Thorns FC: Chaos Theory

To no one’s particular surprise the Portland Thorns defeated Gotham FC in the 2021 Challenge Cup Final Saturday morning, particularly to those who watched the Thorns put a comprehensive statistical lickin’ on The Team Formerly Known As Sky Blue.

The rebrand had done wonders for the Joisey Goils, but it couldn’t do that much wonder when the Thorns were all over the Batwomen like Italian dressing on a Jersey Mike’s sub. Here’s what the cumulative xG chart looked like:

No, the surprise was that Gotham stayed in the match until the 61st minute, when Carly Lloyd equalized the Christine Sinclair strike that had put the Thorns ahead for what surely seemed like “for good” and managed to hang on to force spot kicks where a Jennifer Cudjoe miss and a Adrianna Franch save and a Morgan Weaver conversion were all required to nick the Thorns their first silverware since the end of 2017.

All of that changes nothing that hasn’t been said before. The Thorns still look very likely to challenge for the regular season title. The Rebuildening looks as though it has made Portland a much more lethal club than the one that went out in the 2019 semifinal and looked no more than moderately convincing in 2020. The newcomers look anywhere from solid to terrific.

The Chaos Cup made a perfect mug to drink celebratory Budweisers from, and that’s just fine. Well done, Thorns.

Now.

Preseason is over, and the matches are going to count. It’s time to turn all those lovely opportunities into goals, and play the sort of merciless soccer that makes champions. Last weekend you let a visibly overmatched opponent hang around for an hour and, as such opponents often do, they made you pay. If Ifeoma Onomonu had headed that ball two yards to her left you’d have been left drinking not Buds from the Cup but bitter tears of regret.

So bring on Chicago, and bring on the regular season and let’s see how ruthless you can be.

SHORT PASSES

Passing the Passing Test: 76.3%. That’s okay. Better than Gotham’s 70%, and, more important, the Thorns midfield and backline were generally well-positioned and cut off the most dangerous Gotham passes..

Okay, remember: only dangerous attacking and possession-gain (or -loss) passes count. A “1” is a pass to and from feet. “L” is a long pass, “H” a headed one, “F” a free kick, “X” a cross. For goalkeepers “G” is a goal kick, “P” is a punt, and otherwise they are rated like the field players.

If a pass was exceptionally good – a “key pass”? – I’ve added bold and italic and underlined to the symbol in the “completed” column. The same iconography in the “missed” column means a very bad pass, one that leads directly to danger or a concession.

Got it? Let’s go.

PlayerCompletedMissed
Charley1
SmithL11
SinclairL1L
Dunn1111L1LH
HoranF1X1XLHLL1
SalemHHH
Klingenberg1LCLXL
HublyLLLL11L1LLLL
SauerbrunnL1L1
Kuikka1LL1
FranchLGPGG
Weaver1
Westphal
Rodriguez

You can see who was the long passing beast; Kelli Hubly was diming people left, right and center out of the back; apparently Sauerbrunn has let her centerback partners do the pushing up while she sits deep. That’s fine, as far as it goes

Lindsey Horan, on the other hand, was sort of all over the place. Some nice crosses and passes, some poorly-judged efforts. Crystal Dunn’s numbers are heavily impacted by her typical location when receiving or releasing; caught in a crowd of white shirts with little or no space to work. It’s a tribute to her skills that she got any completions off at all.

Corner Kicks

The Thorns won 12 corners. The first two were taken short, but the remaining ten were “long” – that is, typical direct-into-the-box-type corners.

The 29th minute Klingenberg corner landed on Horan’s head, but her strong shot was well wide right. The same connection in the 36th minute went right at Didi Haracic. The remainder were either cleared or (as in the 86th minute) led to nothing more than a blocked shot or a scuffle in the penalty area and a clearance.

PLAYER RATINGS AND COMMENTS

(What the heck is a PMR? Player ratings explained)

Smith (76′ – +10/-2 : +5/-4 : +15/-6) Sophia Smith had a severe case of Lussitis, especially in the second half. Lots of good ideas, lots of action, no goals to show for it. I think she hammered that into Parsons’ head with two appalling misses, first in the 71st minute when Sinc put her in on Haracic 1 v 0 and Smith shot well wide left, and worse in the 76th minute when Smith had Haracic at her mercy and shanked her shot wide right.

