After picking up three points in Harrison (the next Hoboken!) New Jersey the Thorns came home hoping to push that to six before the entire league shuttered for some sort of damn FIFA window thing where all the internationals went away.
As luck would have it, the Women In Black got all the help they needed for that from the visitors, this season’s Orlando, Racing Louisville.
It’s reeeeeally hard to express how utterly dire Racing was, but I’ll try. Here’s the first page of my match review notes. The Thorns actions are on the left side of the page, Racing on the right.
See the big blank spot over on the right hand side? That’s a seventeen minute stretch – from the 4th to the 21st minutes – when Racing did nothing of soccer value. Nothing. Not an absolute, utter, goddamn thing.
So does OPTA:
Despite missing the services of Christine Sinclair (international call-up) and Sophia Smith (injury) the Thorns put a truly, madly, deeply brutal whipping on one of this season’s Wooden Spoon favorites. It started with stuff like this, in only the third minute:
I’ll be the first to admit that McCaskill is one of my least-favorite players. Not for any sort of personal reasons, but because she’s a wasteful, inefficient forward who is a poor finisher. But not even McCaskill deserves to be run like this…
…like a whipped dog to kennel, as someone in Shakespeare says. Between them Crystal Dunn and Lindsey Horan ran poor sorry McCaskill all the way back to her own penalty area…
…where she had to dump back to Michelle Betos to start the whole clear all over again.
That’s why this one is hard to generalize from. An oddball sort of XI – no Sinc, no Smith, Angela Salem and Raquel Rodriguez both in midfield, Weaver and Charley across the front with Dunn lying in the #10, Horan and Rodriguez both sorta-8s…only the backline was unchanged – and a truly wretched opponent makes for a difficult analysis.
But a hell of a lot of fun. Like Chicago, Racing provided a lot of wholesome entertainment for the home fans. Three goals beyond, indeed.
Other than that, the trouble with this match is that I’m still not sure if it tells us anything about how good this Thorns squad is. I’m not sure any of the first five matches tell us that.
For one thing, everybody in the league except Orlando (Orlando! Surely we must be in the End of Days, the wonder and the glory of it..!) has proved beatable. We have. The Damned Courage has, certainly. Nobody is untouchable when they have a jour sans, like we did against Orlando. So how good does good have to be, to make the playoffs? At this point, who knows?
And then while we’re 3-2-0 because we’ve laid a total of 8-nil beatdowns on two really, really poor opponents.
We’ve lost to Tacoma while playing well enough to win that game five times out of seven if we played again.
We’ve lost to Orlando on a horrific individual error and everyone’s shooting eyes going completely out, and
And we’ve won a well-played game on the road, but prospered because that opponent suddenly couldn’t score.
So…how good are we?
We’re gonna have to wait two damn weeks to learn more. Gah.
Passing the Passing Test: Either 82.6% (OPTA) or 83% (InStat); another excellent match in possession. Racing’s 77% is deceptive; that final pass wasn’t there, and they killed off a crap-ton of their own attacks with poor passing.
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, “C” a corner kick, “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.
Lots of the usual sorts of people who often have good passing days, including Dunn, Horan, Klingenberg. Last Saturday Sauerbrunn got into the party in a big way, though, with some nice long service, too. Well played, ‘Brunn.
Given the opponent, unsurprising, but still good to see. Well passed, Thorns.
Per OPTA the Thorns won 9 corners, but I have 10 in my notes; two short, eight standard long-into-the-box type
|Initially cleared but recycled and led to goal
|…to Rodriguez head but headed shot wide
|Cleared but only to Horan whose bike went off post!
|…to Salem, blocked and cleared
|…into scuffle inside box, fell to Rodriguez, shot went in but disallowed for offside
|…to Dunn, drop to Sauerbrunn and recycle, no shots
|…fell to Horan, shot blocked, cleared
So keeping score: one of the short corners produced a not particularly dangerous shot, and the other went nowhere and had to be recycled. Eight conventional corners produced three definite defensive wins (clearances) but two more poor clearances that resulted in a dangerous chance (Horan’s 33rd minute bike) and a goal. The other three produced a sorta-goal that was called back, one dangerous header that was pulled wide, and another shot that was blocked and cleared.
So “conventional” seems to have been the way to go against Racing. A goal, another called back, a damn-near goal, and dangerous header, and a blocked shot; 50% chances of corners? Hellyeah I’d call that good.
PLAYER RATINGS AND COMMENTS
Dunn (+6/-2 : +5/-0 :+11/-2) I read a lot of love for Dunn in this match, and she was what she always is; fun, exciting, and all over the pitch. But Lindsey Horan was doing the heavy lifting, so all Dunn had to do was run wild and did. Did have a sweet looping shoss that came off the crossbar with Betos pulled up and out of position for the rebound, but we’ll talk about that in a bit.
Good match for Dunn, but against pretty shifty opposition and without anything concrete to show for it, it was kind of empty. She’s had a good start, but at some point if she’s going to play upfront she has to start either creating or finishing or, best of all, both.
Weaver (62′ – +5/-4 : +1/-0 : +6/-4) Morgan Weaver’s night in two screenshots:
As Dunn’s shoss comes off the bar Weaver – who has positioned herself perfectly – rushes the falling ball. She plays it off her leg, and the effort is soft enough for Betos to parry it across the face of her goal.
Weaver’s play is a rookie mistake. Period. Two years from now she’ll have the experience to time her attack so the ball falls to her foot instead of on her thigh, and…
During the match thread one of the commentors said something like “God, I love to watch Weaver play!” to which I replied – since it was near halftime with Portland up only a goal and I was having scary memories of the damn Chaos Cup Final and what happens if you let cans hang around – “God, I’d like to watch Weaver score!“
I like a lot of what Weaver brings; energy, soccer intelligence, aggression. But the bottom line is that she’s sitting on 234 minutes without a goal. And for a forward, goals are the bottom line.
