Thorns FC: Bits and Pieces

With the preseason matches now barely two weeks away the Thorns’ roster is looking increasingly set.  But there are still bits and pieces to pick up and some positions to fill.

The team did just that this week, signing Australian striker Ashleigh Sykes and trading two 2018 fourth-round picks to the team-that-was-the-Western-New-York-Flash-now-Carolina-Courage for reserve goalkeeper  Britt Eckerstrom.

The Sykes signing appears designed to bolster the forward line at a time – early summer – when three of the Thorns will be leaving to play in the European championship; the presser states that Sykes (who is now playing in the Nadeshiko second division, on loan to AS Harima Albion) will “be added to the roster June 10”.  This is presumably to leave space, as if Sykes and Eckerstrom were both added today the Thorns would be over the league 20-player cap.

Sykes appears to be a quality player in mid-career (25 years old, nine seasons with Canberra in the W-league (37 goals in 97 games) as well as a spell with the Matildas) who should be useful as midsummer reinforcement.

Eckerstrom, who graduated from the national championship Penn State squad in 2015, played three matches for the Flash in 2016, so she has both top-level college as well as some professional experience.  She was voted Player of the Week (Week 8) in June, 2016, for her play in the WNY 1-nil win over Orlando in Rochester.   She was cited in the linked article particularly for a double save in the 36th minute (which, BTW, is listed as the 38th in the NWSL play-by-play):


That clip – apologies for the dark and the distance but you know what to expect from Rochester feeds as well as I do – is kind of intriguing.  Maddy Evans’ shot looks like it has some real pace on it.  But…it’s also a long shot, every foot of 25 yards or so, and Eckerstrom not just can’t hold it but spills it rather badly, far enough that Jasmyne Spencer gets onto the loose ball and gets a touch on it at a very tight angle.

Fortunately for Eckerstrom the ball rolls far enough that she’s had time to get to her feet and react to Spencer’s shot, again pushing it wide for her teammate to clear.

That’s not exactly horrific goalkeeping, but…hmmm.  Good positioning, fast reactions, quick feet.  Hands..?  That’s the “hmmm”.  If she controls Evan’s attempt it’s a boring routine play.  Hmmm.

Still.  Seems like decent backup for a reasonable price (two fourth round picks?  meh.)  If I had any regret it would only be that the club couldn’t sign Emily Kruger, who has been a good trooper for years as an amateur call-up for PTFC.  But I cannot find any link to Kruger’s current situation and it may well be that the club offered and she refused, or that she’s not where she could accept an offer if it was made.  Wherever you are, Emily; I hope it’s good.

Seventeen days and counting; onward, Rose City!

(Oh, and feel free to discuss the recent USWNT showing against France in the comments; I didn’t feel the need to put up a post about it but…hmmm.)

11 Comments Thorns FC: Bits and Pieces

  1. Brian Fredricks

    A backup keeper was needed with the departure of Betos, but I am still concerned about the lack of speed in the Thorns outside backs with no room on the roster to add any new pieces. There is still the possibility of converting Lussi to outside back but then not only would she be a rookie but a rookie in a new position. I did find one other possibility to consider when I came across the following article on Raso which mentions her shift to wing back for Canberra United this year (sorry don’t know how to turn it into a link).

    1. Timber Dave

      Good point. Maybe Parsons is counting on Menges’s speed in defense, but fast wingers are going to torch our fullbacks and Menges won’t exactly be on the right part of the pitch to deal with that.

    2. John Lawes

      No question that the deep flank defense is a question I’m going to have going into the preseason. As I’ve (probably excessively) hammered on here, Kling has lost more-than-a-step and that’s assuming that her back problems resolve quickly and completely (and her absence from the SBC suggests that they’re not rehabbing as well as hoped).

      But…that said, Meg Morris has speed to burn, and she can play out wide left as well as Raso, tho I’d still like to give her a shot at becoming the attacking threat I think she can be. On the right we have a number of potential options; Kat Reynolds isn’t particularly fast but she’s got some decent speed as well as good positioning and anticipation. Parsons mentioned possibly converting Lussi (or Flynn) to a FB, tho I share your concern with a young player at a new position.

      That’s one thing I’ll be watching very closely come the preseason tournament…

  2. John Lawes

    I’ll start things off with just one Thorns-related observation about the final match of the SheBelieves tournament; if I were Jill Ellis the Allie-Long-the-centerback experiment would be over.

    Allie looked slow and confused against France. She contributed very little to the attack, what there was of it, and was brutally exposed by the speed of Le Sommer, particularly on the second concession, where she seemed to hesitate looking for the ball, first, then the runner, before turning the wrong direction and losing the footrace. I’ve read criticism of her ballwatching on France’s third but to me that one seems to be on, if anyone, Sauerbrunn, who is tight on Abily but still gets beat to the ball. Long, though, is just kind of marking space.

