Last weekend Thorns FC came back from a mid-second-half concession to beat the visiting Washington Spirit 2-1.
I really wanted that win to whisper secrets about this Thorns team to me. I really wanted to use it as insight into whether this is the team that stonewalled Carolina or the team that collapsed in Seattle. I watched the match in Saturday’s heat and again on the screen in the evening dark looking for clues. Hints. Suggestions.
And after all that watching and guessing and thinking?
I still have no idea.
On Wednesday, the Timbers sent out a short-handed side to face a bottom-of-the-table team in front of a friendly home crowd, and got dusted, 4-1. Four days later, they sent out a short-handed side to face a playoff-caliber team on the road, and won, 2-1.
If any of you ever figure out how sports works, please let me know.
Not enough players to dress a full team? Check. First goal conceded? Check. Right back leaves the game on a stretcher? Check. Penalty conceded? Check. Red card? Check. Second red card? Check.
Wednesday night’s loss to RSL was kind of a perfect storm.
The question of what is appropriate for a supporter of a soccer club came up on my Facebook feed last night, and I’m curious to hear what you all think.
The set-up is this; I left the Timbers’ match last night at 70′. I was angry with the team, I was fed up with the run of poor play, and I had lab work to do and an early morning today.
But no matter: when I admitted that on social media I was shredded by those who were themselves angry that I and other fair-weather fans had left before the final whistle.
When my metal hip set off the barrier at Gate 3 Saturday morning I had more on my mind than worrying about that usual nuisance.
I was worried about the Thorns’ recent run of poor form going into a match with the league leaders and that that might lead to yet another loss just like this season’s first meeting or, worse, like last season’s semifinal.
I was worried that the center referee’s penchant for letting rough play go would play into the North Carolina Courage’s physical game and get into the Thorns’ heads as it had in the past.
I was worried that a blowout loss might be lights-out for the Thorns’ 2017 season.
When I walked back out that afternoon I was right about one thing; Koroleva sure did let ’em play. You can argue about whether that’s good or bad. But that’s how she usually calls her games, and she didn’t change that day.
But I was wrong; deliciously, gloriously, wonderfully wrong about everything else.
My Basic Training drill sergeant, SFC Harris, had a very practical approach to life, and that carried over into his outlook on military tasks. He was always willing to let us try something a little different from what the manuals specified to see if it would work.
“If it’s stupid and it works,” he’d comment, “it’s not stupid.”
For about 90 minutes of the away game in Houston the Portland Thorns’ attack looked pretty damn dull, tepid and, well…stupid. Then at 90+change Lindsey Horan lined up over a free kick and struck a stunner for the 1-1 equalizer and that suddenly it wasn’t stupid.
But with North Carolina coming in this next Saturday Thorns FC’s gonna have to get a lot smarter most quick smart. What worked against Houston ain’t gonna work against the league leaders.
The Timbers are on the verge of being a really good team. They’re also on the verge of being a really bad team. I have no idea which team will win out in the end.
Today Thorns FC signed two players who appeared in the preseason tournament here in April: defender Kelli Hubly and midfielder Ashley Herndon. The two will serve as “field player replacements” for Brynjarsdottir and Nadim during the period the two regulars are away at the European championships.
In case you don’t remember them both played well during the preseason.