Thorns FC: Half and Half

Wednesday night Portland hosted Gotham FC and swept all the points off the table, winning 2-1.

Except…it’s not quite that simple.

What actually happened is that the Thorns came out of the chute like the baddest critters in the rodeo, bossed the batwomen like a boss, and drove a 2-nil, thump-down, good-old-back-alley hammering down on them. Ran them off the pitch. Out shot Gotham 15-1, including 7-1 on goal.

Sophia Smith went utterly mad on Gotham’s backline, forechecking her way to a goal and setting up another with a strong run that forced Erika Skroski to haul her down in the box. Captain Sinclair coolly slotted the penalty home inside the left post and that was pretty much that.


Smith came off for Morgan Weaver at halftime. The forechecking pressure stopped. The entire team sagged back, and Gotham found a way back into the game. Carly Lloyd pulled a goal back in the 78th minute, and then four minutes later damn near had an equalizer. Gotham outshot Portland 8-5 after the break, 2-2 on goal,

Gotham pretty much won the second half 0-1, and it’s fortunate that the two halves get counted as a single game, because otherwise the two sides would’a split the points for this one.

One big reason that Portland was able to escape because even when they took their boot off Gotham’s neck the batwomen weren’t worth a lick going forward.

Image by Arielle Dror on Twitter

Portland got two goals out of damn near 3xG, Gotham 1 goal out of barely over 0.6xG…and could easily have nicked another in the 82nd minute on the freakish ping-pong in front of the goalmouth.

So. Win 2-0 and lose 0-1?

Against Gotham that’ll work just fine.

I’m not sure that’ll work so well against Tacoma, or the Damned Courage…so (checks the schedule) let’s keep that in mind, eh?

Corner Kicks

This time OPTA and I agree; the Thorns won five corner kicks; all long into-the-box variety

5′SalemLongEasily cleared.
16′KlingenbergLongCleared, but Westphal gained and recycled, Rodriguez put a nice cross onto Dunn’s head, but Sheridan saved the good header.
25′SalemLongWent way over everyone to the far edge of the 18, Kling put it back but it was cleared, then Westphal ran hard at goal and won another corner.
26′SalemLongWent in to Sinclair, whose header was way over.
86′WestphalLongCleared, recycled, but without a shot before possession was lost.

So Dunn with the strong header in the 16th minute but not much else. Kind of all of a piece with this match; one decent chance out of the five (but Sheridan comes up big, also sort of a piece with this one). Okay, fine.

Image by CBSSN. Licensed under Fair Use.


Smith (45′ – +13/-1) I don’t know how to express how insane this rating is. Projected out to ninety minutes it’s the first time in months that a Thorns has had a positive net PMR above 20. Smith was purely and simply a monster in the first half, and between her, Salem, and Rodriguez pretty much won this match for Portland before halftime.

Weaver (45′ – +8/-0) After Morgan Weaver came on Freya Coombe made a bunch of changes for Gotham, in particular yanking off Gaëtane Thiney, who had been a dumpster fire in the first hour, for So-dam Lee, who was terrific. I think that had a lot to do with Weaver not playing at the level Smith did despite her usual huge engine.

But I think the other part of the problem is that 1) Weaver missed her strike partners Smith and Charley, and Sinclair just can’t play at Weaver’s frenetic pace, so 2) the burden on Weaver was to play a front-running striker the way she did in college.

Except we’ve seen that Weaver isn’t that player; she’s not the fire. She’s the accellerent that makes the flames around her burn hotter. She’s the wrecking ball that opens space for others.

Yes, she damn near got a Smith-goal in the 73rd minute when she tackled Kailen Sheridan for loss – hard luck that the ball bounced the wrong way – but other than that she just wasn’t set up to succeed that way she has been succeeding in the recent past. Good enough, but just made me want to see better.

Sinclair (73′ – +6/-0 : +2/-1 : +8/-1) After a solid opening half Sinc faded badly and probably should have come off at the hour. As noted above…not the ideal partner for Weaver. Converted the penalty nicely, but overall I have to say that although she looked better than the other three internationals Sinclair injected a sort of hesitation and slightly disjointed misconnection to the attack.

Hopefully that was just rust, and the squad will mesh better this coming weekend. They’re going to need to.

Ryan (17′ – +3/-2) Missed an absolute sitter in the 76th minute, when Weaver slotted a gorgeous feed into the box, Ryan touched it perfectly to the penalty spot…and then leaned back and blasted that sucker ten feet over the crossbar.

If you’re going to sub on attackers late when up a goal to try and get insurance, the critical part is that the attackers have to get that insurance goal. Otherwise you’re taking some big chances.

