The good thing about playing bad teams is that you beat them.
The bad thing about playing bad teams is that it’s often difficult to figure out what to make of that.
Sure, if you thrash Sky Blue FC 5-nil you’ve pretty much made the statement “We’re waaaaay better than Sky Blue FC”. Mind you, if you draw, or, worse, lose to Sky Blue FC, you’re kinda saying “Gee…we kinda suck right now.”
The problem comes when you go on the road and beat Sky Blue 0-1. Sure, you beat Sky Blue…but what are you saying? Did you barely beat them because you just had an unlucky night and nothing wanted to go in? Or did you barely beat them because you just weren’t really doing anything particularly outstanding?
I’ll be straight up with you; I haven’t the slightest fucking idea.
Both teams tried to give the match away with piss-poor passing, and the Thorns actually won the race to the bottom; InStat has SBFC winning 72 to 64 percent, while Opta has the Joisey Goils up 66 to 54 percent. Here’s my own compilation of the Thorns’ Wall of Shame:
God, that’s ugly.
Yes, I know that Coach Parsons’ plan was to huck long balls downfield and then do the soccer equivalent of dump-and-rush and let his forwards and AMs dispossess Sky Blue’s backline and DMs. And against Sky Blue, who could barely string together three passes before coughing up the ball, that worked.
You try that shit against Chicago or North Carolina, or…wait, we tried that shit against Washington and got handed our asses. The Thorns won a grand total of 9 more challenges in Sky Blue’s defensive third – 49 to 40 for SBFC on the other end. If you dump-and-rush against a team that can actually pass? You’re gonna get killed.
Between the futility in front of goal and the “let’s-give-the-ball-away” contest if I’d have been a neutral viewer I’d have turned this one off at halftime and gone looking for some more quality sports entertainment, like pro cornhole.
Okay. Fine. Enough whining. Was there anything to like about this snoozer? Actually, I’d say that on the individual level there was quite a bit to like.
that old movie where the understudy becomes the star?
This match featured a debut start for Simone Charley, and what a start it was; Charley was all over the Sky Blue backline, tearing things up like…well, a good striker going after a Sky Blue backline!
Meanwhile, longtime frontline stalwart Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic was reduced to carrying water for the forwards and having a very rugged evening of it. Is this the part where Marc Parsons suddenly looks Charley in the face and cries “That’s it! I’m gonna make you a star!”?
Meanwhile, in the backline, Liz Ball came in for Ellie Carpenter and visibly Hulked out on the pitch, savaging every Jersey player that came close to her.
Well, obviously the goalscorer, Midge Purce, who was InStat’s top rated player on the evening (which IMO simply shows that the tovariches put too much weight on goalscoring…). And Marissa Everett and Madison Pogarch did well in their professional debuts as regular-season players.
step by step
Here’s the thing, too; this was clearly a work-in-progress, and I saw progress on the pitch that night. These players will have about 6 to 8 weeks to play together, and as they do they’ll be able to work out stuff like this:
That’s a nice little attack, but the two attackers are too narrow. With practice these two will figure out that this will work better if they spread the field a skosh.
And a bit later in the match that started to happen, with a little help from an unexpected direction.
Like a white-suited ninja, Liz Ball comes tear-assing up from deep right field and suddenly appears where no Liz Ball was only moments before.
She just splits Imani Dorsey and Paige Monahagn – who had another in a long string of oopsies on the night – and Gabby Seiler slips a slide-rule pass into the charging Wrecking Ball.
Ball beats both her markers like dark blue drums and then drops a dime on Charley’s head, S.C. having snuck in behind everyone like another similarly-white-suited-ninja-like-person.
Didi Haracic is caught dead to rights, 0-1 Portland, right?
Charley’s header rebounds off the post and SBFC survives for another ten minutes or so until Charley’s shoss deflects off Sarah Killion’s trapezius into Purce’s path and the Midginator finishes deftly and puts the poor sad shambling Jersey thing out of it’s misery.
Ugh. Having to watch Sky Blue or Orlando should only be paid work; they shouldn’t be allowed to charge admission, but you should get a couple of bucks just for showing up. Having to watch both of them? There’s got to be something in the Hague or Geneva Conventions against that. Day-um these teams are bad.
So that’s what I mean; it’s really hard to tell whether Thorns v2.0, the Thorns-Without-The-Stars, is a good team, a really good team, a barely-one-goal-better-than-Sky-Blue team, or what.
I’ll tellya what, though. Next weekend we face a Red Stars that’s hurting from a home loss to Washington. We beat those wenches?
It’s game on.
player ratings and comments
Charley (79′- +11/-6 : +8/-4 : +19/-10) Everything I wanted to see from Charley – everything I saw in preseason and liked about Charley – only with a goal gone begging. Active, intelligent, aggressive, mobile. Has to clean up her passing! But otherwise, a terrific match from the Eternal Trialist.
Everett (11′ – +3/-0) Wonderful run to get herself down to the near post for a vicious shot off Pogarch’s cross that forced a huge save out of Haracic. Looked great in limited minutes.