Smith had a hell of a first half, doing everything from forechecking defense to making runs and passes and being a nuisance in Gotham’s backline. Everything…but scoring (although it took a terrific save from Haracic to keep her off the scoresheet in the 33rd minute…)

The pro cycling peleton has a term for days like that: un jour sans, “a day without”, a day when you bust your lungs and burn your legs and the pack rides effortlessly away from you. Smith had that sort of day Saturday. Not a wasted day, not with those numbers, but a day without what a forward thrives on, goals. She’ll be back, but Saturday just wasn’t her day.

Weaver (14′ – +8/-1)

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Morgan Weaver, on the other hand, was a quarter hour of lightning in a bottle. I suspect had she come on another ten minutes earlier she and Sinc between them would have made the matchwinner. And, of course, in the end she DID find the matchwinner.

I still don’t have a good feel for whether Weaver is a 90-minute forward. She seems to use her body recklessly, and that might not last a full match. As such she’s a terror off the bench, though, and she was Saturday.

When she’s fresh she’s got tremendous pace and uses it to get in behind defenses and put in crosses. When she did just that in the 86th minute her seeing-eye cross found Sinclair near the top of the 18, and Sinc came within a Haracic-fingertip of winning the thing in regulation time.

Hell of a shift.

Charley (+9/-0 : +5/-2 : +14/-2) Simone Charley thrives on direct play, and the Thorns had a lot of that Saturday. She also had three terrific opportunities to put the match away; once in the 33rd minute when Charley’s rocket put Smith in on Haracic, then again in the 72nd minute when her pointblank looping chip had Haracic beat but Mandy Freeman cleared off the line, then again in the 79th when Kling dimed her run through the Gotham backline to put the biscuit in the basket…but offside.

All in all, a very good day’s work from Si-money.

Sinclair (+5/-2 : +9/-2 : +14/-4) There will come a day when the whirligig of time will bring in its revenges and Christine Sinclair will no longer be able to play this game at the highest level.

That day was not last Saturday.

Two goals – counting the spot-kick – and a lot of all the usual hard work.

For any other thirty-eight-year-old that would be the cause for marvel and admiration. For the Captain it was just another day at the office, punching the clock and taking out the trash and doing all her usual good. Combined fiercely with Weaver; I’d love to see what those two could do over a full half or even a full match. But we’ll see.

It’s worth recalling that Sinc IS no longer a slip of a girl. The club benefited from her rested vigor over this cup. But the regular season is a grind, and with it the Olympic Games, and I hope the Front Office is thinking about that.

Dunn (+6/-3 : +9 : -2 : +15/-5) I’d reeeeeally like to see Crystal Dunn play forward of midfield for a full match. She’s got a crap-ton of valuable attacking skills; pace, vision, precision, energy. When she goes forward she’s usually dangerous.

But it’s beginning to look like we’re not going to see that this season.

Nine of her fifteen pluses in this one are defensive; tackles or recoveries. She has only one offensive plus, an attacking run late in the second half. Parsons seems to want her to play a sort of midfield sweeper, a box-to-box defensive/shuttle midfielder. She’s terrific at that. I’m greedy, and I’d love to see her further on the frontline. Apparently Coach Parsons doesn’t agree, so it may be a rare Dunn Sighting within 20 yards of goal.

Salem (68′ – +3/-1 : +6/-0 : +9/-1) Here’s the thing about this match.

A lot of the Thorns defenders and Salem as the defensive midfielder don’t have gaudy PMRs.

That’s because of a couple of things, one good, the other kinda meh.

The “meh” thing was that Gotham had a hard time keeping possession. More often than not they’d throw a pass away or get tackled for loss before they got even a sniff at goal. Gotham weren’t awful on Saturday, but they weren’t “good”, so it didn’t take heroic defensive work to keep them down.

The good thing, though, as that Portland was generally well organized and disciplined. The Thorns defended in groups, and as a team, so no one individual had to race around like her hair was on fire putting up pluses for tackles and defensive stops.

