Chilly Draft

The Thorns began the day yesterday with three picks in the NCAA Draft; #13, #22, and #48. With those picks they chose the following players:

Sydney Nasello (F)

Nasello was rated #4 on this year’s draft list by Top Drawer Soccer. Chris Henderson had her at #5 on his big board, so it looked like the Thorns made a very good move to pick her up so late.

Henderson loved this pick – gave the Thorns an “A” for her value and her fit with team needs (commenting that we need forward depth after trading away Lussi and Charley), that she’s great with the ball at her feet, and “good passer for a winger”.

Not sure whether we NEED her as a winger – that’s kind of what Weaver does already and our problem last season wasn’t as much wide as an in-front-of-goal #9 – but, again, she looked initially like good value for a second-round pick.

But then the Internet exploded with this sort of stuff…

…and it turns out that perhaps the reason Portland nicked her so late is that young Nasello is a hardcore Trumpkin. We’re talking all-in on the bog-standard wingnut stuff – Build That Wall, men are men and women aren’t, the 2020 election was “stolen”…

She was quickly apprised of how most of the Portland Thorns fanbase feels about that and tried to do damage control.

Too late.

Here’s the thing.

First, she’s 22. The reason armies draft people in their late teens and early twenties is because many, many of those people are ignorant, cock-sure, selfish, and believe they’re both immortal and that they know everything.

Being a Trumpkin is loathsome, but being a Trumpkin at 22 is less loathsome than still being one at 44 or 66 and have seen a bit of the world. I, for one, would hate to be dragged with the incredibly dumb shit I said, did, and believed when I was 22 or 25.

Second, she’s a jock.

My Bride was the designated tutor for jocks trying to slide through the science distribution requirements at her Big Sports School in the SEC. She’s regaled me with many a story of these characters, many of whom had been jocks since early childhood.

Bottom line? LOTS of jocks are really, really focused on their sport. It’s not just their life, it’s who they are. To call them “ignorant” elides the degree to which they have been cocooned in Jock World since before puberty. They literally have no genuine understanding of the world outside the narrow confines of their sport.

That’s not to excuse them; it should be the responsibility of every human to learn and grow. But it goes a long way to explain, I think, how someone like Nasello can believe atrocities without connecting how those atrocities play out in real life.

How does it play out that, say, a rookie that loudly proclaims that “marriage is between one man and one woman” comes up against a salty veteran and coach like Nadine Angerer…who is married to Magdalena?

How does that go? Not well for the rook, I’ll bet.

My compa Richard thinks that the club will simply let her slide until she’s out of the public eye and then not sign her. I suspect it will depend on how hardcore her Trumpy beliefs are. Given the wide broadcast Nasello’s wingnut views have gotten – to both the fans and her potential teammates and coaches – I’m not sure she is a good fit for this club unless there is a hell of a lot of contrition and repentence.

There’s a precedent here. Jaelene Hinkle Daniels not only believes that God hates homosexuals but was unwilling to keep her mouth shut about it. In a sport where many of her WNT and Carolina teammates, coaches, and fans are LGBTQ+ that seems…inopportune…at the least.

And, surely enough, the situation where one player sitting next to her lesbian teammate asks “Hey, can you toss me that towel and, oh yeah, by the way, did you know that you are an abomination before the Lord and damned for all eternity?” wasn’t tenable.

Daniels lost first her WNT slot and then retired from The Damned Courage at the age of 27, giving up many years of profitable play.

Update 12/20: Who knew? Turns out that homophobic bigotry comes with an expiration date. I guess you gotta be you, Damned. Jesus wept.

I’m utterly unsure what the club will do about Nasello. But she and they now have a mountain of an issue to deal with, and will have to deal with it in some way.

Gabby Provenzano (CB)

…came with #22. Henderson rated her as #7 overall. She was not in the top 30 at Top Drawer Soccer’s draft rankings but came in at #19 on their Top 100 player chart.

Henderson comments that she “has technical skills pro teams are looking for at CB but jury still out whether she can defend elite level attacking talent.”