Dunn (61′ – +9/-4 : +2/-1 : +11/-5) When I watched this live I was unimpressed by Dunn; she seemed to be running around a lot without doing anything of any real value. But after reviewing tape I realized that Dunn was a big part of the successful forechecking in the first half, and I was being mislead by her poor passing into thinking she wasn’t adding anything.

She did fall off quickly in the second half and was done by the hour, though, so good idea to get her off…

Everett (29′ – +1/-0) …that said, though, Marissa Everett did nothing more in her half hour than Dunn had been doing…so possibly not the right swap.

Rodriguez (+8/-3 : +1/-1 : +9/-4) Another symptom of the second-half swoon; fierce defending and tackling until the break, utterly nerfed afterwards. Some of that – maybe a lot of that – was due to Imani Dorsey replacing Skroski as well as Lee for Thiney.

Salem (67′ – +4/-0 : +0/-0 : +4/-0) This is one the PMR gets wrong, largely because Salem wasn’t beasting it up on her own, but combining with Rodriguez and Lindsey Horan to force turnovers and turnbacks in midfield. She had an excellent match, and should have been higher in the ratings but for the game state and the way the Thorns defend in midfield.

Moultrie (23′ – +1/-1) No real impact. Did cough up a bad giveaway that led to the 82nd minute half-chance, but that’s just sort of a “(bad) luck of the pitch” thing.

Horan (+4/-3 : +5/-6 : +9/-9) Possibly the worst match I’ve seen from Horan all season; slow, confused, and a mess passing forward, and definitely the worst of the internationals in this game. Needs to shake off whatever her issues were and get stuck in at the Clink this weekend.

Westphal (+7/-1 : +2/-0 : +9/-1) Excellent shift (although my guess is that Parsons’ intent in starting her was more to rest Natalia Kuikka for Tacoma this coming weekend than for Westphal’s own qualities) and effective on both sides of the ball.

Menges (+2/-3 : +2/-1 : +4/-4) Might have done better on the Lloyd goal, but Lloyd is a crafty old devil and got both perfect positioning and a brilliant service, so, maybe not. Both Menges and Brunn’s PMRs reflect how little work they had to do until damn near second half stoppage time.

Sauerbrunn (+1/-1 : +0/-3 : +1/-4) Again, not really a bad shift (tho the passing was pretty sloppy, especially in the second half, c’mon, Becks!), just not a lot to do.

Klingenberg (61′ – +5/-2 : +2/-0 : +7/-2) Fine outing, especially both defending and passing in the first half.

Pogarch (29′ – +4/-5) Might be the most Pogarch-y shift yet. I’d no sooner finish bollocking her for her appalling defensive mistakes in the 65th and 75th minutes when she’d come steaming in to clear a Dorsey cross damn near off the goalmouth two minutes later.

I kinda get what the point was; fresh legs, lots of energy, see out the match and maybe nick an insurance goal. It’s just me; Pogarch makes me nervous – I think she’s a high-risk, high-reward player, and we’ve seen more risk than otherwise lately. Hopefully it’s just a growth spurt.

Bixby (+0/-2 : +3/-0 : +3/-2) Misleading, because the two minuses were for poor distribution that wasn’t really dangerous. Rock solid in goal and not at fault on the concession. I’m kinda pissed that her defense again gave up her clean sheet.

Image by CBSSN. Licensed under Fair Use.

Coach Parsons: Well, won the first half, so there’s that. But Coombe’s adjustments worked a lot better than his, and her substitutes did, too, so lost the second half. But, as discussed…they only count as a lump sum, so good on you, coach.

Now, on the other hand…Tacoma awaits this coming weekend, on a roll and looking like the French Connection is finally starting to do what they’re hired to do.

After that, and a brief visit from the Washington Spirit, it’s off to the Seventh Pit of Carolina Hell and a road meeting with the Damned.

No slack there. Gotta win ALL the halves if we want to stay on top and bag the Shield.

Can we?

Let’s find out.

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

13 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Half and Half

  1. That last picture is pretty illustrative of Smith’s impact (assuming it’s when I think it is, the moment before Smith’s goal). She’s high-pressing Gotham defender Skroski, who has plenty of options to escape the press via wide-open teammates left, right, and backwards. Under nearly any other circumstances it would be a waste of Smith’s time and energy, and therefore foolish, to high-press without her teammates also doing it, but Smith sniffed out the opportunity, picked Skroski’s pocket, and scored a nice goal. (And not an easy shot either — judging from the xG chart, players make that shot an average of one time out of five.)

    Good on her!

    1. That was a terrific individual effort (helped by Skroski’s appalling play) but, yes; the success was due as much to the work that Sinclair, Dunn, and the midfielders were doing. Skroski was toast as much because she had no good options when Smith pounced on her as both Smith’s work and her own failings.

