International Break

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.

Free agency?

Money.

“No more side hustles”?

Money.

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.

Ideas?

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12 thoughts on “International Break

  1. I just realized yesterday that we traded away our first natural 2022 draft pick to Tacoma for Dunn.

    As it happens, that is #12 (of 12) and good luck to Laura Harvey making much of it (I’d bet she’ll deal it away – LH hates the NCAA draft).

    Our first pick for 2022 is #24 unless we do some business.

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    1. We might; under Parsons I think we’ve 1) tended to rely on the draft – we’re the “anti-Harvey” that way – and 2) drafted well. We’ll have to see who gets plucked in the expansion, who retires, who gets waived, though, before we get a sense.

      One thing I came across in Kassouf’s Twitter was Messing’s comment that the “Timeline (for the Riley Investigation) for a conclusion is pretty up in the year. She says it could be 3, 6, 9 months.” That’s not really supportable; to have people and clubs hanging out until early in the ’22 season before we have an idea who might be culpable of either wrongdoing or “guilty knowledge” of that wrongdoing? That’s not going to work. I hope she’s just arm-waving.

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  2. On L’Affaire Riley, how do they do a thorough but speedy investigation? “Thorough” and “speedy” are fundamentally opposed, and I do want them to dig deep. Don’t just find what happened with Riley at the Thorns, but find the things all *all* levels that went wrong – workers fraternizing too closely with the boss, a good-old-boys club in the FO that allowed Merritt and Gavin to pal around with Riley (at least on Twitter) despite knowing what he’d done, lack of a league-wide player complaint system, inability to say what a former employee had done for fear of a privacy lawsuit, lack of a player voice within the team AND within the league, and on and on. At the same time, I too want to know what happened post haste and in full.

    Also, I’m not so sure about Lussi leaving. She’s been playing a lot of games lately, and although she still can’t shoot, she brings other things. Parsons likes her coming on late for her energy and her ability to harass the opponent in possession. Of course Parsons won’t be choosing who to re-sign, but I’m sure his views will carry substantial weight. (Do I think Lussi *should* leave? Yes, because of the finishing problem, though as always it depends on who else we could find for the roster slot/cap money.)

    We also have a bunch of players who haven’t been playing at all lately. Because of Salem’s rise, Boureille hasn’t seen the field for a long time, and Everett and Pogarch’s roles have also shrunk substantially from early in the season. Mind you we might keep all of these players as backups, though it’s hard to see Everett staying if we remain so stacked at forward. And we’ll probably release some of the young players who haven’t developed enough – Hannah Betfort, Taylor Porter, Meaghan Nally. The departures will also depend on who we lose in the Expansion Draft.

    We’ll see.

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    1. I get wanting to make sure this Riley Investigation cleans house thoroughly, but a year? That’s kind of the problem; “justice delayed is justice denied”.

      If the inquiry has to be spun out into the early part of the 2022 season, and THEN comes back with some bombshells – e-mails that reveal the Peregrine FO WAS fully aware of what Riley was doing…that the Sahlens knew, as well…that USSF and the league office knew…that’s 1) going to blow up the league and 2) gives the clubs and the league no time to do the right thing (fire/sanction people, make restitution, reassemble the club management…)

      I think there needs to be a phased approach, perhaps – get answers to the big pictures first – who knew what when – and get that to the public before the new year – and THEN chased down all the usual suspects.

      I don’t know, honestly, if there IS a “good answer”. But I think the league needs to do everything it can to make this as speedy as is conformable with diligence.

      Lussi’s minutes have really been largely timewasting, and could be handled by anyone – Everett or Ryan, frankly, who are younger and whose ceiling we haven’t really seen. We know Lussi’s, though, and she’s pretty much fungible for any of the younger forwards that, yes, we’re way overbuilt there.

      I’d like to see some lumber moved out of midfield to make space for the promising rooks like Coffey and Ali. I agree; CelBee – hard worker that she is – looks moveable to me. I don’t see a point in keeping Betfort or Nally (this is where I wish we had a Thorns Reserves where these young players could be stashed to gain minutes and develop…) unless we lose some big pieces of the defense through expansion or retirement.

      But there’s still a lot of unknown unknowns. We’ll have to wait until the waiver wire and the expansion protected list come out to get a glimpse inside the FO’s heads

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      1. The coming USL D2 league might be a place for reserve players to get minutes. NWSL should get rid of the loan ban so that a team can over-roster without busting the salary cap. If the Thorns roster 40 players, so what? That’s 16 more women getting paid to play soccer.

        The USL teams will fill out their rosters one way or another. If 1/3 are NWSL loans, that creates a nice pipeline and gives those players a clear shot at the bigs. I don’t see a downside.

