Thorns FC: Goalless in Swope

The limitations of my current work finally caught up with me.

I’m stuck out in the hinterlands of rural upstate New York working 14-hours-plus a day on a big dam reconstruction job and housed in a rental house in the little town of Middleburgh.  And last Thursday the cable company finally caught up with me and turned off the cable and internet.

It’s a long story.  Suffice to say it took me until yesterday and today to view Thorns FC’s scoreless draw in Kansas City.  Before then I’d heard more than a little about the match, so actually viewing (most of) it surprised me.

First, let me get this off my chest; DAMN YOU, go90 and Lifetime!

We’ve had a tough day here at Gilboa, and while the drill is down for repairs I took the opportunity to watch the last half of the match I started viewing yesterday evening – I’m doing this in the job trailer, mind you, because we still have no internet at the house – and right at 1pm our time the feed just…stopped.

At first I thought it might just be a problem with my connection.  Nope; other videos, including other NWSL highlight videos, ran just fine.  Then I remembered something about how the archiving at the NWSL site is limited to just a couple of days after the game, and I think my time ran out right at the 75th minute.

That’s #!%!$!! lame, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

So my writeup and PMRs are based on about 5/6ths of what was an otherwise pleasant surprise – in many ways – of a match.

First, because when I had looked at the scoreline and the stats I had thought that this was yet another ninety minutes of midfield futility and offensive sterility.  Instead, the match I watched showed the Thorns creating some terrific chances.

Finishing?  No.  But creating…

At 28′ Henry hit a lovely long switch to Raso.  Hayley knocked down a simple cross to Long running in; Allie spun neatly through the defense but her shot was right at keeper.

In the 34th minute Raso should have made the match 0-1; she completely bottled a great chance from 4 yards out over the bar and into low Earth orbit.

Two minutes later a sweet piece of interplay around the Blues goal; Henry-Horan-Raso-Sinc-back to Horan…whose shot was well blocked.

In the 37th minute Nadim’s pretty little chip put Sinclair in 1v0 on Barnhardt; Sinc’s shot beat Barnie but rolled wide and off the far post.

Four terrific opportunities in the course of less than ten minutes of play?  That’s anything but a sterile scoreless draw.  There was more, all the way to the final minute when a hammer of a Sonnett header was cleared – barely – from a foot off the goalline.

Sadly, the final touch wasn’t there.  This sequence says everything I saw about this match:

The Thorns midfield and forwards were doing this sort of stuff all afternoon; seeing great opportunities and taking them.  You can’t see her in this screenshot but Nadim is drifting in behind Labonta wide of the far post.

Nadim neatly chests down with acres of space, but Labonta has seen her and is closing down fast.  Plus Nadim doesn’t have a great angle with Barnhardt covering her near post well.  She has Horan moving back into position, tho, and Long giving her a straight drop.

Now it’s obvious that Nadim has nothing but a poor look.  Labonta cuts her off from the far post, Barnie is exactly where she should be, and there’s no good option straight across the goal.  But Horan is perfectly placed for a quick side-foot pass and shot.

Nope.  Nadim crashes ahead and hits nothing but side-netting.  Horan is, not surprisingly, frustrated as hell.  There was a much better option…but her teammate didn’t take it.

That’s still some nice change creation, though, innit?  I’m not trying to say that the problems going forward are solved.  FCKC didn’t press nearly as high or as aggressively as the Thorns’ three previous opponents, and their midfield and attack have their own issues.  But I saw a lot more, and better, creativity at Swope than I’d seen in the last three games.

And, second, defensively the Thorns look like they’re finally coming together.  No particular defender had a great match.  But as a unit the backline (which has to include both Long and Henry at various times) was composed and seldom looked as all-to-pieces as they had in April.

A.D. Franch…sigh.  I’ll discuss her play in the PMRs.

