Thorns FC: Second Intermission


In the words of MayaTye over at Stumptown Footy…gee, that really worked well, didn’t it..?

The good news is that the Thorns will be getting all of their internationals back except for Christine Sinclair (who plays for bronze this coming Friday).  The…well, I won’t pretend that it’s “bad news”.  For me, anyway.

And you know what that is.

In case you’ve been living in a cave cut off from all electronic media the USWNT got dumped from the Junior Miss World Cup Tournament and Nationalism Rodeo by a Swedish team that played a hell of an effective, cynical defend-and-counter game and eventually went through on penalties.

I’m glad none of our Thorns got hurt.  I’m not sorry to see the USWNT out; Coach Ellis and the USSF’s disregard for my club soured me on this silly World-Cup-Redux long before the quarterfinal booting.

I’m sorry for Allie Long, though.

She worked her tail off to finally make the Nats and get a slot to Rio and is coming home with nothing but a bagful of sweaty kit.  Lindsey Horan and Emily Sonnett will be back for the next WC, and this wasn’t Tobin and Kling’s first goat-rodeo.

But for Allie, well…this is it.  She’s done; she’ll be too old for the 2019 World Cup, and what has she to show for all that work..?

The quarterfinal…what can you really say?  For all that Sundhage’s ugly-ass bunkering worked it really shouldn’t have.  The U.S. took the worst possible approach to breaking it down – important safety tip, Jill; if Abbyball wasn’t working at the end of Abby’s career when Abby was still lumbering around about as mobile as a huge unmoving Tor, it sure as hell doesn’t work when Abby’s not even fricking there – and still had multiple half-chances the were utterly wasted.

My issue was really with 1) Ellis subs…you park Tobin at RB, sub in Rapinoe (who was struggling) – sub OUT Rapinoe for Press (who’s been struggling) and keep Heath parked with Krieger still on the bench..?  WTF???

…and 2) her choices for the PKs. No Heath? Press over…well, almost anyone (I’m not a Press hater, but she’s been having issues performing under pressure…).  Morgan…well, that was just bad luck.

But, c’mon.

Now I’ll really be frustrated if USSF puts on a March of the Tomato Cans “Knocked out in the Quarterfinal is Sorta Like Victory” Tour.

The other ugly piece of business is that, dammit, Sundhage’s cynical tactics are working like sauce on a Swedish meatball.  This week the Swedes took Brazil to PKs and knocked them out, too.  It’s up to Germany to drop Die Mutter von allen Bomben on the Swedish bunker and blow it to flinders for the Good People of the Soccer Earth.

Seeing Sundhage wearing a gold medal for making the Beautiful Game ugly would just really piss me off.

Christine Sinclair is the only Thorn still playing, if only for bronze, but who might not be if the referee for the France match in the quarters had been as diligent as the one for the Germany match.  Herdman had been juggling nitroglycerine with his gal Buchanan and it was only a matter of when, not if, she got blown up for her thuggish play.  She should have been earlier, for her brutality against Le Sommer in the quarterfinal.  Instead she gifted Germany a PK in the semi and put her team out of gold medal contention.

Well done, Kadeisha and sorry, Christine.  I had hoped you’d come home with gold, if only because you’ve lugged your team around on your back like Atlas in a sports bra for years.

Now we can look ahead to the end of the NWSL season.

Portland is tied with Washington on 29 points but ahead on the first tiebreaker (head-to-head).  Washington will have a game in hand until this Thursday when they play a surprisingly frisky Houston.

C’mon, you Dash.

Thorns FC has about ten days to get ready for Seattle away 8/27.  I think that is a winnable match, but I also think that it’s difficult to predict what we’ll see, or who.

To my way of thinking at least one of the “little Thorns” – Hayley Raso – has earned a starting spot regardless of the condition of the internationals.  I know the team will benefit from Sonnett’s return to the backline, Allie, Tobin and Henry to the midfield, and Kling to fullback, but I think it’s worth considering Raso with Sinc at the top.  Allie at ACM, Tobin and Horan on the flanks, Henry at DCM with Kling, Menges, Sonnett and…hmmm.

Right back may be a problem.  Weber?  She did well enough there against Seattle.  Maybe.  We’ll have to see.

If the traveling Riveters don’t roar ZI! KA! every time Hope Solo touches the ball I’ll be heartbroken.

After that it’s really simple; the Thorns need to beat Boston and Houston here and Sky Blue away.  They need to hold Western New York to no worse than a home draw or, obviously better, take all three points.  All of those are very possible.

But, as Pia Sundhage showed the Nats and the world, sometimes the right tactics can make it very, very difficult to make the possible into the real.

12 Comments Thorns FC: Second Intermission

  1. Timber Dave

    I was torn. Torn between wanting my team to win, and NOT wanting one team to be so dominant that it makes international WoSo boring. Kinda like how I want the Thorns to rule the league and win everything in sight every year, but I also want the league to be competitive with many teams winning occasional trophies and all of them gaining lots of fans.

