We have eight days into the final match of the 2021 season, and other than a bagatelle of international matches the NWSL and the Thorns are sort of on hold during that time.
Not that many of the Thorns themselves are taking the week off, and it’s not just the Nats; pretty much all the internationals are playing this week;
– Natalia Kuikka and the Helmarit thumped the Republic of Georgia (overall record 13-42-8, including a loss to that soccer titan, the Faroe Islands) by three goals and will play the Republic of Ireland next Tuesday,
– Sinc and the Canada squad will thrash the hapless Kiwis Friday and next Monday, and
– Raquel Rodriguez and Las Ticas played Jamaica yesterday and again on Saturday
In an interesting side-note, Olivia Moultrie has been bumped up to the US U-20s and is in camp with them this week. Playing professionally has advanced her skillset past the U-17 level? Hmmm.
Outside of Kuikka – whose squad is playing for a World Cup berth – my only real interest is in ensuring that nobody gets hurt and nobody gets gassed for the final match here on the 30th. I’d like to see the Thorns send the Damned Courage spiraling down to below-the-red-line Hell, and that means all hands.
So in the meantime…I just wanted to pick over some things I’ve been thinking about this season. Nothing deep, really…just some idle speculation and random musings. Feel free to slap me around in the comments.
Oh, and I can’t recall where I found this…but after Kuikka was signed I was looking for the Finland armorial badge and this was just too funny not to save.
The Thorns – what’s going to happen when the season ends?
Obviously, Mark Parsons will pick his klompen off the welcome mat and exit for the Low Countries.
I’ve been reading a certain amount of low-grade panic regarding that departure. What about the expansion draft? What about the NCAA draft? What about roster management? Who’s going to run that stuff? We won’t have a head coach!
As Richard pointed out in the last podcast, I’d be shocked if the club doesn’t have Parson’s replacement signed or nearly signed already.
And while Gavin Wilkinson may be out as Thorns GM his assistants and staff are still working, and I’m sure he might just happen to call into the office now and then. I think the FO will be just fine.
What isn’t going to be fine is losing two good players, That’s going to happen, and surely there will be much wailing and rending of garments. Yeah, it’s gonna suck, and some players we like and will miss will go.
I hope that we’re at least spared the conspiracy-theory-grade wailing we got when Tobin Heath’s rights were taken last offseason, though. No, if we lose Klingenberg it won’t be because Marritt Paulson hates Klingenberg and wants to be mean to her. Fuckadoo, this isn’t middle school. It’s a business, and the FO has to run it like a business.
Richard also had a good point during the pod; we’re not going to get much out of the NCAA draft, either. We’re going to draft late, and the draft class doesn’t seem to have a ton of standouts.
So…what’s going to happen is that we’ll deal with the losses (as well as the players waived; I’m going to bet that we’ll see the last of Tyler Lussi, if no one else…) and regroup and move on.
Relax. The 2022 team will be fine.
What I am concerned about is how much input the current squad has had on that coaching hunt, but I’ll talk about that in the next bit.
What’s happening with the Riley Revelations?
I’m going to lump everything – the investigation of the Thorns 2015, the changes in league operations and governance insisted on by the Players’ Association, the whole “Protect the Players” movement – as “Riley” for short.
Well…there will be investigations. The league and PA are cooperating on Riley, and for me the biggest unknowns are 1) how quick and through will it be? and 2) how public will the league make the results?
Frankly, the league needs to get over its obsession with secrecy. The weird NWSL Code of Omerta had a lot to do with swtting up the preconditions that led to the Benstitis and Burkes and Rileys and more.
The investigation needs to be both rapid and in depth, and the results – including the ugly ones – need to be fully public. Obviously names of players victimized don’t, but everything else? We need to know exactly what a shit Burke was, who knew what Riley was doing, and when, and so on and so on.
But that’s in train. I’m not concerned other than that it be thorough, swift, and public.
What concerns me more is that I have yet to hear or see any movement from the Peregrine FO on the two other Thorns player demands; the increase in diversity and the seats at the table for the players.
Those need to happen, and soon. I’m worried that the FO will try and slow-walk those.
The league seems to be moving in the right direction with the other player priorities. The Thorns? As always…nothing but crickets.
Oh…and even FIFA, that fucking black hole of a greedy cash grab, seems to have made a good move with the formation of their “Technical Advisory Group”. Any organization with Karina LeBlanc on it is a Good Thing.
So for me, the single biggest reaction to the Riley Revelations needs to be here in Portland. It needs to be soon and it needs to be public.
The FO needs to open up to the players. Thorns players need to be seated on an Operations Council that has a say in things like…the new coach!
I’m hoping that’s happening now…but with this FO? Who the fuck knows.
C’mon, Merritt! Quit being so damn mysterious. Blowing smoke is for matchday.
What needs to happen in 2022?
For the league?
Well…the owners need to suck it up and conclude a fair CBA with the PA.
It should include some form of free agency and, at the very least, the loathsome “rights” system needs to end. Messersmith killed the “Reserve Clause” deader’n the dodo more than forty years ago. Time for the NWSL to quit trying to be the goddamn Charlie Comiskey of the 21st Century.
The “protect the player” recommendations should be largely adopted.
The league and the owners need to take a hard look at people like Del Roy Hanson and Steve Baldwin and decide whether they’re worth having in this league.
And – spoiler alert – Baldwin isn’t, and the league needs to sit on his head until he sells the team to Kang and her fellow minority owners. He’s a greedy, egotistical bastard who will sell the team out from under the Washington fans just to spite Kang. That’s not in the best interests of the league, and needs to be cut off at the knees.
This news item suggests that Messing is not going to sit on Baldwin if he shows his whole ass to Kang and sells the team out from under her;
“When asked if that would happen, Messing stated it was up to Baldwin to decide to whom he would sell his stake.”
That’s a load of bollocks, and if Messing lets Baldwin fuck over the Washington fans she’s giving the league another black eye and one it will richly deserve.
Frankly, though…the single biggest need is a better broadcast deal, because…
The biggest big need is more money in the system.
PRO is undertrained; the calls we saw here against Houston and Tacoma are symptoms, not the disease. The league needs better officiating, and that costs money. The league should really have VAR, and that costs money. All the clubs should have facilities and support like the Thorns have. And that costs money.
“No more side hustles”?
Part of this will have to be more deep-pocket owners. Some will have to be more and bigger sponsors. But the single biggest source of revenue for any sport is in the broadcast rights, and I’m sorry, fucking Twitch ain’t it. The league needs to sign a genuine deal with a legitimate network.
That’s going to be difficult. We hate to admit we’re a niche sport…but we kind of are. Football, baseball, basketball…those are “big sports” and can command big fees. Hockey? Kinda. MLS soccer? Yes.
We’re not roller derby, or “pro lacrosse”. But we’re not the NFL, either. It will take a hell of a lot of hard graft by whoever the next commissioner is to make that happen…if it can happen.
For the Thorns?
Well…all the above. Plus…the club needs to air out the dirty laundry from 2015. Fully, completely, mercilessly. The fansbase needs to trust the FO, and the FO and the players need to work together to make that happen.
And the fans?
For fuck’s sake…let’s brighten up the songbook and come up with some player songs!
That…and we need a new and more perjorative nickname for Tacoma.
“Dandilions” is just too cutesy, and the damn Scum of the South Sound are no longer “cutesy”. “Scum of the South Sound” is just too long and doesn’t fit in a song well. “Lyon B” is kind of nice in the way it points out how they’re just a sockpuppet for Aulas. “Dirty Filthy Tacoma Scum” is just namecalling.
I’m still trying to come up with something, though.