Thorns FC: Got those lowdown, dirty, no-good, midweek-Kansas City-losin’-my-win-streak Blues

Well.  It was a nice four-match win streak while it lasted.

Unfortunately Thorns FC picked a bad time and a bad place to have a very unimpressive game.  PTFC has never had much luck in Kansas City and this past Wednesday didn’t break with that form.

The frustrating thing is that FCKC didn’t really look all that impressive, either.  After a fairly random first quarter hour of a whole lot of back-and-forth blah Portland made a couple of brutal defensive derps; at 16′ Sonnett “cleared” off Kat Reynolds’ trapezius straight to Sydney Leroux, but luckily for Portland the KC striker hit the ball across the face of goal.  Two minutes later it was Kat’s turn, dumping a clear straight to Shea Groom, but she had no angle and Tymrak’s shot was cleared for a weak corner.

Then more nothing, back-and-forth again without either team looking particular organized or dangerous.  Finally in the 42nd minute Portland had a spell of successful pressure that culminated with Becca Moros taking Sinclair down inside the 18.  Henry slotted home the penalty to put Portland up 0-1.  But…

The derps returned in the 46th minute; Klingenberg was caught ballwatching as a good cross found Taylor unmarked.  Her header went over the crossbar to keep the Thorns’ clean sheet going into the half but a reminder that this KC team wouldn’t just quit the way Chicago had.

The 45th to the 57th minutes were the only extended period of the match where Portland looked the better team.  A wretched Sauerbrunn clear right to Raso turned into a Brynjarsdottir shot that Barnhardt saved well at 49′.  In the 54th minute Sinclair put through a gorgeous lead pass that Sauerbrunn had to nick off Raso’s foot to prevent the 1v0.  A minute later Portland assembled some nice attacking movement, but the final cross was just out of Dagny’s reach.

Then the doldrums set in again, futility was queen, and neither team looked remotely capable of creating anything until a soft foul on Becca Moros put Averbuch over the dead ball about 22 yards from goal.

Two things are going on here that bug me:

  1.  The left-hand player in the wall?  Hayley Raso, all 5′ nothing” of her.  Averbuch, seeing the open window, struck the ball right through where her head had been – Hayley, no fool she, ducked – and towards the near post, and
  2. A.D. hasn’t moved, and the ball is 4/5ths the way to the goal.  I’m not sure if she was unsighted, or not set, or what she was doing…but when she did move she was slow and weak diving to her right

I’m biased, being a former ‘keeper…but, damn it, that’s a saveable ball.  There’s no reason she shouldn’t have been able to at least turn that around the post.  Sorry, A.D., but that one’s about 90% on you.  That and 10% to whoever suggested Raso take the end spot in the wall.

So the road point was still in view…for about four minutes.  Then this happened:

I know you think I harp on this too much, but…what the hell else is it?  You have three defenders in the Portland 18 and every single one of them is staring at the ball like a damn mongoose at a cobra.  Lifting the ball onto Leroux’s head was Soccer 101, and it was that simple to take all the points away from a less-than-incisive Portland squad.

Perfect display of the sort of work Portland put in Wednesday?  From minute 73 to minute 79 Portland had every damn second of the ball.  Worked it all around the KC penalty area; up, down, sideways, through, over…won a corner in the 78th minute…another in the 79th…finally Klingenberg hucked a rainbow up to Horan who headed down and wide and that was it.  Six minutes of solid possession and one shot, off-target.

Probably the best chance for Portland in the entire second half was a late Horan free-kick that pinged off the outside of the far post in the 89th minute.  But it did ping out, not in, and that was the match.  Portland gained no ground on the other midweek losers Chicago and Seattle and lost ground to Carolina, five points clear, and to Orlando, now only five points back.  And Houston coming to town on Saturday.

This would be a good time to shake off the Kansas City Blues.

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Player comments and PMRs:

Raso (+6/-7 : +7/-2 : +13/-9)  Not a bad match from Raso, and yet…look at her numbers.  She’s been 20+ positives for the last three matches.  This one?  Barely broke two figures.  Her first half passing was atrocious, too.  Settled down in the second half with her usual combination of strong runs and good passes.  But with Sinclair invisible most of the match Hayley wasn’t her usual self, like a little be-hair-ribboned Puff the Magic Dragon with no big, tall Canadian Jackie Paper to make her magic rainbow sparkle.

Sykes (72′ – +6/-1 : +3/-0 : +9/-1)  Put in a good shift, better than her replacement and we’ll talk about that in Weber’s comment.  One of the few Thorns, however, that didn’t help pitch in in the first quarter hour of the second half and that might have made the difference not getting the second goal.

Brynjarsdóttir (63′ – +2/-3 : +4/-1 : +6/-4)  Just not enough.  Nothing horrible, nice bits and pieces, but without Lussi, with the rest of the team having an off night, needed to step up and really didn’t.  Can’t blame her for not being the Goddess of Thunder but…I want her to be the Goddess of Thunder.

