Thorns FC: Impressions from the “first ever draw”

Chris has already done such a fine job with his match report of the 1-1 draw that the Portland Thorns FC scratched out against Kansas City FC that I just thought I’d add some of my impressions of the gamecast and the game itself.

I should say up front  that I missed a sizeable portion of the second half from pure frustration; I was cooking with the live-feed on my wife’s tablet perched on the kitchen window and the buffering had become so slow that I shut the thing off to concentrate on preparing the miso butter for the asparagus.  I turned it back on in the 60th minute in time to see the final half hour of the match.  Chris says the Thorns improved in the second half, though, so I’ll take his word for it.

But I did want to add my takeaways from the broadcast.

1.  For all that I’ve heard Portlanders complain about the Timbers broadcast announcers I can’t say that I really pay much attention to them.

The KCFC announcer Sean Wheelock was impossible not to pay attention to.

Was it his constant reminders of the historical importance of the occasion – did you know that the match was the first ever  in the NWSL?  Sean reminded us of every first ever – first ever goal (by KC’s Cuellar) and first ever PK; Sean even informed us that Emilee O’Neill was the first ever substitution in the NWSL.  For all I know Sean mentioned the first ever use of Magic Spray for the first ever injury.  The live feed wasn’t so great that I couldn’t have missed it.

Wheelock had several more of these catchphrases.  By the 80th minute my children were both using “but we play on…” as a description for not getting booked for quarreling with each other or leaving the top off the milk jug.  And when Nitty the Cat batted her catnip mouse off the sofa she was said to have played “a long searching ball.”

Wheelock’s partner seemed to be some sort of KCFC player or coach but she said so little I couldn’t even learn her name; it was all Sean and his first evers.  As much footy as I watch I don’t often think about announcers but after Sean & Co. I’ve revised my opinion; they need to be like officials – if they’re doing their jobs right you shouldn’t even notice that they’re there.  Are you reading this, Thorns?  I hope so.

2.  As for the match itself, well; KC is a damn good team, and Renae Cuellar is a load.  I’d heard that they had been touted as potentially the best balanced and organized team in the NWSL and tonight they looked it.  The good stuff I saw for the Thorns is that the gals earned a point on the road.  And, well…that’s the bulk of the good news.  The first half was just ugly for PTFC; lots of missed passes, little attack, and several scary moments on defense.

Well, as Chris said, the team tightened up a bit in the second half.  But over the match KCFC imposed their pressing style on the Thorns, disrupted our attack thoroughly, were typically able to pass through the Thorns defense when they needed to, and were visibly the better team on the night.

KCFC completely dominated the Thorns midfield.  Angie Kerr, who looked so composed and resourceful against University of Portland, was not effective.  Far too many passes went astray, or directly to someone in a blue jersey.   The Thorns midfield looked poorly organized, scattered and out of synch for much of the match.

KCFC marked the Thorns forwards relentlessly,  too, and the result was next to no space for the frontrunners Sinclair and Morgan.  Sinclair was reduced to retreating back past midfield in an attempt to gain possession.  After Foxhoven came on for Kerr at 63′ the Thorns had better run of play but the Attack did not look especially dangerous at any time tonight.

The other difficulty the KCFC pressure caused was that the Thorns were unable to consistently possess the ball and thus play the game Parlow-Cone hoped to play.  For long stretches the only attack Portland could generate came from booting the ball forward and trying to run under it – Sean’s “long searching” balls.  One hopes that this was the collected impact of the awful pitch and first-match jitters.  But it never looks good and tonight was no better; those long balls seldom searched out a Thorn or, when they did, the hard pitch made for heavy first touches that were usually immediately lost.

3.  Did I sound dire in the paragraph above?  I don’t want to; I’m not despairing.  This side is loaded with good players, and with more time to gel, on a better pitch, against other opponents – for KCFC is one of the best sides in the NWSL – the Red and Black will get their first ever win.  Parlow-Cone now has 90 minutes of experience to make adjustments from, and the women are coming home next week to their home opener against Seattle.  I had to remind myself that this team has played together less than two months.  And we snatched a point on the road after shipping a third minute goal; that’s nothing to get depressed about.  We will see better from our Thorns.

4.  Overall the match, the broadcast, and “Shawnee Mission District Stadium” reminded me more than a little of the Timbers’ days in the USL than it did a first ever anything.

The screen in my kitchen window tonight reminded me strongly of peering at dumpy little pitches through cheaply filmed video feeds (where the camera was just as likely to be showing the costumed mascot as the play on the pitch) while listening to announcers muttering through badly-adjusted mikes that also picked up every kettlecorn vendor’s cries and gradeschoolers’ chatter.  Stone-hard turf pitches painted over with the local high school football team’s gridiron – I’d almost forgotten how bad that looks for soccer, with the faint yellow lines of the bigger pitch fading out on the screen.

