months with an ACL tear picked up in the Cardinal’s loss to Santa Clara.
Perhaps the single biggest, and most difficult to answer – question is what will happen when the women’s collective bargaining agreement with US Soccer expires before dawn January 1, 2017.
So far we’ve looked at Thorns FC at forward and midfield, and what we’ve seen has looked good. But while scoring and passing and cute juggling tricks are all fun to watch, and, yes, you often hear it said that “if you don’t score you can’t win”…
…but the other side of that aphorism is that if you don’t concede you can’t lose, and many championship teams win championships through tough defending and outstanding goalkeeping.
Last week we looked at Thorns FC’s striking corps. This week we take a look at what we have in the center of the pitch, and speculate on what might happen in the off- and upcoming season.
On the morning of November 7 Thorns FC has a total of seven midfielders under contract. The real question in my mind would be “which of these midfielders do what?”, so let’s look at them grouped into their roles.
It’s been a rough year on a lot of fronts. The soccer was sometimes okay, but sometimes not okay, and both the Timbers and the Thorns fell short of the results we wanted from them.
For me, it went beyond the on-field stuff. After over a year of writing less and less, and editing more and more, and becoming increasingly disconnected from what made it all fun for me in the first place, I found myself adrift.
This is the first of a series of posts wherein I want to talk, and think, about the 2017 Thorns and, to do that, examine the 2016 Thorns. And I want to begin by looking at the first line of attack; the forwards.
Thorns FC has four forwards rostered as of November 1: Christine Sinclair, Nadia Nadim, Hayley Raso, and Mallory Weber
Last Sunday afternoon Thorns FC won the NWSL Shield for the first time in their short history.
A convincing 1-3 away win over the Joisey Goils of Sky Blue – combined with a 3-1 Chicago demolition of the Washington Spirit – brought the only piece of NWSL silverware Thorns FC had not yet won home to Portland.
But, since this is Portland and, thus, incapable of doing things the easy way, first the visitors had to hand a gift goal to the home side.
But before we go on…let’s set the scene for Sunday.
As noted above, Chicago had whipped Washington the day before, leaving the Spirit a single point above Portland on the league table, so – with the win here in July giving Portland the tiebreaker – a draw or a win in Jersey would bring the Shield to Portland.
On the other hand…
Western New York’s beatdown of the lowly Breakers meant that a win in Jersey would also bring the Flash here this coming weekend for the semifinal. That seemed…less than suboptimal, to me, anyway.
Tanking the Sky Blue match seemed inconceivable. And yet…the notion of playing Chicago rather than Rochester in the semifinal seemed like such a…nicer option. So when I dropped into Bazi Bierbrasserie on the sunny Sunday afternoon I was honestly torn.