  2. As much as Parsons says “one game at a time” he has to be looking ahead and considering fatigue and the possibility of injury. (Not to mention the likelihood that there are already minor knocks he knows about and we don’t.) Every option has risks, and there was clearly a risk that Gotham would come back with two or even three goals in the second half. OTOH with a lead in the game and a lead in the table, and with Tacoma and NC coming right up, I’m reluctant to second-guess Parsons’s second half tactics. Also, all’s well that ends well, right?
    Does this mean we’ll get to see Tacoma and/or The Damned trying to deal with Smith and Weaver and Dunn in front of a solid midfield, all at the same time? That would be fun.

    1. Forgot the Spirit game. Fatigue shouldn’t be a big factor by the time the Thorns face NCC, so that’s good.

    2. I’m okay with giving Parsons stick, because he himself in his post-match presser admitted that he’d underestimated the effectiveness of Coombe’s adjustments. I don’t think that taking the final 45 minutes off would help with overall fitness come to Cary. Nope; he threw the dice and, luckily for him, got his point(s) the hard way. But it WAS a throw of the dice he didn’t have to make. Coombe flat-out outmanaged him in the last half.

      I’m guessing that we’re going to see the same or similar starting XI at the Clink that we did here; Sinc and Smith with Dunn in the pocket. I’d like to see your suggested front three, but I can’t see Sinc sitting if she isn’t forced to.

  3. I think the biggest difference between the first and the second half was Gotham going from a back three to a back four. I don’t want to take anything away from Sophia Smith,but that back three was something she was just killing. In the second half there were three times the Thorns swarmed the goal at 63′, 80′ and 88′. There was all kinds of pressure but Gotham having an extra defender helped a lot.
    Even though Ryan missed that one shot (not exactly a sitter, but a pretty good chance), I thought she did well. Weaver again was a menace, but like I said that back four was way more effective. Also, as you noted, So Dam Lee and Dorsey were huge improvements over Skorski and Thiney. The backline of Gotham has been pretty good, but the coach’s decision to go with a three back made life difficult for Johnson and Skorski, less so for Lewandowski. While I am talking about Gotham, just a word about How great is Carli Lloyd? She is really good regardless of whether you like her. I am also happy for Iffy, who would have thunk it; six goals.
    A question. We have the Great Horan, and she is, we also have Sinclair the GOAT, but we are going to have to come up with an honorific for Sophia Smith… Super Soph???
    Some people are calling Weaver “the the Stallion,” but the gender is wrong and “the Mare” has a different connotation (difficult and unruly). I like your “SiMoney,” that works Charley.

    1. Actually, I heard her teammates call her “Si-money”; that one’s not mine. I do like it, though.

      Smith? We’ll have to wait and see. She’s still young, and she may yet have something characteristic to hang a nickname that will stick.

      That “Morgan Thee Stallion” thing is utterly idiotic, and I despised it the moment I heard it. For one thing, it’s too much like Morgan’s “Baby Horse” tag, which I also kinda hated. Hopefully she, too, will give us something to work with.

      1. I have also seen step-over Soph. She has the sweet innocent face like Raul Blanco of the great Real Madrid Galacticos. There were all these fantastic players like Roberto Carlos, the Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Claud Makelele, and then there was the baby faced Spaniard Raul who looked like a choir boy, but was a ruthless poacher. He was called the Baby Faced Assassin. Raul was a great chipper too. He was also known as El Ferrari because of his technical skills and elegance. Maybe Sophia is the Ferrari?

        1. Well, for their beat, Moultrie isn’t relevant, but it is funny that by age Trinity Rodman made the nickname obsolete, though Soph does have more of the baby face.

      2. I have the same issue with “Baby” as I do the “Thee Stallion”; way too similar to the old “Baby Horse” thing that Morgan got tagged with.

        Plus 1) “Baby” doesn’t really convey the relentless aggro that Smith has been bringing, and 2) as Constant Weeder notes it kind of goes out the window with the arrival of Moultrie. The closest I could see to hanging it on Smith would be something like “Boss Baby” but that’s already a thing and a pretty horrible thing, at that.

        I still kinda got nothing…but, then, I’ve never been good with this stuff. I tried to tag Angerer with Die Kaiserin – The Empress – back in 2015 and that didn’t stick. I hung “The Groom Woman” on Shea Groom back when she was fouling people left, right, and center with FCKC…also didn’t take. So perhaps I’m the wrong person to consult on this whole thing…

        1. I am like the “the Ferrari.” Like a Ferrari, she is elegant , nimble and fast. But it may not be a good name, and this could be just me, but I hold my breath every time she gets a knock, so, I wouldn’t want her jinx to be nicknamed an Italian car. The big criticism of Italian vehicles is that when they break down the return to service is long. I think that has always been a supply chain issue.
          My favorite that expression of yours was “smite Dagny.” So apt for her.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.