    Overall on a night when the US backline had a very poor evening it was fairly clear to me that Long is not a particularly good option at CB against a team that has any level of skill. She just doesn’t have the recovery speed, positioning, or anticipation she needs to be a competent CB. Why Ellis is playing her but didn’t keep Em Menges I havn’t the slightest idea…

    Speaking of the defense it’s easy to forget that on the Le Sommer goal Long got torched, yes…but Sauerbrunn flopped over like she’d been shot. Not exactly covering herself with glory there. Short looked slow and tenative a lot of the time, too. Much as I hate to say this because I think she’s liable to make one horrific derp per game JJ was possibly the best US defender at the SBC.

    The failure to finish has to be considered a real problem, as well…but that doesn’t really come back to reflect on the Thorns.

    1. Timber Dave

      For sure. Can we also be done with the Allie-Long-as-defensive-mid experiment too? As I said elsewhere, she’s an excellent attacking mid, a mediocre defensive mid, and a poor centerback. Why is someone who scored 10 goals in an NWSL season, and routinely puts up big assist numbers, playing in defense?!

      Calling Jill Ellis: please replace Carli Lloyd, who has been just awful ever since the World Cup final, with Allie Long. While we’re at it, can we also agree that a 3-back formation doesn’t work against a strong offense?

      1. John Lawes

        Yeah…Lloyd was kind of a huge unmoving slorg at the SBC. Very disappointing (so was Lynn Williams, which surprised me…).

        I’m not sure that three in back is guaranteed to fail against a good attacking team, but it does rely heavily on the backs and on the wingers to hustle back, and that wasn’t happening against France. I’d say that it was given a good trial against two very good teams and looked meh against England and downright self-destructive against France…

    2. tony olson

      One thing that caused me some concern was the total non-use of Emily Sonnett in the SBC. She was 1 of 4 players with 0 minutes. The others being Campbell, McDonald and Pinto.

      Actually I’ve been concerned about her non-use since Oct 2015. She has made every camp/roster except 2 since then but only has 397 minutes played for the NT.

      If JE is really experimenting as she says she is, this would have been a great opportunity to use her.

      1. John Lawes

        My guess is that Ellis has seen enough of Sonnett that her inactivity owes more to her solid status with the WNT than a lack of confidence in her. We know – and, I assume, Ellis knows – that she’s a solid young CB. So there’s no real point in experimenting with her at that position other than to see how well she does with the OTHER players being moved around her.

        That said…she is a YOUNG centerback. I’d like to see her get some more minutes just to give her more seasoning. I agree that it would have been good to see more of her, both for her experience and for us to see how she plays off her WNT teammates…

  3. Timber Dave

    I’m psyched about Sykes. She looks like a very good forward — maybe not a world-beater like De Vanna but perhaps good enough to challenge Nadim for the starting spot, and in any case she looks like a high-quality sub late for in the game. The NWSL may be more of a challenge than Australia’s W-League. Or it might not: I’ve never watched a W-League game, and even less do I have a good overall assessment of how defenses there compare to defenses here. We will see.

    Also, last year we were lucky to have two starting-quality keepers in Betos and Franch. That may not be true this year, but perhaps we can get there: I have a fair bit of confidence in the Thorns’s goalkeeper coaches, who hopefully can address Eckerstrom’s ball-catching issues.

    In the big picture, I’m pretty impressed with how Parsons and Wilkinson have put this team together within the NWSL salary cap constraints. The starters look excellent, and it appears we have decent depth to survive the inevitable injuries and NT call-ups.

    Side note: What is it with Portland teams having two starting-quality keepers? Betos and Franch last year… and for a good while there the Timbers were blessed with Gleeson as a backup while Ricketts/Kwarasey/etc. started. Keepers almost invariably miss a handful of games here and there, if not more, due to injury, and it’s great to have a very strong player stepping into the breach.

    1. John Lawes

      I’m hoping we’ll see Eckerstrom get an outing in preseason, as well; I hate to generalize from a single data point, and it may be that she has safer hands than that one clip makes her look. I also remember A.D. making an awful mistake against Houston in preseason and thinking we’d got the “bad” Franch from her time at Avaldsnes and being wrong about that. So we’ll have to see…

      I think the Franch/Betos thing was pure happenstance. Nadine retired and kicked Michelle into the starting role, and A.D. came out of the Topserien, possibly hoping for a slot on the Nats by moving back to the NWSL. She was the best ‘keeper available, so the club picked her up not knowing whether she or Betos would end up starting…and, instead, would up with a starting-quality ‘keeper in reserve all season.

      As far as the rest goes…I have to say I really like where this team is right now. The roster looks solid top to bottom. Sykes looks like a good mid-season addition. Hopefully Dagny, Nadim, Morris, and Kling are all rehabbing well, and Parsons has cunning plans for Flynn and Lussi and I think this team is poised to have a very good 2017.


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