Salem wasn’t a madwoman, but because her team was around her she didn’t need to be, and that’s just fine.

Rodriguez (22′- +4/-1) Came on to bring fresh legs, and did, and that meant she did her job.

One thing I haven’t seen from Rodriguez that other people seem to see – and talk about – is her playmaking. She passes well enough, but I’m not seeing any midfield wizardry. She doesn’t seem to distribute all that well – no better than any other of the Thorns midfielders.

I’d like to see that from her; Portland hasn’t had an outstanding midfield general since Vero left. People I trust say Rodriguez has that in her. But I haven’t seen it yet, and I’d like to.

Horan (+5/-2 : +10/-1 : +15/-3) Another Thorn who could have put the match away, this time in the 39th minute when Horan struck a golazo-worthy free kick that had Haracic beat but clanked off the inside of the post and away. Slotted her PK away calmly, along with everything else she’d done, so well-earned her slug of Anheuser product from the big mug. Perhaps not Great, but Damn Good Horan, and that’s all the team needed Saturday.

Klingenberg (+5/-2 : +11: -3 : +16/-5) I’m glad Kling had fun Saturday. I’m also damn glad Cudjoe missed her spot-kick and Franch saved from Kawasumi and Weaver scored, because I was pretty shocked to watch Kling stroll up to the penalty spot like she was in the checkout line at Fred Meyer. If her shank had cost the team the game, well…I’m not sure that might have sucked the fun right out of it.

We’ll talk about this more in the Kuikka comment, but for a team that asks its fullbacks to push up neither Thorns fullback is particularly pacey. I was a little surprised that Gotham didn’t try and throw Midge Purce at either Kling or Kuikka; the one time she did, in the 69th minute, Purce skinned Kling like she was standing still. We saw that in Houston, and I’m a bit concerned that facing truly speedy teams might not show our fullbacks at their best.

Klingenberg continues, like Sinclair, to defy the calendar, and hopefully that will continue through this season.

Hubly (+9/-3 : +3/-3 : +12/-6) Soccer is a game of routine punctuated with moments of sudden terror or exhilaration. Both Portland’s centerbacks lived up to that that last Saturday.

For 88-odd minutes both Hubly and Sauerbrunn did just fine. They kept Gotham’s danger women marked and under control, cleared out dangerous passes and crosses, and kept things calm.

But if Hubly gets credit for that she also has to take the lick for ballwatching in the 49th minute when Dydasco dropped a lob onto an unmarked Lloyd’s head, and Hubly and her team were both damn lucky that Lloyd headed wide. Then again, in the 93rd minute, both ‘Brunn and Hubly were marking space as Imani Dorsey’s cross clanked off Onumonu’s head with Franch well beaten.

Now. Had Portland finished all their chances would those goofs have mattered?

They didn’t, though.

Everyone makes mistakes, so occasional lapses of concentration or discipline are entirely understandable. But in sport those mistakes are often punished, so there is no waving them away. Athletes are heroes. That’s their job. And when you’re a hero you can’t fail. That’s written into the contract. Sucks, but there it is.

Sauerbrunn (+1/-4 : +3/-5 : +4/-9)

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

See above.

It must have been a frustrating day for Becky Sauerbrunn. Just like with Hubly, she played well enough for the vast majority of the match. Then comes the 61st minute and ‘Brunn gets just the teensiest bit behind instead of keeping ball-side on Lloyd and the big lug gets up high and just thunderdunks over her.

Well, shit.

I think I’m hard on ‘Brunn because she’s got the rep and the c.v. and the big payday and so far doesn’t look all that much better than her ham-and-egg partner Hubly. But she’s DOES have the rep and the big paycheck. It’s her job to lock down the back line, and that didn’t happen. Unfair? Sure. But just like with Hubly…it’s her job to be terrific.

Kuikka (68′ – +9/-5 : +3/-1 : +12/-6) Kuikka bites off a piece of the Gotham goal, too, failing to close down Dorsey quickly enough. But she also gets a huge plus for her recovery run in the 55th minute when Lloyd’s long pass put Paige Monaghan in alone on Franch; Kuikka kicked in the burners and nicked the ball right off Monaghan’s foot. Terrific play.

