Thorns FC: Hard Done By

So far this season Thorns FC and Sky Blue FC have played four halves of soccer.  The aggregate score is 3-3.  But there are halves, and there are halves, and, unfortunately for PTFC the Joisey Goils have had the better of three of the four.

Almost two weeks ago Thorns FC nicked an away win at Sky Blue by hanging on through a brutally ugly second half on strength of A.D. Franch going into Insane Keeper Brute Mode and the inability of SBFC to find the location of the big rectangular frame with the net thingie inside it.

Last Saturday it was Portland’s turn to lose track of that goal thingie, and Sky Blue’s turn to deal out the punishment.

With some help from the Man in Black.

You know my position on officials.  They are what they are; like pitch condition, and the weather, and the crowd, you deal with them as they come and go.

But.

If ever there was a crying case for video review during matchday and oversight committee review afterwards, Tim Ford and his crew’s work in this match made it.

Take, for example, the picture above the break.  That’s Celeste Boureille, “fouling” Leah Galton.  The problem being that it looks like Ford didn’t see that.  He only saw this:

Given that, yeah; I could see calling that obstruction and a PK.  But if you miss Boureille tackling the ball away and only see Galton throwing herself into Celeste as she tumbles?  You’ve pretty much missed the whole play.

There was more.  Ford let a ton of rough play go.  O’Hara was at least arguably deserving of a second yellow for a cynically brutal tackle on Klingberg late in the match.  Raso got mugged repeatedly.  The Thorns weren’t angels, either…but just as with the semifinal last season, thugging up the match only really helps the team who’s trying to sit on the lead.  In this case, SBFC.

That said.

Ford didn’t lose this match.  Thorns FC did.  Thorns FC did this:

Scads of red shirts around the byline, ain’t there.  Where are the red shirts NOT?  Ummm…around Rodriguez, the soon-to-be-goalscorer.  Because in about three seconds Kerr’s going to hit her with a simple pass through all that open space, and…

Kaboom.  Nil-1 down within the first thirty seconds.  Courtesy of one of the two players that Coach Parsons and the whole team KNEW was going to have to be contained.  Who should have been marked so damn tightly that when she changed after the match should have found she was wearing a red jersey under her Sky Blue kit.

Then, there was this.

I’m hearing that “oh, at that point Thorns FC was chasing the game!”

But at this point PTFC still had two defenders behind Kerr when a long clearance had sent Sky Blue forward on the counter.

The problem is where those defenders are.

Emily Sonnett had just served up a long forward pass and was jogging upfield.  Em Menges had pushed up to try and win the looping return ball from Maya Hayes.

But Sonnett, instead of watching Kerr and filling in the hole Menges opens up, runs up the right channel as Kerr makes a central run, loses track of Kerr and the likely result if Menges loses her duel with Hayes…and then Menges does lose the aerial duel.

Result?

Disaster.  Now Thorns FC is “chasing the game”, alright.  And chasing Kerr; everybody in the backline is completely beaten, and all Kerr has to do is round Franch – who helped Kerr by coming out weakly and then flopping harmlessly to her side rather than diving aggressively at Kerr’s feet – and score.

Sorry, Sonnett.  That’s about 95% on you.

And speaking of “goalkeeper errors”…

This past weekend was “Father’s Day”, benison to tool, lawn, and garden dealerships everywhere.  But is also seems to have been “Portland Goalkeeper Utter Rubbish Coming Off The Goalline Too Early Yet Too Late” weekend.  My compa C.I. can tell you about Jake Gleeson’s horrific 51′ derp in Colorado last weekend.  And here’s A.D. Franch, completely screwing up any chance of stopping Kerr on her second run through the Thorns backline by coming off her line waaaaay too early and, yet, too late.

I’m not going to talk about offsides on this one.  I couldn’t tell from the North End, and the replay is completely useless.  Kerr looks offside, but that’s often the case with a speedy run, and at that point the match was out of reach, anyway.

But, c’mon, A.D.  You stay on your line and come late, and hard?  You at least have a chance.  This was just sad, and you need to be better than this.

But you say you do want to talk offsides?  Okay.  Let’s talk about this:

Lindsey Horan had two headers on frame in this match.  One, at 58′, was shockingly poor.  On a great long pass from Sonnett all Horan had to do was redirect the ball down to her right, as Sheridan was moving to her (Horan’s) left and wouldn’t have been able to recover.  Instead, Horan flicked the ball on to her left into Sheridan’s gloves.

But this play, that led to the second header, in the 71st minute?

That’s a great play.  Long serves up a perfect pitch, Sykes is running outside to distract the ‘keeper, and Horan gets to the ball and heads down to her left, against the flight of the ball and the movement of the play.  Sheridan makes an incredible effort but the ball trickles in and it’s 1-2 and PTFC is back in the match…

…or not.  The east side linesman called the play back for offside.