Look.  This wasn’t a great match.  The Thorns still have huge issues with that final touch, with quality shooting.  Raso may be the most frustrating PTFC forward since Takayuki Suzuki.  The gal has everything but her shooting boots; speed, craft, intelligence, making lovely chances.  She just has to finish, dammit!  Her teammates do, too; this match pointed out how far below the “expected goals” levels this attack is playing.

But no major defensive derps and some quality attacking?  Keeping in mind that FCKC is always tough for PTFC at home?

That’s good.  That’s very good.  That’s way better than I’d expected having heard the grumbling.

We’ll have to see how that travels to Boston.


PMRs and comments (for 75 minutes, #@!$!%!!!):

Sinclair  (+5/-2 : +9/-1 : +14/-3)  I’ve cudgelling my brain to try and come up with something new and exciting and different to say about Captain Sinclair.  But…how?  There’s only so many ways to say “one of the greatest of all time”…

Nadim (69′ – +8/-3 : +1/-1 : +9/-4)  Nadia looked better in this match than she had in a long while.  I saw none of her trouble with first touch.  Tough defending, some truly delicious moments going forward.   زر د زر عدد , Nadia!

Raso (+5/-2 : +8/-2 :+13/-4)  As noted above; everything but the goals.

Weber (21′ – +1/-1) Hard to really assess, given that I missed something like 80% of her part of the match.  What I did see seemed very much a piece of her play to date; fast, going hard, but nowhere near as dangerous as Raso on the other side, and not even really an effective replacement for what Nadim brings.  I’m guessing that this now-traditional-Weber-for-Nadim is part of Nadim’s ACL limitations, because otherwise I’m not seeing how this is helping the attack in the late going other than replacing a flagging Nadim.  Meg Morris is fast, too, and at this point I’m willing to give her a try.

Long (89′ – +7/-2 : +5/-0 : +12/-2) I’m going to just say this and see what you all think of it: I think Long needs to move up to ACM full-time.  She’s not a bad box-to-box midfielder and ballwinner.  But we have one of those, one of the best of those, in Amandine Henry.  What we’re missing is a creator lying in front of the penalty arch, and Long has that down cold.  Keeping Long roaming just over the Emilys is pulling a trailer with your Ferrari Testarossa.  If the dual BTB midfielders was working like a mechanical ass-kicker I’d have my reservations.  But it’s not, and I think it’s time to Unleash Long.

Horan (+6/-3 : +5/-4 : +11/-7) Better than her PMR suggests, and much better in the first half.  Seemed to slow down in the second, and had some ugly losses-of-possession, but solid overall and some moments of truly great play.

Henry (+9/-4 : +9/-2 : +18/-6)  It’s getting boring tapping Amandine for Woman of the Match, but…Woman of the Match.

Cox (1′- 0/0?)  No rating.

Boureille (+5/-4 : +8/-7 : +13/-11)  Another case of her play exceeding her PMR, largely because her “minuses” were almost all passes she had to force up the touchline and were intercepted.  Struggled with Tymrak after the KC midfielder’s entry at 67′, and had some bad turnovers late in the match, but her numbers are more because of the heavy pressure FCKC put on her flank.

Menges (+3/-3 : +5/-2 : +8/-5)  Better.  Much fewer senior moments, much better communication, and fewer clumsy passes or defensive errors.  Still…a couple very scary moments where Emily looked nothing like the Great Wall of 2016, in particular at 68′ where Leroux torched both her and Klingenberg, both of whom appeared to assume that the other was covering Leroux’s run, saved only because the tattooed one’s diving header went well wide.

Sonnett (+6/-2 : +5/-1 :+11/-3)  If not for A.D. Franch the storyline here would be “Sonnett coughs up away points!”; her loss of possession in the corner of her own 18-yard box at 64′ was utterly horrific, and could have negated what was otherwise a very solid outing from the Ponytailed Emily.  But Franch DID come up huge to stone Leroux, so we’re still talking about how much improved Sonnett looks compared to her early season form.