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  3. Also, about that draft– Despite our poor draft position this year, I think we did well. We traded away our draft pick in a really strong year as part of the deal(s) to get Smith and/or Weaver here (can’t remember which one), and they’re turning into gems. In other words, we did well to trade up in a strong draft year at the expense of losing out in a poor draft year.

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    1. Agreed. One thing that I’ve always liked about the Parsons Era has been how well we’ve drafted in general. I don’t think we’ll suffer from not having a high pick this year. We got good value out of Ogle and Pogarch, Coffey and Ali are still in the pipeline, and, frankly, there’s no real holes in the roster. We’re solid everywhere (even in goal, which I wouldn’t have believed before the WICC Matchday 1!). I just don’t see a huge need to be filled from the NCAA right now.

      Obviously after waivers/expansion/retirements/etc. YMMV…

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  4. Here’s hoping LA or SD will take Abby Smith 🤞. Why else would we bother getting her? I’m also guessing that we’ll lose Charley – which is heartbreaking, but ideally she’ll get to be a starter and that would be good for her. That’s the least painful scenario I can think of (barring some wonderful dream where Lussi and Nally are picked). Do Sinc and Becky really need protection? I know we can’t trust new teams not to be so ridiculously idiotic that they wound themselves needlessly (see LOU & Heath), but I really think LA and SD would be too savvy to select powerful, on-the-edge of-retirement, players who would be embittered & refuse to play. Yes, they deserve the respect afforded from protection, (I believe u spoke to this on yr podcast) but at what price?

    I know you’ve talked about Dunn’s underwhelmingness on Riveting (we expected game changing brilliance and got “meh”), but the fact that we have a decorated Nat coming off the bench with Lussi seems like a bigger story than the attention it’s getting in NWSL media. Then she also stayed out of the USWNT games. It feels to me like maybe something is going on there….. maybe it’s just that Dunn wants to hang w/her chickens instead of traveling now, and plans to take over Sinc’s position in full next year (?). But, & I know Sinc is no Lloyd – she probably won’t want months and months of celebratory goodbye-ing – it’s hard to imagine she’d just duck out in the off-season. I’ve been speculating, but I’m more curious why, say, the Equalizer ISN’T talking about it. It’s kinda weird right?

    Regarding the Riley, I’m wondering about Lisa Baird’s resignation. I’m not saying she didn’t need to go, I’m just saying that she seemed too professionally and technologically sophisticated to pull such a boner. I wonder who else is going to be on the chopping block &, as u discuss above, “if it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly”.

    I can’t find it now, but a couple months ago I read a statement from Paulson making it sound like they had a new coach picked out. He said something like the focus should be on Parsons now so they weren’t going to announce anything, but fans would be comfortable, not surprised/ excited by the new coach. But who knows what will happen now- hopefully the players will be brought to the table, the new coach will be unimpeachable and they’ll get a Thorns-specific manager. The fact that the Thorns have no manager at all now (take that Gavin – u get to do less work but still have the job) is ridiculous

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    1. One thing about these drafts is that there are SO many moving parts to the protected list that it’s hard to feel confident until the list actually comes out who the FO will protect.

      I agree that is seems like overkill to protect players like Sinc or Klingenberg or Sauerbrunn for all the reasons you mention. But, at the same time, perhaps the player wants the club to say loudly and publicly “I love you”. Perhaps it’s important to them, and their feelings toward the club, that the FO avows it’s undying commitment to them.

      So I’m going to just repeat what I’ve said before and keep saying; we’ll know when the list comes out. Until then it’s fun to speculate…but that’s ALL it is.

      The Dunn Dilemma is, to me, a mystery inside an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. I agree that something we’re not seeing is going on. Yips? A knock? Mismatched expectations? Botched training/assignments? I’m not sure why the sporting press hasn’t made more of the lack of form Dunn has shown here.

      As I said; the Thorns GM job 1) isn’t a huge priority until after the end of the season, 2) is likely largely being covered by the assistants and staff, and 3) hopefully WILL be split off as a stand-alone position. I’m not hugely bugged by it now.

      What I find fascinating is – as you’ll read in the piece I just posted today – Nadine Angerer stepping into the fray on 10/27 with a huge – and I do mean huge; she goes all the way to the mat for the guy – defense of Wilkinson. You can read her statement and take from it what you will, but to me Angerer’s pretty much saying that her experience with GW suggests that Shim’s claim of him squashing her open-and-out gayness is bullshit. Angerer is pretty much looking the Riveters in the eye and saying “Fuck you, #GWIn!”

      Which player you gonna believe..?

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      1. I saw that statement and I don’t think it discounts Shim’s experience at all. It just says two people had a different experience with the same person. Both can be true.

        I liked Nadine saying she could have done more as a star player to support her teammates. Rapinoe puts a bullhorn on almost every subject. Why did she avoid this one? I loved Kayla Sharples comments about fearing the league would go away., because it was honest.

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