We may have forgotten how lucky we are, here in the Rose City, to have the beautiful pitch we see every home match.

I know it’s early days yet, but if the NWSL management hopes to earn any sort of credibility it really needs to work harder to make its venues look more professional than Middlefield Cheese Stadium (remember the home pitch of Cleveland City Stars? I do now).

Final Thoughts:  Was it a great match (for all that is was…wait for it…the first ever!) for the Thorns?  No.  Was it reason to despair?  Also no.  The gals will be home next week against Seattle, on our own beautiful Jeld-Wen field, with a full 90 against a good opponent to help tweak our play and make adjustments to our tactics.  We will be ready for Cuellar & Co. when they show up out here on D-Day.  We still have a talented side and a lot of time to work out the hitch in our stride.

And I feel confident that day will be a day that will live in infamy for KCFC.

Onward, Rose City!

Thorns FC draws FC Kansas City 1-1 in their inaugural NWSL match

Christine Sinclair converted a second-half penalty kick to help Thorns FC to a come-from-behind 1-1 draw in front of sold-out crowd of 6,784 fans at Shawnee Mission District Stadium in Overland Park, Kansas.

The Thorns FC season got off to a rocky start when FC Kansas City’s Renae Cuellar took a long pass from Kristin Mewis and scored the first goal in NWSL history in only the match’s 3rd minute.

The Thorns FC defense settled down after that but FC Kansas City, with especially strong play from their midfield, looked to be the better team in the first half.

The second half featured a much better showing from the Thorns FC defense as Becky Edwards and the rest of the backline did a much better job containing FC Kansas City’s midfield and denying their forwards opportunities.

Thorns FC got a big break in the 66th minute when second-half substitute Danielle Foxhoven was fouled by Lauren Sesselmann in the penalty area. Sinclair, the captain for Thorns FC, converted the penalty kick with a hard shot to the low right side, recording the first goal in Portland’s NWSL history in the 67th minute.

Next weekend, Thorns FC has their  inaugural home match on Sunday, April 21, against Seattle Reign FC. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. (PST) and the game will be broadcast on Freedom 970 AM as well as via web stream at www.portlandthornsfc.com.

Game Stats:

Portland Thorns FC (0-0-1, 1pts) at FC Kansas City (0-0-1, 1pts)
April 13, 2013 – Shawnee Mission District Stadium (Overland Park, Kan.)

Goals by Half              1          2          F
KC                               1          0          1
POR                            0          1          1

Scoring Summary
KC – Cuellar (Mewis)                            3rd minute
POR – Sinclair (penalty kick)             67

Misconduct Summary
KC – Mewis (caution)                            43
POR – Washington (caution)              70
POR – Williamson (caution)               82

Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Karina LeBlanc; D Marian Dougherty, D Rachel Buehler, D Kathryn Williamson, D Nikki Marshall (Emilee O’Neil, 61); M Becky Edwards, M Allie Long, M Angie Kerr (Danielle Foxhoven, 63); F Nikki Washington (Courtney Wetzel, 90), F Christine Sinclair (capt.), F Alex Morgan

Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay, M Meleana Shim

TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Morgan, 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Sinclair, 2); FOULS: 13 (Long, 4); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 2

KC: GK Nicole Barnhart; D Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), D Leigh Ann Robinson, D Lauren Sesselmann, D, Jen Buczkowski; M Casey Loyd (Courtney Jones, 72), M Merritt Mathias (Katie Kelly, 77), M Desiree Scott, M Kristie Mewis (Erika Tymrak, 81), M Lauren Cheney (capt.); F Renae Cuellar

Substitutes Not Used: GK Bianca Henninger, D Nia Williams, F Melissa Henderson

TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Two players tied, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Three tied with 1); FOULS: 11 (Two players tied, 2); OFFSIDES: 3; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 3

Referee: Kari Seitz
Assistant Referees: Kathryn Nesbitt, Kyle Atkins
Fourth Official: Jon Freemon
Attendance: 6,784

Thorns FC announce broadcast details for 2013 season

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC announced today that all 11 of the club’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) home matches will be broadcast on Freedom 970 AM, with all 22 matches available via live web stream at www.portlandthornsfc.com.

All NWSL home teams will provide live streaming video of their matches, which will be made available on www.portlandthornsfc.com for the club’s home and away games. All games at JELD-WEN Field will be streamed in high definition. On the road, the host team’s web stream will be provided.

