Thorns FC: Down the banks

23. Generic term to give grief

Scouse saying: Down the banks, doing my head in, wrecking my head.

Usage: ‘This beaut was doing my head in so I gave him down the banks, like.’

Paul Riley is becoming Thorns FC’s kryptonite, and his North Carolina Courage used his plan on PTFC like a bucket of the green stuff Saturday.  It worked, knocking our club down to 1-1-0 (tied with FCKC for third on the table) with a 1-nil away loss that was a complete team-and-coach effort…on both sides.

Let me get the good stuff out of the way quickly, because the rest of the story is woeful.

PTFC had a nice run at goal in the 8′; Allie Long (who sat deep all match) nicked the ball and started a nifty passing sequence through the Carolina gut; to Horan who dished to Sinc who passed back to the charging Long…but Carolina’s defense closed down on Long and snuffed the attack.

Amandine Henry had a terrific strike from distance that D’Angelo had to dive strongly to push wide at 32′.

Adrianna Franch saved an (admittedly poor) Mewis PK in the 75′.

Nadia Nadim had several pinpoint set piece deliveries both from freekicks and corners, tho PTFC couldn’t do anything with them.

Aaaaand…yeah, that’s pretty much it.

The team showed the same on-pitch problems we’ve seen this season.  But.  I didn’t see any individual player who had a particularly bad day yesterday (not that a lot of Thorns had good days, and we’ll talk about that in the PMRs…).

Instead that damn Scouser Paul Riley used the team’s weaknesses to overwhelm Portland.

I’d have to go back to the May 2014 collapse in Boston to recall a match where the Girls in Red were so utterly over-run.  Thorns FC never looked particularly likely to win.  At halftime I was already thinking that I’d settle for the scoreless draw and the away point.

Riley sicced Dahlkemper on Sinc and marked her out of the match. Doniak, Mewis, and Zerboni dominated the Thorns in midfield; it didn’t help that Long had to sit deep all match because the backline was all in pieces.

And Debinha, Williams, and McDonald ran wild upfront all evening.

Franch’s horrific clears are rapidly becoming a systematic problem, but she saved Mewis’ weak PK and that pays for a lot of awful goalkicks. The Debinha goal was really on her backline, who allowed the Brazilian to stroll into the 6 and get a head to McDonald’s cross.  I will say this; Franch had another very iffy outing (her spill on the Mewis shot at 55’ really was worse than it could have been) and that has to be getting in the heads of her teammates. I’m not on the “FranchOut” boat yet, but they’re raising steam in the boiler room and loosening up the hawsers.

Riley did a lot of what his team did in last season’s semi; high press, clogging the passing lanes and forcing turnovers and then springing his fast forwards. Portland seems to have at least anticipated the long McDonald throw-ins and didn’t give anything dangerous to them.  But Riley’s plan worked like a mechanical ass-kicker Saturday.

I honestly don’t know how much of this was which; how much was Riley outsmarting Parsons, how much was the whole Thorns squad having a 90%-day, how much was Debinha and Mewis and Doniak and McDonald and Williams are just that good…but whatever the combination of factors was it was a bad mix for Thorns FC, and a troubling cloud in the 2017 sky.

Getting Heath back, getting Dagny back, getting Horan and Kling healthy, getting the backline in shape, getting everyone back to playing-at-100%, getting Franch to shake off whatever-the-hell-is-wrong-with-her…all that will help when we see these jokers again in July.  But, dammit…this Courage squad looks damn good; unless something shocking occurs between now and August I can’t help but assume they will be one of the top four.

Between now and then Parsons is gonna have to go to the Providence Park-equivalent of the Boot Room and figure out a better tactical plan to solve Riley and his outfit, or by then NC will be trouble, I’m tellin’ ye.

Sinclair (+2/-0 : +4/-0 : +6/-0)  Effectively marked out of the match and denied service from midfield.  Worked her tail off without any real result in what must have been a very frustrating match.

Nadim (+9/-2 : +6/-2 : +15/-4) A case of “figures lie”; Nadim didn’t really have that good a match.  Her “pluses” include five setpiece deliveries, none of which resulted in anything really dangerous.  Had a great run in the 27′ that forced Kawamura into a yellow-card foul and set up a good Nadim delivery.

Weber (65′ – +2/-2 : +1/-1 : +3/-3)  Largely ineffective, again more because of lack of service than her own failing, but not a particularly good outing, either; perhaps the poorest from her to date.