Lussi (28′- +2/-0) Not a factor.
Charley (81′ – +4/-3 : +6/-0 : +10/-3) One thing I’m starting to really appreciate about Si-money is her smarts. Here she is in the 33rd minute running at the left side of Racing’s goal:
She’s right where she should be; ball-side of her defender…but Kling’s service is going long, so…
…she anticipates the ball’s trajectory and with the calculated aerospatial skills of a veteran fighter pilot slips around to the outside of her defender…
…where she rises to meet the cross and forces Betos into a one-handed reaction save. Nicely done, Si-money.
As with Weaver, though…at some point Charley needs to begin scoring. Her conversion rate has slipped below 10%, and that’s really not okay.
Everett (9′ – +1/-0) She’s fun to watch, but that really was all she got out of this match.
Rodriguez (80′ – +2/-3 : +3/-3 : +5/-6) Clinical finish on 48th minute Horan cross made Rodriguez’ night. Otherwise I’m not quite sure what she was doing. Technically she was the dual-8 with Horan that’s usually Dunn’s job, but she seemed to drop deep into a sort of 6/8 position a lot where she shared duties with Angela Salem.
Did better than her PMR suggests because four of her minuses were for poor passes, but those were typically lost deep in Racing territory, and the other two were badly off-target shots. And much of her defensive work was cooperative, so she didn’t get big pluses for dramatic stops; each midfielder was credited with three tackles.
Boureille (10′- +1/-1) Fresh legs to see out the win.
Salem (+4/-2 : +4/-2 : +8/-4) Seeing Salem get her second career goal was delicious – I enjoy her as a player and she seems like a fun, happy teammate – but hard luck on poor Betos because I think the ball came off Martin’s leg and so Betos was going the wrong way.
Yeah, Shelley. I know. We all have fucking days like that.
I was skeptical of how the whole Rodriguez-Salem duopoly would work out. It did, so that’s a good sign for the Olympics interruption. But it did against Racing, which is like trying to assess your skills as a professional boxer by beating up drunks in an alley.
Horan (+13/-4 : +11/-4 : +24/-8) Holy shit.
Lindsey Horan was in utter Great Horan Beast Mode against Racing. Huge, everywhere, everything, attacking, defending, passing…you name it, Horan did at against and to Racing. Her best performance of the season. Stood out from everyone on the pitch like Babe Ruth in a Babe Ruth League.
Then there was this:
Give Salem the credit for seeing how much bloody room Racing had given Horan (Racing, note: important safety tip – don’t ever give Horan that kind of room) and fed her. Note that Charley is waving to signal her intent to make the far post run.
Poor Betos! She can’t come out to take the cross, it’s too far and too many Thorns are underneath it. She can’t set up for the direct ball, either, because Charley is way too likely to get to it and head it somewhere and Betos needs to defend that.
So, when both Charley and her defender completely whiff on the ball…
…she’s frozen until too late and the damn thing just bounces into the far side of the goal.
What the hell do you call Charley’s run, anyway? It’s kind of an assist, but…what kind? A magician’s assistant assist? The sort of thing where you are watching the pretty assistant in the spangled tights rather than the joker pulling the rabbit out of the hat?
I dunno, but it sure was a rough night for one former Thorn. Sorry, Shelley. You played really well and deserved better.
Westphal (62′ – +3/-4 : +3/-0 : +6/-4) All the defenders had a hell of an easy night. Between Racing’s incompetence and their own midfield and forward harassing and forechecking all night, the defenders could pretty much sit around picking artificial flowers off the fake grass. Westphal had a perfectly decent outing, and that’s all the club needed.
Menges (+0/-0 : +2/-1 : +2/-1) Could have taken the night off, traffic around her penalty area was just that slow.
Sauerbrunn (+7/-0 : +3/-0 : +10/-0) Instead, ‘Brunn decided to do all the work, both defensively and passing out of the back, and did a damn fine job. You go, ‘Brunn. That’s what you’re here for.
Klingenberg (87′ – +6/-0 : +7/-2 : +13/-2) Hell of a night for Meghan Klingenberg, too. Didn’t have much defensive work to do, but the attack? Terrific, including the quick-restart throw-in in the 48th minute that led directly to the Rodriguez goal. Damn, woman. When ARE you going to start to slow down? Never mind, keep going.
Franch (+2/-0 : +1/-0 : +3/-0) One critical take on a 63rd minute Racing corner, but otherwise a slow day at the office for A.D. Franch, which I’m sure suited her down to the ground.
Coach Parsons: Had to come up with an XI and a bench to compensate for his captain and one of his primary attackers missing, and did, and managed the match well enough. Hard to see this as a critical test of anything by the coach’s clubbing-the-baby-seal skills, but the clubbing was relatively efficient (I’d have liked to seen more early scoring, but Betos really was terrific and the team did create those chances; it was more on Betos’ skill than their lack of effort that the Thorns were only one up at the turn).
Now the problem is a bit different; keep the team’s heads on and thinking about the season during a two-week layoff. The next match is the equally appalling Kansas City here on 6/20/21. I keep thinking that this one should be another rout, but as Richard reminded me during our podcast tonight, KC has only given up 6 goals in 5 games, so while they’re bad, they’re not “defensively prostrate” bad. So this one might come down, like Gotham, to getting the jump and scoring first.
See you in a couple of weeks, then.