A Brief Introduction
This is the first piece of what I hope will be a regular column here at Riveting!; “Thorns FC”, my personal take on the Portland club that I have followed, supported, thought, and written about since Opening Day in 2013.
I started working with Kevin Alexander over at the Slide Rule Pass site, and we were teammates for four years. Last fall I was poached away to write for Stumptown Footy, where I covered the 2018 season. This year I’ve moved again, here to Riveting!, where I hope to keep doing what I love; writing and talking about the Thorns.
I’d like to emphasize is that one of the things I love most about doing this is the conversations I have with you, the readers. You’re here because you love and follow the team, as well, but you may and probably do have different ideas and beliefs about the things we discuss here. I hope you’ll put them in the comments section (with all the usual caveats about respect and consideration for others!) so we can kick them around.
Starting next week I’d like to begin by discussing the team we saw last season, and the implications for the coming year. The Girls in Red came deliciously close in 2018, but 2019 will present new challenges that the team and staff must adapt to and overcome. Part of this is likely to mean new roles for old faces, and the appearance of new faces.
The Rookie: Emily Ogle
The latest of these is Penn State midfielder Emily Ogle, taken with Portland’s only pick in the 2019 draft – at #24, after the club packaged the original #17 and #35 picks in a trade with the Chicago Red Stars.
Ogle is highly regarded; Chris Henderson ranked her at #13 overall at All White Kit, and Top Drawer Soccer rated her #5 overall and #1 in the Big Ten. To get her with a high-third-round pick required some mad draft skillz, and a healthy dose of the bizarre selection order that saw Sky Blue and Washington each pick five times in the twenty-three earlier rounds. She’s an outstanding defensive midfielder at the NCAA level.
I find this an interesting pick for several reasons:
- This suggests that the Thorns Front Office agrees with me that the whole “Who is the next Amandine Henry?” question remains unsolved. We’ll discuss this in one of the next posts, but Celeste Boureille does not appear to be the answer that the Thorns had hoped.
- It also opens up the question of Angela Salem. She could have been the “canny veteran” who would step in and lock down the back of midfield, but given her abbreviated minutes last season she does not appear to have impressed the coaching staff as such.
- So…is Ogle pure defensive depth, or is there some sort of plan in the works to rejigger the back of the midfield, possibly to include some sort of double pivot? We won’t know until preseason workouts begin, but in the meantime it’s fun to speculate.
We’re going to move on to talk about the forward line next, but in the meantime, I’d like to note that the other “big story” of this season’s draft is Sky Blue FC.
Troubles in The Garden State?
The Jersey club picked up Henderson’s #2 overall player – UCLA’s Hailie Mace – with their #2 pick in the first round, and his #3 with their #6 pick.
Both have very publicly dismissed the club, suggesting that they would rather play overseas or be traded within the NWSL. Sky Blue’s GM replied with the standard boilerplate, but I’m going to suggest that it’s going to be worth watching the signing-and-transfer news over the next couple of months.
I’m also going to suggest that if either, or both, of their top signings rejects the club it brings the future of Sky Blue into real question. Players are bolting from SBFC like rats from a flaming grain silo, and the issues seem to be not so much salary but playing conditions and management which are, unsurprisingly, not going to change under the same management.
For all the idle talk about expansion, I’m going to recommend that the NWSL brass – what there is of it – and US Soccer should take a hard look at the doin’s in Piscataway if they don’t want to go from nine to eight, rather than from nine to ten, in the coming season.