I’m a little baffled by Kuikka. That play on Monaghan suggests she’s got great pace. Yet she routinely gets beat to the byline. Is it positioning? Is she not adjusting to the NWSL turf? Communication with her teammates?

I like a lot of what Kuikka does. She’s generally a solid defender, and she gets up the touchline well enough. It’s just that she seems to have a brainfart every so often, and I’m not sure why. She’s an international and an experienced professional. I hope she’s not going to turn out to be another Emily Sonnett.

Westphal (22′ – +1/-1) It’s kind of hard to believe that she was on the field more than 20 minutes. Almost invisible…although I don’t recall Gotham getting much up the east touchline late in the second half, so perhaps she was being quietly effective.

Franch (+0/-0 : +4/-0 : +4/-0)

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Says it all.

Welcome back, Stonewall.

Coach Parsons: Hard to slag off on the gaffer when his club goes 4-0-1 and nicks the silverware. So in that sense, well done, MP and the team. Enjoy that Cup.

Image from Portland Thorns FC on Twitter – photo by Steph Chambers, Getty Images

Still. The Cup Final was frustrating in that an obviously better Thorns lacked the ruthless killer instinct to put their boots on Gotham’s necks. This one never should have gone to PKs, where winning and losing become a coin toss. That’s the coach’s job. He needs to instill that merciless efficiency that takes games like this and kills them off quickly and convincingly.

Next Sunday Chicago comes here to kick off the season. The Red Stars were dire in preseason; losing Samantha Kerr has utterly nerfed their attack. They’re another crippled animal, and this time the Thorns need to emulate the action of the tiger, and finish them early and often.

It’s time to put the Cup on the trophy shelf and go hunting.

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Update 5/12: Timber Dave has questions about Simone Charley’s called-back goal in the 78th minute. I do, too, but not because CBS didn’t show a replay. The problem is HOW they showed the play. Here’s a screen capture of the moment Klingenberg puts a boot to the ball:

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

This is something I see when a broadcast crew (or the director) doesn’t have a lot of experience with soccer. This angle is useless because we have no idea where Charley is relative to her defender. We don’t see her until the camera, following the ball, picks her up downfield.

The original shot from live play was no better:

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use

Again, we can’t tell from this angle whether Charley is onside or not.

Overall I had no problems with the broadcast, and when you think that a mere eight yeasr ago we were watching these games on freaking YouTube, well…

But there’s still some ways to go to get the sort of coverage you’d expect if you were a Serie A or Bundesliga fan, and with any sort of decent luck we’ll keep moving toward that end.

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15 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Chaos Theory

  1. I don’t think I’ve seen a more frustrating game. The almost-scoring every 4 minutes made me remember the tail end of the ‘19 season when they would keep going into the box and nothing happened. Yes, they won, and that is different, but why do they struggle so in the box? Gotham took about 1/3 the shots on goal and got the same score. This Thorns team looks very different from ‘19 but seems to be similarly plagued with the barely-scoring-blues. Why?
    Smith is an exciting player and really fun to watch but, as you say, “a day without”- if she’s not able to score then she’s really not all that fabulous. It’s like she’s writing checks she can’t cash. I thought Salem and kuikka looked fabulous. I get that the stats tell a different story, but from the stands it looked to me like Kuikka was just politely owning the pitch ( “ and I’ll take that ball from you..let me just stop you there…oh, that’s mine, please and thank you).
    I adore Rocky, her lovely smile and the way she took the ball to the end line to beat the Damned in the first Challenge Cup.. But, so far, I’m bemused about why we gave up Purce for her. Watching that 1-1 draw would u think – ah yes, that midfielder that played okay for 20 minutes is totally more valuable than that fantastic forward? Is she still recovering from injury or Is she not a starter?
    Finally, why the heck did Charley get a yellow after they took her lovely goal back? Talk about insult to injury! We couldn’t tell what happened at the game, then we we watched later at home it was totally ignored. What the heck happened there?