    Now I’m torn again. Both teams I was rooting for in the semifinals lost. So I’m now torn between not wanting Germany to win, since they’ve won plenty in the past (two WCs on the women’s side and the most recent WC on the men’s, with a very strong chance the men will win the Olympics), and not wanting Sweden to win, to avoid rewarding such an ugly style of soccer.

    Sweden’s style alarmingly reminds me of Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League. Chelsea eventually won, but everyone hated the matches so much that few would follow in their footsteps. But there’s an important difference: I like Pia Sundhage, despite her recent choice of tactics, while I absolutely despise José Mourinho, manager of that 2012 Chelsea team. So I guess that tilts me toward favoring Sweden. But only slightly.

    It’s bad when you’re rooting against teams instead of for them. I may not even watch the final.

    1. fdchief218

      It turned out to be a pretty lively match. Lots of chances early that went wasted but Germany scored first early in the second half and forced Sweden to come out and play. Unfortunate own goal sealed it for Germany but the Swedes kept coming and really should have had an equalizer.

      Glad that Pia’s gals had to finally play – they can, just not well enough to beat the big names.

      Feel for Marta. This was her last shot at a prize, and she’ll have to retire without a major honor to her name.

  2. Kevin

    I’m surprised that you’re advocating benching both Nadim and Dagny. I appreciate what Raso brings, but I think it’s far more speed and effort than finished product. Nadim certainly has her issues with finishing, but her ability to win headers is a plus and for those matches when her work rate is good (most of the time, but certainly not all) she harries the defenders (Raso can do this as well, of course). And Dagny brings good aerial ability as well as good passing vision and some hard tackling. And moving Horan out to the wing diminishes her value, I think. She is a good tackler who is strong and has good vision and passing range, but not a player who has the ability to beat players 1v1 with speed or quickness.

    The problem, in my opinion, is that we have 3 players whose best position in the midfield is the center: Henry, Horan, and Long. Long has shown over her time with the Thorns that she is not an outside mid. Obviously Henry isn’t going to move outside, as she’s one of the best DM in the world. That leaves Horan, but as I stated above I think that wastes much of her skill set.

    In my opinion, we either need to play Horan up front, or play a 4-2-3-1 / 4-1-1-3-1, which will allow Henry, Long, and Horan to all play in the middle area of the pitch, with the ability to range out wide.

    1. John Lawes

      It’s going to be a difficult decision for Parsons no matter who sits. My thoughts on the XI are principally based on;

      1. Sinclair has been in terrific form lately. You really can’t sit her.
      2. Raso has also been on a tear. I think she deserves a look with a strike partner who can benefit from her speed and service.
      3. Nadim hasn’t really “won headers”. She had a miracle header against Seattle here and a ridiculous bloop finish in Seattle that was the product of a horrible defensive derp. She’s also had to contend with a hell of a lot of double and triple teams, so it’s difficult to tell how effective she’s going to be when she has more support. While she’s looking MUCH better than she did in the early going, I’m still not going to sit Sinc, or Horan, or Raso to play her. If we choose to go direct, that’s different. But I’m hoping we won’t play direct…which puts her on the bench.
      4. For me Dagny is the odd woman out, too. She’s not as good on the ball as Heath, not as good a distributor as Horan, not as good a DM as Long or Henry. I’m not sure where this trope of her being good in the air has come from; I’ve never seen her consistently getting to high crosses. She’s not BAD at any of those things, she’s just not as good at any particular thing as the others. Hence she becomes a sub.

      I keep hearing the suggestion of Horan at forward, and I guess I’d be willing to consider it if Parsons has run her there in practice and she’s looked good. We have no way of knowing that, so…

      The real bottom line is that we’re effectively re-assembling the team right now. We don’t know who’s nursing knocks from Rio, who’s working well with whom, who’s on a tear and who’s gone stone cold. Much as I hate to be patient, we’re just going to have to see who runs out on the 27th…

      1. Kevin Bensel

        Re: Nadim: “Nadim hasn’t really “won headers”. She had a miracle header against Seattle here and a ridiculous bloop finish in Seattle that was the product of a horrible defensive derp.”

        Re: Dagny: “I’m not sure where this trope of her being good in the air has come from; I’ve never seen her consistently getting to high crosses.”

        In both cases I was referring to out in the field, not specifically in the box to score goals. On that point I should have been more clear. Dagny is clearly the target that Betos looks for when taking goal kicks, and she wins a lot of headers as flick-ons. Seattle even double-teamed Dagny on Betos goal kicks. Nadim also wins a fair share of headers outside the box. But neither is particularly good at scoring with her head (which, to be fair, most women soccer players aren’t).