Klingenberg (+2/-3 : +2/-3 : +4/-6)  Still struggling.  Some nice passing and defending mixed in with some pretty below-replacement-level work.  Provides more attack than Meghan Cox, though, which is why I suspect she’s now starting.  Still needs to up her game; she’s an international, frecryinoutloud, and should be bringing more on both sides of the ball.  When you’re routinely being outplayed and ourworked by a second-year pro?  C’mon, Kling.

Franch (+2/-4 : +3/-2 : +5/-6)  Save-of-the-game (and possibly of the week) off Leroux 1v0 at pointblank range.  Making the stops she should be, and seems to be doing well – better – marshalling her defenders.


Distribution?  Arrrrgh!  Still a huge problem, tho at least it didn’t lead directly to a concession.  Franch’s gawdawful short-short clear at 64′ could have had Boureille not saved her hash by winning the ball back.  Of the thirteen goal kicks, punts, and free-kicks I counted she lost seven, including two that went straight into touch, and one was just dinked around midfield before falling luckily to a Portland boot.  Franch still looks uncomfortable with the ball at her feet.  This is, obviously, not good and goes a long way towards neutralizing A.D.’s shotstopping skills.

Coach Parsons – Not sure if I have much more than a “enh…got the road point” in me on Parsons’ work last weekend.  Seems to have worked with the defense and that’s helped.  Still hasn’t found the spark to light the attack.  As mentioned, not sure why Weber seems the only option for Nadim; at this point I’d be willing to give little Megzilla a tryout to see what happens.  Also can’t seem to get Nadine to help solve Franch’s horrific distribution problems.  So not a bad day at the office, but still niggling things I’d like to see dealt with that aren’t…

Short week’s rest with Boston on Friday, and Boston with Lavelle is not the points-dispenser of old.

The midfield battle may be Homeric.

13 Comments Thorns FC: Goalless in Swope

  1. Timber Dave

    Do we have xG numbers for Thorns games? It felt like we created good chances, all the way through to 90 minutes, but gave up a few too many too (not least Sonnett’s giveaway). If we have a healthy xG then I’ll be less worried in the long run — finishing is chancy, but if we’re getting high xG, we should revert to the mean and score more. Even sans Heath.

    1. jdlawes

      I meant to run the xG numbers for this one; let me take another look at the formula and I’ll give it a whack. They have to be pretty out-of-whack just thinking about three of the chances discussed; Raso’s miss, Sinc’s post, Sonnett’s header. Throw in the Nadim miss pictured above and Long’s saved shot…there’s five very high-quality chances for zero goals.

      Still…it’s hard to tell if this game was an outlier or a bellwether. FCKC didn’t try to smother the Thorns midfield a la Carolina, and I’m not sure how often this team will see that…

  2. Timber Dave

    Also, for anyone who watched in real time: Did your stream blink on and off repeatedly toward the end of the game? Every 10-30 seconds my screen should go black for a second or two. Extremely hard to watch.

    1. nate

      Toward the end of the game? I got a black flash every time they switched cameras. EVERY TIME. ALL GAME. I sort of assumed everyone got this treatment. No?

      If I had been drinking I would probably need a new TV (luckily, the one time I broke down the nearest thing to me was an aptly named throw pillow).

      1. oz

        Yep, I had the same problem, and only on go90. I VPN’d out and switched to the international feed, which is pretty much the only way to go anymore—unless the league fully bails on go90 and rolls opens the international streams to domestic users as they did for the even-worse-off Sunday matches.

  3. Debbi McNiven

    I agree 100% about moving Allie Long up. She is wasted in the back, and since Henry is one of the best d-mids in the world, I don’t quite understand this formation.

    GO90 absolutely sucked this week. The last 15 minutes of the game, especially, were almost impossible to watch.

  4. tony olson

    Gotta wonder what is going on with Meg.
    Based on her match day tweet, she was in Portland with the 4 that were listed as out on the injury report. She was not on the report.