Hmmm.

Like pitch conditions and weather.  Like pitch conditions and weather.

I’m going to keep saying that until I feel better about the way this one played out.

——————–

Player ratings and PMRs:

Sinclair (+6/-3 : +3/-2 : +9/-5)  Visibly a frustrating match for Sinc.  Marked out for much of it, and denied service when she did get open.  Even her goal irked her; she knew that she got lucky that Sheridan couldn’t hold the initial penalty shot.  An off night when the whole team was having an off night.

Weber (62′ – +3/-2 : +1/-1 : +4/-3) Just not good enough.  Lacks the hustle and grittiness of Nadim, lacks the craft and experience of Sinclair, lacks the pure blazing speed and ferocity of Raso, and now clearly lacks the soccer intelligence and aggressiveness of Sykes.  At this point I see no reason why she should be anything but depth, and not even that if Jordan is signable.

Raso (+8/-7 : +3/-3 : +11/-10)  Fought her own lonely, ugly battle with O’Hara out on the Thorns’ left wing, and, unfortunately, was pretty much fought to a standstill thanks largely to O’Hara’s being allowed to put a beating down on her.  The struggle wore her out; she faded badly in the second half, including making some shockingly poor passes including a potentially disastrous giveaway in the 59th minute the forced Franch to take off Kerr’s foot.

Sykes (28 – +5/-0) Given her short time in Portland and her lack of familiarity with her teammates Ashley put in a terrific shift Saturday, outperforming Weber in half her time on the pitch and making a strong case for starting her against Washington this coming weekend.

Henry (+8/-4 : +7/-2 : +15/-6) Woman of the Match.  Typically I hate picking a “Woman of the Match” for a truly dire performance, but 1) this wasn’t really that dire a game, and 2) Amandine played a hell of a match, anyway.  Tireless and effective both ways; Henry had a great night in a losing effort.

Horan (+8/-4 : +7/-5 : +15/-9)  Robbed of what should have been a goal, as noted.  Should have put more efforts on frame, but overall not a bad night for the circumstances.  Strong and aggressive, both attacking and defending.

Long (+9/-3 : +8/-2 : +17/-5)  Quiet – she has not been mentioned in the WotM sweepstakes, but for my money Allie had a terrific match.  Worked well with Henry to boss the defensive midfield position.  Trouble connecting with her forwards, but that had a lot more to do with Sky Blue’s midfield triangle effectiveness than her own failings.

Klingenberg (+0/-5 : +8/-0 : +8/-5)  WTF is with you, Kling?  Look at your PMRs!  Like the Little Girl with the Curl, you were horrid in the first half, very, very good in the second.  Like Germany, you’re either at your opponents’ feet or at their throat.  Are you secretly bipolar?  Are you really twins, and do you swap places at halftime?  If so, I want the Good Kling to play for Thorns FC.  The Evil Kling can make funny videos, or something.

Sonnett (+7/-4 : +5/-2 : +13/-6)  Very much up-and-down from the PTE half of the Still-Not-Yet-Great Wall of Emily.  Just like at Rutgers; some great, some meh, some not-good.  First Kerr goal was on you, but you had some terrific defending and the wonderful pass that should have been the Horan goal.  Keep working with your backline and I think that 2016 form is in there.

Menges (+5/-7 : +5/-0 : +10/-7) Most of the Menges-Emily’s “minuses” in the first half were attempted passes out of the back that went astray, or poor clears.  Settled down in the second half and played solid defense; not at fault on either of the Kerr goals.  Both Emilys need to work to regain last season’s form.

Boureille (+5/-1 : +4/-1 : +9/-2)  Not at fault on the Killion (“Spare Change To Help The Poor Blind Penalty Taker?”) PK, and played a solid match overall.  I thought she did a good job taking Galton out of the match until the latter’s injury.  Still the best of the fullbacks to date, which is kind of a shock given the disparity between her paycheck and Kling’s.

Franch (+1/-1 : +5/-2 : +6/-3)  Should have done better on both Kerr goals, particularly (as noted) the second.  Usual solid shot-stopping and her distribution was generally good.  Another frustrating feature of the center referee’s officiating worth noting was his repeated insistence on making her retake her goal kicks, which negated some fine distribution work.

Coach Parsons – It’s hard to praise the manager’s work when the team loses this badly.  But at the same time there was no way for Parsons to affect the refereeing, and falling behind in the first minute can shoot the best-laid tactical plans to hell.

Still, failing to instruct the team to mark the two dangerous attackers Kerr and Rodriguez out of the match, and to secure the backline even as pushing forward, clearly helped turn this from what might have been a salvageable point into a pretty ugly whipping.

To me, the test for the coach is now whether he can turn the team’s head firmly towards Maryland and the upcoming road match with the Spirit.  There’s a lot more soccer to play and the Thorns need to shake this loss off quickly if they want to play it the way they need to.