Lussi (59′ – +7/-5 : +0/-0 : +7/-5) Started well, other than her usual “where-the-fuck-is-the-goal?” off-target header in the 11th minute; c’mon, Tee El, you’re a striker! Strikers strike at goal! but then completely disappeared before the hour mark. Dunno what happened, but if she can string together two halves like her first 45′ AND get her attempts on frame? Then she’s going to be deadly.
Purce (31′ – +7/-3) I actually liked Charley’s headed post more than Purce’s goal; the goal was a nice finish but the buildup was pure junkball compared to the gorgeous sequence shown above. Purce did have a brilliant run in the 89th minute that truly was quality and was only stopped by Haracic playing out of her mind. And I have to say – this was the first time I’ve seen Purce that I didn’t notice her left foot as an issue, so perhaps she’s got that worked out.
Crnogorcevic (+4/-4 : +2/-4 : +6/-8) Rough night for AMC, forced deep into the outside midfield to play defense. Had one sweet backheel to Kling in the 41st minute balanced against a ton of crap longballs. She also had one great chance, on the rebound off Charley’s header, that she plopped weakly in a probably-shocked-Haracic’s lap. So overall not really a great night.
Brynjarsdottir (+5/-6 : +4/-4 : +9/-10) How you feel about her evening depends on how you feel about lost possession. InStat rates her third-best player in the pitch behind Purce and Ball, and she did good work in midfield locking down Dorsey and cutting off McCaskill.
On the other hand, eight of her ten minuses are for garbage long lobs that went to a blue shirt, so had Eckerstrom been a trifle slower off her line in the 70th minute, or getting down on Lewandowsky’s header in the 89th we might be talking about how wasteful Dagny was in possession rather than her solid midfield defense.
Also very hard to tell how effective she was at DM when Sky Blue was having trouble passing around a set of practice cones. We’ll see how she does in the next couple of matches.
Seiler (+3/-4 : +5/-1 : +8/-5) Sturdy. Competent midfield defense, some good passing going forward…what’s not to like? Well played, Seiler.
Salem (74′ – +8/-5 : +3/-3 : +11/-8) Like Seiler – solid defensively, with a bit of attacking flair – but with a trifle better passing. Salem did seem to fade a bit in the second half, and the Pogarch sub was cleverly done.
Pogarch (16′ – +5/-2) I’ve mentioned her brilliant cross in the 80th minute, but Master Po was in fine blind-monk-fu style in the final quarter hour to see out the match. Along with Everett, an excellent introduction to regular NWSL play.
Klingenberg (+10/-9 : +5/-2 : +15/-11) I don’t want to jinx her, but the past two matches have been a trifle less high-flying for Kling; had similar problems controlling her passing, especially her long passing, and I hope that was just the effect of the long road trip and the return to her own duvet and kitchenette will spring her back into her first-four-games-form.
Menges (+10/-2 : +7/-2 : +17/-4) You know that part in the monster movie where you have to go through the dark road through the creepy woods and you know the monster is going to jump out and just kill you dead any moment?
That must be the feeling opposing forwards get when they approach Menges’ sector of the Thorns penalty area.
But check this out:
This is where Menges is pushing up, both to crush enemy attacks and to start Portland’s; ten yards on the wrong side of the center stripe. That’s insane, but that’s where she is right now. Get some, Menges.
Reynolds (+5/-2 : +5/-1 : +10/-3) Not flashy, just solid, but, again…Sky Blue. Kat Reynolds did own McCaskill several times, including a couple of stonings in the 49th and 53rd minutes, which warmed my heart.
Ball (+11/-5 : +8/-2 : +19/-7) The Wrecking Ball was a madwoman all night, from byline to byline and everywhere in between. My pick for Woman of the Match just because she sits on the bench, like, forever, and suddenly starts and becomes this insane berserker that just destroys everything in her path, and that’s crazy awesome.
Eckerstrom (+2/-0 : +2/-1 : +4/-1) Huge takes in the 44th and 46th minutes, massive saves in the 70th and 89th, pretty much the definition of safe hands, Eck was terrific in Yurcak, and helped lock in the three points.
Coach Parsons – Well, better than Maryland, that’s for damn sure.
Still not sure if this apparent love affair for hoof-and-hope and counterattacking is going to work against better teams. I know for a fact it won’t work against North Carolina when they’re at full gas because we’ve tried it and it failed. It didn’t work in Washington last week. I wish I was sure that Parsons has more clubs in the bag than this, because so far I’m unconfident…
Props for the subs; all three were effective, and at least two of the players that came off were visibly tiring.
Three points on the road are good. Even Sky-Blue-points – they all count the same. So there’s that.
But now those days are past; only two of the remaining 18 fixtures are against the Jersey Tire Fire and the Orlando Flaming Dumpsters.
Now the fun really begins.
postscript: jersey blues
The part where I was talking about Sky Blue paying to get people to come see them?
I was only kidding. Kidding!
But when you look at this, suddenly it’s not funny anymore.
Places like Orlando and New Jersey need to succeed. We can’t afford more Bostons and Kansas Cities. That empty stand is just so sad and lonely it makes me feel sorry for Sky Blue and want to cuddle them and tell them “There, there…” except there’s no real good way to feel better about that. That’s a bad, bad sign.
The league really needs to start looking hard at ways to help franchises like this. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how good we have it in Portland…until you look up in the stands and see something like this.