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    1. So I keep a running log of the game when I review tape, and I add a little star next to plays that produce a genuinely dangerous chance. Here’s what I had starred for the Cup Final:
      8′ – Sinc’s golazo.
      33′ – Smith 1v0, Haracic save
      39′ – Horan’s FK post
      51′ – Kling cross, Horan header right at Haracic
      71′ – Smith miss #1
      72′ – Horan SOG but right at Haracic
      75′ – Sinc header wide
      76′ – Smith miss #2
      78′ – Charley goal called back o/s
      86′ – Sinc shot, Haracic save

      So only three real chances in the first half when it looked like we were all over Gotham. Then one more in the first 25 minutes of the second half. I think the impression we took from this match that Portland was threatening the Gotham goal every three minutes comes from the madness in the 70-80 minute period when the Thorns were desperately pushing for the matchwinner after Lloyd equalized.

      Which is not to say that the two teams were evenly matched. They weren’t. Or to say that we didn’t create chances – as the xG chart shows, we created enough for two goals and change. But the finishing wasn’t there, as it hasn’t been in the past, and part of it may be lacking a sort of savage goal-poacher like Lloyd or Kerr. We need to create team goals, and – other than pure luck, like Horan’s post going out instead of in – the team seems to still need more time to figure out how to do that.

      I think they will, tho. Let’s see what happens.

      Remember Smith is a pure rookie; 2020 was a freak and doesn’t really count. Rookie forwards take time. I think she’ll shape well; she’s got the tools, just needs to sharpen them to the next level.

      Salem is a grinder, a squad player, and her work Saturday just reminded me of that. She never seems to look dominant the way Julie Ertz or Amandine Henry do. But she gets the job done, and that’s her job, so that’s just fine.

      Kuikka…like I said, I’m really still on the fence about her. She’s typically solid defensively and contributes to the attack. But then there’s games like Houston, when fast wingers just seem to round her like a practice cone. Purce did a couple of times in this one, too…and yet the Monaghan recovery run suggests she HAS speed. Why doesn’t she use it ALL the time?

      I think if she’d come with a lesser pedigree I’d go easier on her. But she’s supposed to be a massive upgrade on Westphal, and I’m just not seeing that yet.

      Rodriguez has done well, too. I just don’t see the “midfield general” I expected, and I’m wondering if it’s her or whether she was oversold. I think we might have to, again, wait and see.

      My guess is Si-money had some hard words for the east side AR. That “offside” was pretty tight – the broadcast angle was poor, but I’m not sure I’d have called it – and I’ll bet she said it was bullshit and got a yellow for dissent.

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      1. Re Charley’s offside: I really wanted to see a replay on that one, but CBS decided not to and AFAIK we’ll never be able to get a different look. Not that it would make any difference, and we won anyway, but it would satisfy the nagging itch I have about that play. The ref probably got it right — she was the only one looking at the right place at the right time (or was she?), with all of the rest of us fixated on the play near the ball.

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        1. I seem to recall seeing a sideline camera replay while I was reviewing this one, but I also recall that the angle was poor and it didn’t give me anything to go on other than “that was close”. I also don’t recall where the eastside AR was on that play, so it’s hard to tell if she had a good look or not.

          It was a good play, though. Charley feasts on that sort of ball, and the next time or the next she’ll be onside. It was encouraging to see that her teammates see that and are working it. Bodes well for future games.

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  2. It is great to have your analysis of the game again John. I love to add the your objective data to the my subjective opinions. Sometimes your scores don’t match my opinions because not much happened. I thought Westphal looked good but there was not much to score her on. She is just so composed and steady. Her and Natu are so different, but I feel feel comfortable with both in that slot. Rodriquez is another one without a great score but but to me she brought another nice shot in the arm. I don’t see her as a six, so I think her skills are wasted there. However when Dunn is at the Olympics we have a great replacement.
    Dunn is the player that I would like to comment on. I would like her to attack more, like you note, she has so many attacking skills and there were a couple of times I wanted to scream take it all the Crystal, be more selfish.
    The scoreline was disappointing but the Thorns had some moments of beautiful soccer and the rest of the time they were dominant but wasteful. Both Horan and Smith had three real good shots on goal and no goals to show for it. You could see Smith was really upset especially by the one in the 76th. Lindsey tried to console her, but she seems to pressing a little. Lindsey and Sinc just need to tell her, “just calm down, sometimes it just doesn’t happen for you but your good and everybody can see that and goals will start to happen.”