Starting with Portland’s inaugural home match on April 21 against Seattle Reign FC, veteran sports broadcaster Ann Schatz will provide play-by-play with former University of Portland All-American goalkeeper Angela Harrison adding analysis as the broadcast team on Freedom 970 AM.

Schatz joins the Thorns FC broadcast team with more than 30 years of experience in the sports broadcasting field. After moving to the Rose City in 1989, Schatz worked at KOIN-TV before becoming the sideline reporter for Portland Trail Blazers basketball from 1999 until 2005. She turned her focus to the college ranks working with CBS Sports and, most recently, the Pac-12 Network calling women’s soccer, basketball and softball games. Originally from Omaha, Neb., Schatz played both basketball and softball at Creighton University, where she earned a degree in journalism and mass communications.

Harrison, a standout goalkeeper for the University of Portland from 1996-99, joins the Thorns FC broadcast team after three years as a radio analyst for the Pilots. Playing under the direction of Clive Charles, Harrison finished her collegiate career ranked sixth all-time in the program’s record books in both saves (132) and shutouts (24.5). A Soccer Buzz All-America selection in 1997, Harrison went on to win two USL W-League championships with the Boston Renegades in 2001 and 2002. She returned to Portland and was awarded an MBA from the University of Portland in 2005. In addition to broadcasting, Harrison has been a longtime youth soccer coach, developing numerous goalkeepers for the youth national team and college ranks. She currently serves as the director of operations for the Oregon Premier League.

 

Thorns FC announces the club’s season-opening roster

Portland Thorns FC today announced the team’s season-opening roster for the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League season.

Led by head coach Cindy Parlow Cone, a two-time Olympic gold medalist with 158 career appearances and 75 goals for the U.S. Women’s National Team, and assistant coaches John Galas and Nate Berry, Thorns FC enter the regular season with a deep and experienced roster, featuring a total of 15 players with experience at the youth or senior national team level for the United States or Canada.

Some notes on the Thorns FC roster:

* U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Tobin Heath is not listed on the active roster, but is expected to join the team following the completion of her contract with French side Paris Saint-Germain this summer.

* NWSL First Round draft pick Kathryn Williamson made the final roster but Forward Nicolette Radovcic and goalkeeper Roxanne Barker –  picks in the second and fourth rounds, respectively – were waived. Third round pick Amber Brooks is currently playing in Germany for Bayern Munich.

* NWSL Supplemental Draft picks who made the roster include: Angie Kerr, Jessica Shufelt and Marian Dougherty

* Free agent signings who made the roster: Allie Long, Nikki Marshall, Nikki Washington and Becky Edwards, make up some of the club’s more experienced professional players.

* Discovery players who made the roster include: Jazmyne Avant, Meleana Shim, Courtney Wetzel, Danielle Foxhoven, Emilee O’Neil and Adelaide Gay.

Thorns FC start the 2013 NWSL regular season on Saturday, April 13, against FC Kansas City at Shawnee Mission District Stadium in Overland Park, Kan.; kickoff is set for 5:35 p.m. (Pacific). Thorns FC return to the Rose City for the team’s home-opening match against Seattle Reign FC on Sunday, April 21 at JELD-WEN Field; kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. (Pacific).

Budding Thorns

The reserve squad for the Portland Thorns FC played a preseason friendly last night at Merlo Field, the home pitch for the Portland Pilots.  The result – a 2-1 win for the visitors – was almost immaterial.  The internationals never even dressed out; there was obviously no intention to field the side we’re going to see in about three weeks.  The plan (and the successful result) was to provide a test for the college-product Thorns.

My bride and I took a pleasant walk through our North Portland neighborhood to join the crowd – and the match drew almost 5,000 people to the pretty green-and-purple stadium just west of Willamette Boulevard – that watched the teams test each other.  While the following are just snapshots of the state of the Thorns, I did get a sense of how the junior members of the team are shaping;

1.  The overall level of play was not too disparate.  This wasn’t a college squad overmatched by a team of pros; it was a good college team against a team of college all stars.  While nobody in purple was of the quality of, say, Allie Long or Nikki Washington, nobody in the gray-and-red Thorns practice strip was that much better than Kaila Cameli or Nichole Downing.

2.  The Thorns reserves either had some early pre-season rust to buff off or weren’t used to playing without the internationals (and given that the latter had only reported several weeks ago it was probably the former).  The team came out looking pawky and out of synch, especially in back.  The Pilots had several good counters early that resulted in the early goal.  This was, in part, because the Thorns played an exceptionally high backline and were caught ballwatching several times.

3.  The Thorns still need to work on their defensive nous and communication among their defenders and between their midfield, defenders, and goalkeeper.  Even in the 88th minute giveaways in midfield and poor marking allowed a Pilot counter that had goalkeeper Roxanne Barker isolated on an charging Pilot forward who just couldn’t gain control in time to shoot on frame.  I’m sure Parlow-Cone will have some words with the defenders on Monday.

4.  Speaking of goalkeepers, the Thorns might want to keep an eye on Nichole Downing.  The Pilots keeper – only a sophomore, too! – was terrific, making several point-blank saves and keeping the scoreline close.  If she continues to improve she will be a great pick for some NWSL team in a year or two.

5.  Allie Long is the real deal.  Her goal – a 22-yard rocket – was lovely, and she was a continuous menace to the Pilots defense that otherwise handled the Thorns attack fairly decently.

6.  Overall the Thorns look…well, something rather like this year’s Timbers.  Possession football with some intelligent movement off the ball and (after a bit of sorting-out) some precise passing.  A defense that consistently pushes up the pitch and, as a result, is vulnerable to the quick counter.  Solid but not brilliant keeping.

The crowd sounded evenly divided between Thorn and Pilot supporters, and both seemed well-pleased with the teams’ performance.  The Purple Passions (or whatever the University of Portland supporters group calls itself) provided a local counterpoint to the small Thorns Alliance contingent and some unintentional comedy – for all that they had the drums that the Thorns supporters didn’t they clearly haven’t worked up their own chants; Timbers Army veterans got a smile from hearing “Portland Boys We Are Hear” coming from the far end of the pitch for a change.

The Thorns seem to be absorbing the culture of their brother club; the team trotted down to the West End and applauded their supporters as Merlo emptied out.

Two weeks until the Thorns’ first match and the buds appear ready to open.

NWSL Announces List of 55 Allocated Players

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has announced the list of 55 U.S., Canadian and Mexican National Team players that will be allocated to the eight clubs.

Once the allocation process is completed, the club location for all 55 players will be announced on Friday, Jan. 11.

The breakdown of players by country:

United States (23)

Goalkeepers (4): Nicole Barnhart, Ashlyn Harris, Jill Loyden, Hope Solo

Defenders (7): Rachel Buehler, Ali Krieger, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn

Midfielders (8): Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Keelin Winters

Forwards (4): Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach

Canada (16)

Goalkeepers (2): Karina LeBlanc, Erin McLeod

Defenders (6): Melanie Booth, Robyn Gayle, Carmelina Moscato, Lauren Sesselmann, Rhian Wilkinson, Emily Zurrer

Defender/Midfielder (1): Bryana McCarthy

Midfielders (4): Kaylyn Kyle, Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt, Desiree Scott

Midfielders/Forwards (2): Adriana Leon, Jodi-Ann Robinson

Forward (1): Christine Sinclair

Mexico (16)

Goalkeepers (2): Aurora Cecilia Santiago Cisneros, Pamela Tajonar Alonso

Defenders (5): Alini Lisi Garciamendez Rowold, Jennifer Marie Ruiz Brown, Luz del Rosario Saucedo Soto, Rubi Marlene Sandoval Nungaray, Marylin Viridiana Diaz Ramirez

Midfielders (5): Veronica Raquel Perez Murillo, Teresa Noyola Bayardo, Lydia Nayeli Rangel Hernandez, Teresa Guadalupe Worbis Aguilar, Dinora Lizeth Garza Rodriguez

Forwards (4): Maribel Dominguez Castelan, Monica Ocampo Medina, Renae Nicole Cuellar Cuellar, Anisa Raquel Guajardo Braff

Some thoughts on the list of players:

* Originally, the number of allocated players was set at 52 (24 U.S, 16 Canada, 12 Mexico). Mexico was asked to add four players to the list so the distribution could be even (56 players total, 7 to each of the 8 clubs).

*  As you notice above, the U.S. only listed 23 players. Who’s missing? Olympic alternates Meghan Klingenberg and Christen Press are both committed to playing for Tyresö FF in Sweden.

* With the U.S. listing 23 players, that obviously means one team will have one less U.S. national team player. It will be interested to see how that plays out and whether that team will be awarded

* Players with Portland ties:

– Abby Wambach (recently purchased a home in Portland)

– Megan Rapinoe (former University of Portland player now playing in France with Olympique Lyonnais – she’ll return to NWSL about a month into the season)

– Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt (also former University of Portland players)

– If those four somehow get allocated to Portland, that will be quite a coup for Thorns FC.

With the club location for all 55 players coming up on Friday, who do you think goes where?