    1. jdlawes

      I’m guessing her break isn’t progressing as hoped. I thought she looked good in the preseason meetings but no minutes since then, so it seems likely to be physical. Hope she’s getting closer to full fitness soon.

  5. John Lawes

    Okay. So…

    I used the “expected goals” formula from the “American Soccer Analysis” site ( on six of the Thorns’ attempts. Here’s the calculated percent success rate for each goal:

    Nadim (21′) 4% , or 0.04xG (factors: e(-0.19 – 2.68)
    Long (28′) 7% (0.07xG) (e(-0.19-2.37)
    Raso (34′) 82.6% (0.826xG) (e(-0.19-0)
    Horan (36′) 4% (0.04xG) (e(-0.19-2.68)
    Sinclair (37′) 33% (0.33xG) (e(-0.19-0.93)
    Sonnett (90′) 6% (0.06xG – this was Sonnett’s final-minute header…) e(-0.19-0.95-0.74-0.93)

    So – just based on these six attempts (of the nine recorded for PTFC) the cumulative xG is 0.04+0.07+0.826+0.04+0.33+0.06 = 1.366, or 1.4 goals for the match.

    (Now…the problem I have with this is that it assumes a CUMULATIVE probability; that is, if a shot should succeed 50% of the time then two 50% shots should = 1 goal. My concern with that is that it sounds like the old “if a coin has a 50% chance of coming up heads how many heads should you have in two coin flips”. The “durr” answer is “one”, but we know that probability doesn’t work like that. EACH flip has a 50% chance. So before I buy into this completely I’d love to see an explanation of how you can figure cumulative probability!)

    Still…assuming that the xG method isn’t completely unuseable (and I can’t believe that, seeing how popular it has become) my rough calcs suggest that the Thorns were, at least in this match, unlucky not to nick a goal.

    1. Timber Dave

      Were KC equally unlucky not to get a goal? Leroux’s shot after Sonnett’s giveaway must have quite a large xG value, and there were some other lesser ones.

      True that a coin flip has 50% chance of coming up heads. So the xH (expected heads) value for, say, 100 coin flips would be 50 heads. That’s the average you’ll converge toward if you repeat the 100 flips more and more times.

      1. John Lawes

        I didn’t see nearly as many genuinely good opportunities from KC. Leroux had two; the 65′ saved shot and another three minutes later where Menges and Kling were doping off and were lucky that Leroux was barely offside. Sauerbrunn had a bad miss at 63′ off a CK.

        The thing with probability is that it’s NOT cumulative. The chance of a heads is ALWAYS 50%…but there’s no surety that that you can’t get three or four or ten heads in a row. I don’t get how you can add a 4% and a 10% chance and get a 14% chance, tho, and that seems the basis of the xG formula.

        1. Timber Dave

          “I don’t get how you can add a 4% and a 10% chance and get a 14% chance”

          That’s just it: An expected value is not a “chance”. If you were calculating the probability that those chances would result in one goal, or two goals, or zero goals, you’re correct that you couldn’t just add them. But you’re not — you’re calculating the expected number of goals from those chances, which is a different thing. It’s the average number of goals you’d expect if you could repeat those two shooting situations a large number of times.

          P.S. Someone needs to write a probability book for soccer fans. It might be a good way to teach some important ideas in probability. Baseball is ahead of us in this respect.

      2. John Lawes

        However, here’s what someone much more knowledgeable than I am posted in reply to this question at Stumptown:

        “You’re calculating the expected value of a set of random variables, the general formula for which (in a discrete case) is the sum of the possible values multiplied by their probabilities (sorry, don’t know LaTeX to write it out). In the case of xG, that means multiplying 1 (the possible number of goals able to be scored from on chance) by the probability (derived from the xG model) that a goal is scored from the chance for each chance them summing them.”

        So I can see how that works…


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