Thorns FC: First Look

Thorns FC took the first preseason match from Chicago 1-nil on a chill, rainy Sunday.

I didn’t want to make this a full match report and don’t have player ratings, but I do have some general observations and first impressions of the players and teams below the fold.

I thought both Chicago and Portland looked well organized (for the first preseason match, anyway). Defenses looked generally better than the attackers, tho both attacking units had some good looks. Both units’ strikers’ finishing was…very preseason.

Portland’s defending was very fluid, and the backline went from 3 to 4 to 5 depending on the shape of Chicago’s attack.  I thought the basic formation was a 4-3-3 with Weber wide left, Sinc central, and Nadim wide right, tho Nadim (as is her wont) tended to drift inside.

I thought that Chicago, in particular, missed Press as much as they did last season (generally when Press scored Chicago did well; when she didn’t, they didn’t). McCaffery didn’t impose herself, and Mautz wasn’t really a factor. Chicago’s best chance might have been in the 8’ when Courtney Raetzman hit a rasper that Franch could only parry upwards; luckily it was up off the FRONT of the crossbar instead of the underside and Franch collected the ball.

Chicago’s backline looked fairly composed without Johnston (who got married today, BTW).  Short had one truly dangerous cross, but in general the Thorns kept her and Gilliland home.

Interestingly, perhaps the best bit of play the Thorns put together was late in the second half with several starters off the pitch, as PTFC moved the ball around Chicago’s penalty area with some pretty passing and intelligent movement.  Sinc was a big part of that, but Mallory Weber had some terrific runs that broke down Gilliland several times during the sequence.

I thought that several players looked well advanced for preseason. Sinclair, Menges, Sonnett, and Klingenberg all put in good shifts. Shim had some nice touches and looked better than she did this time last season.  Long was in beast mode tracking back; she tackled like the ball owed her money.  Nadim looked kinda preseason-y in her half-hour; some nice touches, some heavy ones. I thought Boureille and Henry needed a little more time to get in synch with their teammates; both made some poor passes, several of which gave Chicago possession in dangerous positions.

Allie Long kept dropping deep into the backline; despite Parsons’ insistence that she wasn’t going to imitate her USWNT play she spent more time dropping back than Henry did.  At the other end of the pitch, though, she had some terrific half-chances including a goal – ruled offside – in the 67′.   Sinc put her in along on Dalton a minute later, but Allie couldn’t control the pass and ended up feebly doinking it into Dalton’s hands.  A driven ball in the 77′ went right to keeper.

Franch was in command of her area and made the stops she needed to. I just wish she was five inches taller; that Raetzman shot wouldn’t have troubled a taller player, but that’s kind of a feature, not a bug of women’s keepers. One thing I hope she doesn’t continue to do is play these little dink-clears to the CB right at the top of her 18; they always seem to come right back to her because the opposing F closes down almost immediately.

Great to see KJ back on the pitch (on for Kling at 58′) and looking effective.

Draftees or trialists Flynn, Cox, Hubly, and Herndon all saw at least 15 minutes in the second half and looked perfectly decent.

No Heath in the 18 (Goldberg says it was just a precaution for a minor knock). No Horan, either – at JJ’s wedding?  Dagny and Morris not dressed, either; still rehabbing..?

Sorry we didn’t get to see Ellie Boon.  Hope we’ll see her on Wednesday.

Fashionista Corner: I liked the all-black practice kits the Thorns wore for this match; very stark.  I think it’d work as a third strip behind the primary red and a secondary light-colored (white?) kit.  Any haters out there?  Anyone else like these, too?

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I’d say that overall the team looks about where they should be; not exceptionally great but nothing brutally ugly.  Communication and interplay is coming and nobody looks truly awful.  Several players look like they’re shaping into good form early.  I think Parsons is doing well at bringing the team up to Opening Day.

I caught the last fifteen minutes of the Houston match against the US U-23’s and thought that Houston looked as stymied and ugly as they did in preseason here last year with the score 1-nil…only to go for a beer and return to find that the Dash had scored two in the final minute and added time.  Houston pestered the U-23 backline a ton but didn’t really look likely to score, until they did.

Both Portland and Chicago looked further forward than the final quarter hour of the other two sides, so we’ll see how the Thorns shape against the Junior Nats this Wednesday.