I like picking up a young centerback. Sauerbrunn is going to age out quickly and much as we hate to admit it Emily Menges is both no longer young and has been struggling with injuries over the past several seasons. That leaves Kelli Hubly as our only depth piece there.

Natalie Beckman (F/W)

Coming in at the tail end of the draft, Top Drawer’s draft table had her at #17 and suggested that she is “prolific” but is likely to be a potential outside back conversion rather than remain up front.

Henderson’s big board had her at #20 and said that while she put up “video game numbers” it was for the power franchise in a fairly noncompetitive league. He loved the fit, though, giving Portland an “A+++” for the pick.

Frankly? I see her as almost like-for-like with Tyler Lussi. Deep depth right now, we’ll see how she plays her way (or not) onto the matchday roster. Given the Nasello explosion she might be a welcome depth piece at forward.

Overall?

It’s unfortunate that the FO forgot the rule of modern sport; check your players’ Facebook feed and Twitter record to make sure you’re not going to end up with a boatload of issues, because on purely soccer terms this was a very good draft.

And – I want to add a word of caution – we don’t and won’t know the conversations that LeBlanc and Wilkinson had, are having, and will have with Nasello. It’s entirely possible that there’s some way to make a decent pie out of this muddy social media mess.

Here’s Coach Wilkinson on the subject:

“Definitely a piece that we’re going to be working with this young lady and getting to know her. But thankfully, we are part of a club, an organization, that’s very clear on where we stand on social issues like this. And I’m proud of that piece. And I aligned with our GM (Karina Leblanc) in her statements about who we are and that mission and purpose. So for now, I’m going to leave it but we’re definitely very early in our relationship and it’s going to be something that we address.”

Stephanie Yang, The Athletic

It may be that the club can “address” this mess. Or it may be that there’s just a fucking nasty mud pie and there’s no hope for the Thorns to make it edible.

Well. Onward, Rose City; remember that the club still needs to re-sign Bella Bixby, Celeste Boureille, Marissa Everett, Meghan Klingenberg, Kelli Hubly, and Angela Salem. There’s a lot more silly to Silly Season before next spring and the first sound of boot on ball.

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14 thoughts on “Chilly Draft

  1. John, as usual, you eloquently addressed this total mess perfectly.
    My initial reaction was Hey she is 22 years old; she can make a mistake and change, but after seeing her posts and thinking about her family and her hero worship of her father, I just have a hard time seeing her turn her back on the beliefs of her family, friends and community.
    What LeBlanc, Wilkensen, Angerer and even Sinclair can say to this young woman to change her attitudes I don’t know, they can try; but call me skeptical.
    It was a mistake by our management group, but I am going to give them a mulligan on this one. They didn’t pick her knowing this, but they should have known. As a word of advice on future drafts, if somebody really good is available way later than expected, something is wrong.

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  2. I’ll be the first to say that if I was a GM the LAST thing I’d think on draft day would be “Let’s check out this player’s Twitter to see if she’s a raving mad wingnut..!” I’d have missed that, too. If it’s a mistake, it’s certainly understandable under the “old rules” of this game.

    Yeah…her whole family seems to be a bunch of whackjob Trumpkins. I can’t imagine she’ll see how fucked up that is, no matter what the club says and does.

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    1. I watched her play and was thoroughly impressed with the effort, intelligence on the field, competitiveness, and her ability to dribble. Her upside is Amy Rodriguez and she’s a discount persons Ashley Sanchez, but she fell for a reason.

      Last year, Sam Coffey fell because most people thought she’d pursue her masters and miss the whole year.

      I do think we would have considered Provenzano at 13, though she was my third choice behind Ryanne Brown out of Wake Forest with an international going at 22.

      Before these tweets came out, I thought we had aced the draft and was super excited about the young talent. Still am, but it’s tempered now. I’m not sure how they’ll manage. Frankly, I’d trade Nassello for 50 cents on the dollar at this point.

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      1. In purely soccer terms the new FO/coaching crew DID ace the draft. