Thorns FC: Bracing!

The saying goes that there are draws that feel like losses and there are draws that feel like wins.

The 2-2 draw in Boston this past Friday felt very much like a win to me.

For a number of reasons.

Because Boston has actually been decent so far this season.  I’d heard about Rose Lavelle before I saw her play, but now that I have seen her play I believe everything I heard.  That gal can play.  She isn’t the only reason…but she’s a huge part of the reason that Boston has shed its’ traditional role as the dumpster of the NWSL.  Boston looked good, and pulling two back from Boston is a genuine achievement.

Because the Breakers were up 2-nil after the first couple of minutes of the second half.  Two-nil may be the “most dangerous lead in soccer” but at the time it looked like a damn solid lead for Boston.  Portland could have phoned in the second half.  They didn’t, and made a point where they had none.

Because Portland had two – 2 – shots in the entire first half.

But Thorns FC did fight back, and the doughtiest fighter on the pitch was Lindsey Horan.

The woman was in utter Beast Mode all night, and if I was Boston’s midfield and backline I’d be happy to see the back of her (sorry, gals, she’s coming at you again in a week!).  Winning balls, passing, making runs…she’s my hands-down Woman of the Match.  Yes, Nadim scored all the goals, and well-struck goals they were.  But Horan was the beating heart of this hard-earned road point.

On the other hand…I’m not sure what this says about these two teams.  Neither looked like they dominated the other.  Stats are damnably even.  Both teams had moments of fine work, both had some issues in back.  I didn’t see anything that seemed conclusively better about the two teams, their players, or their tactical systems.

I hope the rematch next weekend in Portland will help us get a better sense of which team is more likely to be in the top for in October, because I came away from this match thinking that both have a hope and that I would have a hard time deciding who’s was the better.

I don’t have any graphics for this one.  Frankly, all four goals were a matter of well-worked attacks and individual/small group skills.  I didn’t see any particular failings on the part of the defenses, and so, as noted above, it’s hard  for me to see where either team could make adjustments to dominate the other in a week’s time.  The coach that does, however, may well hold the whip hand come playoff time, because both of these squads are looking very, very solid.

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PMRs and comments:

Sinclair (+6/-2 : +4/-0 : +10/-2) While the usual quality match from our captain, Sinc was largely marked out of the match and much less influential than usual; only one shot and a handful of dangerous passes.  Not sure what the difference was; hard-put to credit the absence of Long or any particular Boston adjustment.  Mostly an evening of good hard work by the Breakers backline, I think.

Raso (+6/-2 : +6/-0 : +12/-2) Her run largely created Nadim’s 83′ goal.  Usual energetic, dangerous self.  Oi!

Nadim (+11/-6 : +11/-1 : +22/-7) Arguably a worthy candidate for WotM; now Thorns’ leading goalscorer, albeit with 3 of the 4 from the spot.  But had a wonderful cross-goal shot in the 24th minute and carried a lot of the offensive load with Sinc pushed out of the picture.  Much more attacking the usual, I think largely because of the hard work of Horan in drawing attention and letting her push up.  Best match of the season to date for Nadia.

Horan (+14/-7 : +11/-2 : +25/-9) Created the 56′ handball that led to the Thorns’ first goal, but otherwise just as huge as noted.  This Horan could be a viable candidate for Player of the Year if she keeps this form; Lindsey was a force of nature Friday and was perhaps the single most important factor in the road point.

Weber (+7/-2 : +2/-1 : +9/-3)  While she had a decent outing, I think Mallory should consider herself lucky that her teammate Horan decided to have her match of the season to date.  Faded in the second half, possibly from lack of playing time.  Not a bad match, but perhaps the least effective of the midfielders.

Henry (+9/-7 : +7/-2 : +16/-9) Effective in her usual role as midfield and deep DM contre-torpilleur.  Had some control issues with passes, though some of her difficulty resulted from the aggressive defending of the Boston midfield and backline.

Boureille (67′ – +8/-4 : +1/-3 : +9/-7)  Tough night for Celeste, who along with Kling saw a lot of pressure along the touchlines.  Strong first half on both sides of the ball.  Was pinned back deep for most of her part of the second half and was looking gassed, which may have been the reason for her substitution.

Sonnett (+12/-5 : +7/-3 : +19/-8)  Terrific match from both Emilys, but the ponytailed Emily had much more of the ball and involvement.  Still having moments of wildly schizophrenic play – perfect example, 47′; horrible clear right to Dowie but then threw the saving block.

Menges (+3/-1 : +11/-1 : +14/-2)  First really solid-looking match from Menges this season.  Nothing spectacular just good, honest, consistent defending all evening.

Klingenberg (+4/-6 : +7/-7 : +11/-13)  Strange mixture of mildly mediocre play enlivened by moments of sheer terror and the occasional sweet piece of play.  Her failure to contain Lavelle in the 70th minute could easily have led to a 3-1 deficit had Franch not made a big save.  I really, really want Kling to be better, but it looks like this is the Kling we’re gonna have.

Cox (23′ – +2/-2) Minor factor.  At best, might had helped stabilize the right side of the defense.

Franch (+4/-1 : +5/-0 : +9/-1)  Her best match of the season, including important plays in the second half; strong take at 58′ and the 70′ save.  Not at fault on either concession.  No – NO – problems with distribution, including two terrific long goal kicks that sparked good PTFC attacks, one of which was the Horan run that produced the handball penalty.  Very, very good match from A.D.

Coach Parsons – Hard to assess, and even harder to conclude, because this is really just the first half of a two-part story.  All four of the goals seemed more due to individual or small-combination skills rather than any sort of systematic team superiority.  I think this one has to go down to “well done, at least we got the road point” and accept that the real test will come next week, when both coaches have had their chances to examine this match and see if there are matchup or tactical advantages to be had, and then put their ideas to the test against each other again.

Final words?

Good draw.  Hard grinding.  What in the J-League they’d call ガッツボール; “gattsubōru” or “guts ball” – digging deep and pulling out a result.

But this is just the first part.

The crux of the biscuit is in Portland next weekend.