Thorns FC: Back to the pitch

We’re still almost two weeks from the first preseason match, but the Portland Thorns have opened camp and begun working on the 2016 edition of the Girls in Red, so I thought I’d take a moment for a quick look at this year’s squad.

Thorns keepers

Here’s the roster for Thorns FC as of Monday per the Thorns website:

2016 Thorns FC Preseason Roster
Goalkeepers (3): Michelle Betos, Adrianna Franch, Emily Kruger*
Defenders (8): McKenzie Berryhill, Kendall Johnson, Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges, Shade Pratt*, Katherine Reynolds, Emily Sonnett, Kat Williamson
Midfielders (6): Celeste Boureille*, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Allie Long, Mana Shim
Forwards (4): Anna Maria Gilbertson*, Nadia Nadim, Christine Sinclair, Jodie Taylor
The professionals I’m sure you’re familiar with.  The amateurs – indicated by asterisks on the table above – are something of a mixed bag.
Kruger we know from last season; solid backup ’keeper, and possibly Parsons has some lingering concerns that Franch might get called to Rio.  Even if Franch remains here, however, I’m unsure what we’ll see from her as we discussed earlier this season, so I’m glad that Parsons has kept in touch with Em Kruger.  Henderson is less excited about Kruger, suspecting that she’s here to audition for someone else.

Pratt never even cracked the matchday 18 for SBFC last season, and that says something to me, given how dire Sky Blue was that year. In college she was moved all over the pitch, including striker, winger, CB, and FB, but was never ranked in the top 100 either in her conference or nationally by Top Drawer.  Henderson says that she “…has blistering pace, but is raw and terribly underdeveloped…(w)as considered as an option at full-back for SBFC, and Portland will probably give her a look there, though you wonder if she can defend top level talent, even with that speed.”  Still, her inclusion seems like a reasonable look at a player that might provide a fair bit of versatility.

Bourielle was ranked 18th in the PAC12 by Top Drawer but not in the top 100 nationally last season, and her conversion rate (5 goals on 37 shots) was pretty wasteful. Not sure she’s being looked at as a striker, then…but possibly for depth at winger?  Henderson is higher on her than I am, noting that she has “…the ability to play as a central midfield or as a left-winger. Doesn’t possess gamebreaking speed but has technical skill and flair. Uses size well in the air. Could be a valuable reserve…

Gilbertson is another unranked player, and her conversion rate (10 on 92 – 92! – shots with only 36 on goal) doesn’t impress me but Henderson is more optimistic: “Great scoring record against top teams playing in the nation’s best WoSo conference. Not particularly efficient and a high volume shooter. Definitely worth a flyer…could fit on the end of the bench as an undrafted rookie.”  Hmmm.  My guess is that Parsons won’t field an undisciplined forward, so we’ll have to see who’s right about her quality.

How does the team look to be prepared for the Olympics this season?  Even though then-GM Wilkinson promised last autumn to reduce the reliance on international players Thorns FC still stands to lose at least five (Sinclair, Heath, Klingenberg, Horan, and Henry assuming the rumors are correct) – and possibly six or seven if Sonnett and Franch are called up late – for the Olympic Games this season.  This appears to be among the hardest hit of the NWSL teams. Washington might lose five, as well, but nobody else looks to lose more than four with Seattle, again, losing only Solo and Rapinoe if she’s healthy and Boston only Enghen.

As I discussed over at Stumptown, the USWNT callups may be extensive, including camp beginning in may, friendlies in June and July, and possibly another one of those damn “Victory Tours” assuming that the US takes gold in Rio, so we’re likely to lose at least three starters for a large chunk of the season.

Jeremiah Braeback has a good post discussing the Thorns’ depth chart and possibilities where each player might fit one the pitch.

While we’re still fantasizing here’s a fun article at the Rose City Shears site discussing how then-Washington head coach Parsons ran what looked like a strikerless 4-2-4 against us back in May of 2015.  Are we likely to see that here?  No.  But it does point up the degree to which Parsons is willing to experiment tactically in ways that CPC and Riley often did not, and might point a way to handling the loss of the internationals and the roster upheaval we’ll see this season.

Speaking of strikers, before we go let me state for the record that I am still unsold on Nadim.  She did score twice at this year’s Algarve in the early rounds, but her Danish team ended up fighting for scraps in the seventh-place match and she has done nothing to date to suggest that she has returned to her 2014 form.  With Taylor and Sinclair upfront I’m not particularly worried.  If she can chip in a half-dozen goals or so she will still be a bargain.


We’ll talk about that next week.

Update 3/16: The Henry signing is official as of today.  According to Caitlin Murray, who has been on this story from the beginning, Henry is set to join the team around June 1 after the French domestic league concludes.  It’s worth noting, however, that the FFF has several frendlies planned for June and it’s likely that the national team pre-Olympic camp will open some time in early to mid-July.  Throw in the Olympic break and we’re very likely to see Henry only in bits and pieces this season.

Good signing?  Sure.  2016 season-changer?  Probably not.  I think the best way to look at this is as more of a long-term team building move than a single-season push-for-the-title signing.

Update 3/21: The non-roster invitees’ assessments have been updated with Chris Henderson’s observations.  Chris is much better attuned to the NCAA than I am, and I largely defer to his judgements.

Update 3/24: With the loss of Jodie Taylor to Arsenal Ladies suddenly the presence of two attackers in the non-roster players seems easier to understand.  Still, a frontline of Dagny (assuming she now moves up front…), Nadim (as yet unproven as a quality striker in the NWSL) and a couple of non-roster players?  Yike.  The one place I wasn’t worried about the Thorns was striker…and now I am.  This could be a hell of a wild season and it hasn’t even started yet…