It was summed up neatly by Abraham Vigoda in his question to the most recent Riveting! podcast:
“What happened to The Great Horan and why has she been replaced all summer, Olympics included, with The Average Horan that can’t seem to pass it to someone wearing the same shirt she’s wearing?”https://www.facebook.com/groups/Riveting/posts/1253848165045128/
So. First. Let’s take a quick look at what metrics we have; how did Horan look over the first half of the season?
Horan: by the numbers
Here’s Horan’s PMRs over the first nine games she’s played this season. I’ve added Crystal Dunn’s numbers, since the two played more-or-less as dual #8s during this time:
|Matchday||Opponent||Horan PMR||Dunn PMR||Comments|
|1||Chicago (H)||+10/-6||+13/-3||Good match from both #8s|
|2||Tacoma (H)||NR||NR||Didn’t screen tape for this match, but most observers agreed that neither player (Dunn, especially) played very well|
|3||Orlando (A)||NR||NR||Road loss; both had decent matches, though|
|4||Gotham (A)||+11/-8||+15/-3||Horan had a mediocre match but it didn’t matter because Dunn was WotM|
|5||Louisville (H)||+24/-8||+11/-2||The two midfielders swapped; Dunn was just decent while Horan went into Great mode and was runaway WotM|
|6||KC (H)||+5/-1||+12/-1||The first signs of serious Horan Trouble; Dunn was fine but Horan had a very poor match|
|7||North Carolina (A)||NA||+10/-11||Horan had an “excused absence”; Dunn was poor (but the whole team didn’t do well, so…)|
|8-14||Both players absent on international duty|
|15||Gotham (H)||+9/-9||+11/-5||Not a good match from Horan (Dunn did fine)|
|16||Tacoma (A)||+7/-9||+5/-6||Not a very good match for either player|
Through eight matches – 688 minutes – Horan’s numbers are not good.
Her defending success – tackles and duels – is hovering around 50%. Her passing is better; high 70s, although her long passes drop into the 50s. The obvious problem comes in her finishing; one goal off 24 shots (11 – less than 50% – on target) with a conversion rate of 4%.
I knew all this, but, frankly, it was this moment at the Clink last Sunday that really drove it home to the point that I screenshot it. I meant to put it up with the last match report because it seemed so emblematic of that’s going on with Horan right now:
That’s from the 61st minute. Tacoma was pressuring the left side of the Portland defense, but Rose Lavelle’s touch had just failed her and the ball ran to Natalia Kuikka, who had the situation well in hand…
…until Horan, chasing the play, slammed into Kuikka, jarring the ball loose and allowing Eugenie Le Sommer to pick it up and fire a shot that Hubly had to block for a corner kick.
That’s just…so not Great Horan. That’s not even Good Horan. That’s a…“WTF, Horan?” That’s not something a player with her head on straight does in the middle of a critical rivalry match.
And it’s not something that Portland can afford to do more of, especially against their danger teams, Tacoma and North Carolina. Over the last six matches the race looks like this:
Portland – 13 points
Tacoma – 15 points
Carolina – 12 points
Tacoma’s front six are becoming a genuine engine under Harvey, and to keep our Shield hopes alive the Thorns can’t afford a passenger. And right now Horan isn’t just a passenger, she’s a hot mess of a passenger.
So we’re not seeing things. It’s not an illusion, or an artifact. It’s not a team problem. It’s a Horan problem.
OK…It’s a Horan Problem. Do we know Why is there a problem?
This squad has been playing together since the Fall Series. Horan has missed a lot of time with the Nats, but when she’s been here she’s played with pretty much this same group. Some degree of disconnect is understandable…but to this extent? It seems that “she’s having trouble finding her role with the squad” is hard to buy as a reason for this.
Injury? Nothing’s been reported.
There’s speculation that her role with the Nats during the Olympics broke something in her…but as the table above shows, she was struggling well before she went to Tokyo.
I’ve read speculation that the transfer-to-Europe rumors may somehow be involved. Horan is already thinking about PSG or Lyon and that’s why she’s botching things here
That seems like the sort of mistake a veteran wouldn’t make, though. If Horan wants a call from Aulas she needs to show him on the pitch here that she’s worth that big money; crapping the bed in Seattle isn’t going to get you the price of satin sheets in Lyon.
In short, then; we dunno. There appears to be something going on mentally or emotionally with Horan…but it’s hard to tell what from where we sit.
So she just needs to figure out whatever and solve it, right?
That’s where it gets kind of worrying.
Because although we don’t really think of her this way, Horan has struggled with form over her whole Thorns career.
She was “good” from 2016 to midseason 2017. The Great Horan emerged in the middle of that season and continued on into 2018. Then in 2019 she crashed back to pre-Great form (or worse – she was the primary crater that made Black Autumn a smoking wreck…). She was “good to great” in 2020.
This season she’s been “good to tire fire”.
Why did things change in mid-2017? Why did they change again in 2019? (and it wasn’t just the World Cup – Horan struggled with her NWSL form before the tournament) Why is she struggling now?
Could it be that it’s because she doesn’t understand the “why” herself? That those changes are something outside her conscious ability to understand or control?
If so…that’s kind of a problem.
To run the table against Tacoma and Carolina the Thorns need Horan to be…better than she is now. “Great” would be awesome, but at the very least “better than this” is pretty much a bare minimum.
To do that she and her coaches and trainers need to understand the why and develop solutions.
And that’s where we’re left hanging – hoping that is what’s happening, and that the solution to the Horan Quandry – the Horan Problem – is both visible and obtainable.
And we have two weeks to find and implement it before it’s testing in Cary…