        I think many of the “Horan as a forward” comments are based on her playing as a forward for PSG, where she did well. Does Parsons want to see her there? I have no idea. You obviously give up some of what she does well by playing her there: open-field tackling and some distribution. But from her time at PSG she showed that she can be strong holding up the ball and can score. I’m just not sure that she and Sinc are a good pairing, as they are somewhat similar in terms of style, and neither is particularly fast.

        And I forgot to include this in my original reply, but why not Reynolds at RB? I think she has shown better there than Weber has (to be fair, Weber is listed as a forward on the roster, and if that is accurate what she has done as a rookie forward in playing RB is excellent).

        1. fdchief218

          The interesting part of this is that my overall take on Betos’ distribution is “Deargawd, woman, please work on this!”. To me it’s the weakest part of her skillset; typically when I track her distribution Portland seldom wins more than half, and often even the aerial wins aren’t conclusive; the ball pings off Dagny’s head (or Nadim’s, or Long’s or Henry’s when they’re here) and then off someone else and then finally bounces into touch or to an opponent. So I don’t think of either of them as being particularly effective as aerial ball-winners in midfield, either. That may be an aspect of their game that I’m overlooking, tho, so I’ll have to start paying more attention to it…

          (Odd stat thing; I started tracking Portland keeper outlets last season as simply “short”, “medium”, and “long” and either won or lost. But after last season I realized that I had a bunch of GKs and punts that weren’t won or lost outright; probably half bounded off two or three heads or legs before settling, so I added a “neutral/eventually won” and a “neutral/lost” category and that has proved very useful…)

          Horan as forward is one of those sorts of “Who would win a lightsaber duel; Obi Wan or Yoda?” kinds of things. To be comfortable saying anything more about it than “Hmmm…” I’d need to know a lot I don’t now. Agree that her skills probably woudn’t mesh well with Sinc’s. But Raso, or Nadim, or Dagny? Just dunno.

          And Reynolds not going back at FB comes from 1) her tire-fire performance against FCKC here and 2) Parson’s moving her inside against Houston and Seattle. I was appalled at her inability to stay with Groom and Tymrak when she should have been briefed on them as the Blues’ biggest threats, and Parsons obviously thought she lacked the pace as well; he moved her inside for the next two games. The problem there, however, is that we have better centerbacks with the return of the internationals, so she, like Dagny, ends up on the bench not because she’s no good, but because better players are available…

  3. Andy Wheeler

    Very much disagree that Allie Long will be too old in 2019, when she’ll be a mere 31 years old. Shannon Boxx played all but one game in 2011 at age 33/34, in very much the same role. Hard work and experience are what earned Long a starting role in these Olympics, and I can’t see those traits diminishing over the next 3 years.

    In fact, i wouldn’t be surprised to see her with the armband in France, as she has exactly the attitude that this team needs to mellow out the sponsorship-fueled egos among some of her teammates.

    Think about it: Long is among the first uswnt stars (along with Dunn) whose performance in nwsl directly drove her selection for the national team. By 2019, if we’re lucky, a majority of the team will comprise players who did the same. Who better to lead them on the field?

    1. jdlawes

      I hope Allie can be the US captain in 2019. She’s a personal favorite and has, as you say, been important establishing club form in the NWSL as a selection factor for the Nats.

      On the downside, 31 is not young for a field player. Most players peak physically in their mid-twenties, and it takes a truly exceptional player to avoid declining after 30. Allie has a lot of miles on those legs, too; she’s been a starter for her clubs for, what, a decade?

      Throw in the probability of injury and the politics of the USSF…so while I hope I’m wrong, I am still very skeptical we’ll see her. I hope you’re right, tho, and hope she is here years from now, loaded with club and national honors.

    2. fdchief218

      The other thing worth noting is that Boxx was ALSO on the squad that went to Canada four years later, at age 37 or so. You can argue (and I would) that she should not have gone. But that’s also very much past the age of a typical international midfielder and suggests that – putting aside the “Ellis was told to take all the old ladies” possibility – that she was an extraordinarily fit player with skills exceptional enough to resist the normal erosion of the late thirties. That, in turn, suggests that you are comparing Allie to a player of exceptional longevity.

      Allie – dearly as I love her – has, so far as I know, never been considered THATt far beyond the abilities of her peers. She’s a terrific player, IMO…but I’m not sure I’m ready to credit her with the sort of agelessness that, one hopes, was the cause for Boxx’s inclusion in the WC15 USWNT…

  4. Timber Dave

    Aaaannnnd…. Houston just gifted Washington a PK, which they scored. I suspect we’ll be three points down by the end of the day.

    1. Timber Dave

      Yup. Washington wins 2-1. They’re now 3 points ahead of us. We both get our Nats back for the remaining games, though despite Crystal Dunn, I think it’s a bigger deal for us than them.

      1. fdchief218

        Just saw that. Damn you, Houston! You get all Bayern Munich on us and then roll over and die against Washington.

        Doesn’t change that we pretty much need to just run the table in the last five games to get the semi. If we do nobody can catch us…


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