Raso (25′ – +5/-1)  Provided a touch of fire late, but her runs were sterile for the same reasons Thorns FC forwards had little joy all evening – lack of service because of NC’s midfield domination.

Horan (77′ – +2/-0 : +1/-0 : +3/-0)  Not so much a poor outing individually as a part of the collective failure of the PTFC midfield; as you can see, Lindsey was barely able to get involved in the match.  I’m guessing a big part of her problem was the hip injury which led to her subbing off.

Long (+8/-0 : +1/-4 : +9/-4)  Terrific first half; provided what little Thorns FC had in the first half, but faded badly.  Her loss of possession in the 81′ started the sequence that led to the Carolina goal.

Henry (+3/-0 : +5/-2 : +8/-2) Worked the hardest of the Portland midfield and, as noted above, had a beauty of a long strike that could have put the visitors up early.  Both her “minuses” were desperation passes that went astray; tough outing in a losing cause.

Shim (13′ – +1/-0)  Energetic but to little effect.  By the time she entered Thorns FC needed a game-changer and Mana just isn’t that; she did what she could, but that wasn’t enough.

Boureille (+6/-4 : +4/-2 : +8/-4)  Best of the backline on both sides of the ball; sweet pass to Long in the 10′, killed a dangerous Carolina attack in the 22′ with a great slide tackle.  Good work, Celeste.

Sonnett (+6/-2 : +2/-2 : +8/-4)  Unlucky to give up the handball but had been beaten soundly and was flailing to recover, one of her handful of defensive miscues in a match that was, ironically, much better than last week’s.  Pinned back with the rest of her backline so unable to provide her usual service out of the defensive third.

Menges (+2/-6 : +4/-2 : +6/-8)  Some really shocking poor work from the Emily half of what is increasingly looking like a very structurally-unsound Great Wall of Emily this season.  Awful backpass forced a risky Franch clear in the 12′.  Horrible clearing pass right to McDonald in the 15′.  Caught ballwatching in the 42′ on a Zerboni delivery that Williams shanked wide.   Beaten like a drum on a Williams run at 59′ that put Lynn in 1v0 on Franch but resulted in an off-target shot.  Beaten to the touchline by McDonald on the cross for the Debinha goal.

Klingenberg (45′ – +5/-4)  Got skinned by Doniak in the 19′ that led to Williams outjumping Sonnett only to head wide.  Still…not a bad outing overall.  Guessing that her back injury flared up that resulted in her coming off at halftime.

Cox (45′ – +5/-1)  Fine debut for Meghan.  The assist came from her side but as noted was Menges’ assignment.  Solid defending, and a couple of nice outlet passes.

Franch (+4/-4 : +2/-3 : +6/-6)  Ugh.  More awful clearances.  Spilling the Mewis shot (admittedly, a scorcher, but, still).  Saved the penalty, but not looking like a solid backstop at the moment.

I should take a moment to note that A.D.’s actual kicking game – when not under pressure – is fairly decent.  She had a total of 14 clears Saturday; 12 goal kicks, two punts.  Her problem in this match was that the Thorns midfield was simply bullied off the ball as it descended.  Outside of two horrific short-legged deliveries in the second half (one straight into touch) the problems were at the landing site; 6 were taken by Carolina, and 3 more pinged around off random heads.

But that’s not really the problem.  When she IS under pressure Franch tends to ping the ball out low and short and it often ends up either on an opponent boot or slamming into a Thorn who is tightly marked and is tackled for loss.  That’s not acceptable.  Like I said before – I’m not on the “FranchOut” boat yet.

But…damn.  The SS Eckerstrom is starting to look like a life raft.

Coach Parsons – Paul Riley – in the words of another Thorns fan – “did nothing that wasn’t absolutely predictable”.  And yet, when your opponent’s plan is utterly predictable and, yet, it works…then you are effectively outcoached.  Parsons seems to have anticipated what Riley’s squad was going to do and was unable to counter it, or, if he had a plan, his team was unable to execute it.  This is the second meeting in a row that Riley has done this and I worry that this will get inside Parsons’ and the teams’ heads this season.

The team issues are obvious, the fixes are, as well, and now Thorns FC has a week before Chicago arrives to fix them.

All we can do now is show up at the Civic Saturday to see if that happens.