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    1. One thing that I think makes life difficult for Portland is that pretty much all our forwards and AMs play a very “cooperative” or team-sort of game. We don’t have a Sam Kerr or Lloyd or Marta who can just take a match by the throat herself and make things happen.

      Which means that the team has to play REALLY tightly together as a team. And, between COVID and the Rebuildening, we haven’t.

      So the question for me is whether we can do that, whether we can come together as a team, with the combined challenge of the other teams chasing AND the Olympics disruption of the roster. If we can I think this season will be the Thorns’ to lose. If not…well, it could be a long season…

      But this match did a good job of pointing out what we need to do. We need finishing…and we need the defense to be on point for 90+ minutes, whistle to whistle. If we can do that?

      I think we’re going to be a mortal load of good trouble.

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  3. Thanks for this analysis, John. I had the impression you weren’t going to do these until the regular season; glad to find I was mistaken. I have a few impressions and responses:
    I think you’re absolutely right that the Thorns’ style of play is based on really tight teamwork. We don’t have a Kerr or a Lloyd. But to capitalize on having a Kerr or Lloyd, the team has to be built around them, which causes problems of its own. This game was a good example: Gotham is not built around Lloyd, and while she was able to produce the equalizer, otherwise she wasn’t a big factor except when she gave Sinclair the ball to produce the Portland lead in the first place. In past years, the level of team play we saw in this game didn’t come until five or six games into the regular season. So, it’s not what we hope to see, but it’s very promising.
    Related to that point, I thought the chemistry between Weaver and Sinclair boded well for the future. As you noted, it took a remarkable save from Haracic to keep the fruit of that promise in the future – it almost burst into the present.
    On Kuikka, Parsons has made it clear that he regards her as something of a project. She plays pretty well now, but he appears to think the sky is the limit for her, so we should expect to see her playing time reflect his developmental hopes as well as the exigencies of the moment. I agree with you that she’s not a major upgrade on Westphal at the moment; whether she develops into one will be interesting to watch.
    And finally, Hubly; how did she get so good without anyone noticing? I think she’s played the entire Challenge Cup and hardly put a foot wrong. Apparently attacking centerback is now a thing, and she’s really good at that without conceding anything on defense. Obviously credit to her for the work and intelligent choices, but credit also to Parsons and his staff for recognizing her potential and helping her to develop it.

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    1. This was the only match I planned to do a writeup for the Cup, so I’m glad we got in and glad we won. It was fun to have a meaningful match to think and write about.

      Andre Carlisle has a good piece at the “All For XI” site (https://www.allforxi.com/2021/5/10/22427092/gotham-fc-change-way-they-play-carli-lloyd-goalscoring-nwsl) where he does a nice job dissecting exactly what you’re saying – that Gotham actually doesn’t benefit as much as they could or should because Lloyd’s slow pace actually hampers their speedy wingers like Purce and Viens. What’s even better is he contrasts that with the way we use Sinc, to “…exploit space created by the younger, quicker forwards ahead of her ( usually Simone Charley and Sophia Smith)”

      Like I said…I’m not sure what to think about Kuikka. At 25 she’s surely too old to be a “project”; the only player I can recall making a big stride ahead at that age was Sinead Farrelly, and that was a bit of an unusual situation. I keep thinking that it’s just taking a while for her to adjust…and, honestly, she’s pretty good, she’s definitely not a DOWN-grade from Westphal. I just want her to be better.

      And Kelli Hubly has been a quietly terrific squad player for several years now. She’s matured into a genuinely fine player, and I’m sure glad she’s here now that Menges appears to be struggling with injuries.

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      1. The Carlisle piece is a very interesting read; very clear analysis of things I and others have observed about Lloyd on both club and national team, but haven’t articulated so well.

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  4. Horan – Could also have put the match away when she had a header from close to goal but put it wide. Agreed that she wasn’t quite The Great Horan in this one, but damn close.