Weber (18′ – no rating)  The thinness of the Thorns’ bench can’t be better demonstrated than by Mallory Weber’s almost-a-third-of-an-hour shift Wednesday night.  Utterly ineffective at a time when the team was, or should have been, desperately clawing back an equalizer.  Particularly frustrating because of the difference between the shocking energy Andonovski jolted into his squad by subbing Ratcliffe and Bowen on for LaBonta and Tymrak and the lack of a similar electricity generated by Parsons’ replacement of Dagny and Sykes with Weber and Nadim.

Nadim (27′ – +2/-2)  As noted above; almost completely ineffective.  Tried hard, but – unsurprisingly after her long absence – not in synch with her teammates and easily isolated by Sauerbrunn and the KC backline.

Sinclair (+2/-1 : +8/-3 : +10/-4)  Perhaps her worst match of the season; largely uninvolved in the first half and when she was involved was not particularly effective.  Much improved in the second, but still was less visible than we expect from her.  Fatigue?  Sinc isn’t a slip of a girl anymore.  Nursing a knock?  Possibly, although she seemed to perk up after getting cut down by Moros.  So I’m not sure what the problem was.  But Sinc had problems Wednesday night.

Horan (+3/-4 : +6/-2 : +9/-6)  Showcase example of the shortcoming of the Thorns’ midfield in this match.  Last match +30, this match not even in double figures.  Like Sinclair and Henry…not awful, not even particularly bad…but not particularly good, either.  Here’s her passing matrix for the first half:

Here’s her second half:

Horan had an uncharacteristically large number of poor passes for turnover in this match.  The differences I see in these patterns is that her lost passes in the first half were all speculative forward passes from midfield into the attacking third.  In the second half she pushes up, makes shorter, completed passes in the attack zone and takes shots herself.

Notice, however, that in the second half she drops several long backpasses that go to the Blues.  It was that sort of defensive mistake that cost Thorns FC in this the match.

Without Heath, as goes Horan so goes the Thorns midfield.  Lindsey had an off night Wednesday and so did the midfield and so did the team.

Henry (+9/-1 : +6/-1 : +15/-1)  The best of the Thorns midfielders on the night, unable to do everything herself but did what she could and my Woman of the Match.

Reynolds (+2/-5 : +2/-2 : +4/-7)  Somewhat at fault on the Leroux goal and didn’t have a particularly good night in general, though FCKC couldn’t profit from her worst errors in the first half.

Sonnett (+8/-3 ” +5/-0 : +13/-3)  Had a solid game, and not at fault on the concessions.  A very good match in a losing effort, tho faded in the second half as her PMR suggests.

Menges (+14/-2 : +2/-5 : +16/-7)  Egregiously at fault on the Leroux goal; sorry, Em, that one was on you.  Like Sonnett, her game dropped off in the second half but otherwise a solid match.  Not “sorta-bad-overall”; pretty good for 85 minutes with some spells of utter “WTF?”.

Klingenberg (+7/-6 : +5/-2 : +12/-8)  Despite her numbers not a bad match; just reflective of the overall issues the Thorns’ backline had Wednesday.  Did have some ugly derps in the first half but, as with Reynolds, not punished for them.  Solid second half.

Franch (+0/-0 : +1/-1 : +1/-1)  Her PMRs reflect two completely opposite moments; a terrific save off Kelly in the 82nd minute and the complete mess she made of the Averbuch free kick.  The latter is a little shocking, given that she’s usually solid on reaction saves.

Distribution:  A.D. had 15 clearances; 5 goal kicks (PTFC controlled 3 of 5), 3 punts (all lost), and 6 clears (5 of 6 lost).  Of these a two were turned back as attacks on Franch’s goal, so a 13% “dangerous clearance” ratio, not especially good and fairly consistent with the sort of night Thorns FC had.

Wee heidies:  The two clubs played a total of 30 high passes or clears; Portland 16, FCKC 14.

Portland played 7 of 16 back up in the air and lost (or didn’t control) 6 of the 7 (Sinclair was the only successful Thorn at heading back up to a teammate).  Six of Thorns FC’s plays came as flick-ons; 2 of 3 were controlled in the first half, but as the team pressed in the second half all three were either lost or not controlled.  Of the remaining three either chested or headed down, or played to feet all three ended up in Portland possession.

FCKC only played 5 of their 14 back up, losing one, pinging two around aimlessly, and winning two including a terrific Sauerbrunn thump that must have sailed forward 50 yards to land at Taylor’s feet.  Only one of two chested down was controlled by the Blues as was one played to feet.  The remaining 6 were flicked-on; FCKC controlled 3 and lost three.

Coach Parsons:  Hard to make a case for a coach whose team gave up two goals in four minutes, a lead, and three points on the road to one of the bottom three teams in the league, and a coach whose bench had such a significantly lesser impact on the match then his opponent’s.  This can’t be considered one of the highlights of Coach Parsons’ vita.

Best to look at it coldly and move on to Houston Saturday evening.

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Houston is coming off a road win over the hapless Boston Breakers – which, I note with some asperity, is again tussling for the Wooden Spoon despite the much-touted signing of Rose Lavelle – on strength of a Beckie brace.  I had thought that losing Carli Lloyd would knock the Dash out of contention but with the win Houston sits only three points below mid-table Orlando and surely has dreams of revenging the beating here less than two weeks ago.