    Rodríguez and Salem – Rodríguez doesn’t strike me as a midfield general, but she *is* good at breaking lines of defense to create an opportunity for the attacking mids and forwards. I haven’t seen Salem do this much; however, she did more of it in the Cup final than I’ve seen before, which makes me very hopeful about the future. If we have a midfield general these days, it’s Sinclair.

    Kuikka – Is it acceleration she lacks? That play where she catches up to Monaghan and saves the day involves a long straight run, not a short darting one like wingers are using to get around her. Maybe Kuikka has high top speed but takes awhile to get there. This is just an idea, something to check out in future games. Unfortunately it’s impossible to tell on the game replay exactly what happened with the Monaghan play, as you can’t see the start of their joint run. Also, is Monaghan all that fast? I get the impression she’s fast but not, say, Charley-fast, and of course everyone is slower when they’re carrying the ball.

    Sauerbrunn – Her rep for me is the organizer of the backline. I’ve always thought she has very good, but not great, defending, and her real strength is that she makes the whole defense work well together. Dahlkemper has mentioned this in the context of the USWNT.

    Hubly – People in Portland have noticed her (huge) development, but it doesn’t seem to have broken through to media elsewhere. I heard a little more about it this time around — on an Equalizer podcast maybe? — but she’s still pretty much under the radar. It’s hard for a defender to get noticed, as they get remembered for their mistakes much more than their successes.

    Parsons – We had *so* many good chances this match that I find it hard to fault the gaffer. (“It’s the coach’s job to create chances, the players’ job to finish them.”) Well, except for one thing: He should have brought Weaver on earlier, perhaps much earlier, than he did. I get that he wants to play Smith, in part to get her playing time (and playing time in a final is different from other games). I think Smith has higher upside, but when the score is close in a critical game, you want to go with the player whose form is best, and that’s Weaver right now. Weaver sure changed the complexion of the game when she came on and Parsons should have done it sooner. Hopefully she doesn’t get frustrated with Parsons for being a sub when she’s playing so well.

    I sure hope we win a lot this year, because after the season is over we’re going to get picked apart in the expansion draft. The quality of our non-starters, the players likely to be exposed in the expansion draft, is just ridiculous: Menges, Weaver, Rocky, Westphal, Boureille, Po, Bixby, ….

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    1. Thing with Sinc is she still likes to play far forward. The genius of Henry and Vero was that from their #6 they could see the whole attacking half in front of them, and had the vision to pick out targets or lanes to make an attacking run. I’d like to see us develop that skill in someone – I’d hoped it would be Rodriguez. She’s still a good piece in midfield, as is Salem, and I guess I’m going to have to be okay with that.

      ‘Brunn is too good and too experienced to be letting Carli Lloyd dunk over her. I agree that she seems to be a good organizer of the backline, but I’m spoiled because we’ve had Emily Menges who is just as good, so I don’t give her extra credit for that. She’s played too many minutes to get dunked over or get caught marking space as she was on Onumonu’s header. We have a lot riding on her for her and her defensive unit not to be switched on from whistle to whistle.

      As for Parsons – who, like those players caught in the expansion draft, may be gone by next spring..! – I’m not sure what he could have done to get this thing won in regulation. Weaver for Smith earlier, yes. But, yeah, he couldn’t go out there and make Charley onside or make Haracic less athletic.

      I agree that this year’s the year. We need to make a serious run at the title. Too many players aging out, expansion…it’s now. It needs to be now.

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  5. Also, Weaver: +8/-1 in only 14 minutes is ridiculous. That’s practically a PMR for a full 90 minutes. It reminds me of The Great Horan’s +30 game during her MVP year.

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  6. Chaos Cup indeed. Parson leaving. I am bummed, I know it is a good opportunity for him. This team could be really special this year. Next year after possibly two expansion teams have pick over our talent, I don’t know…. but I hope this doesn’t take any of the hunger out of this group.

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    1. I’m…bittersweet. It’s a great opportunity for him, one he earned with his good work here, one he owes a lot to his players – who know that, surely. Hopefully this will motivate them to give him another ring as a going-away present.

      But…yeah. The ’21-’22 offseason is going to be…interesting

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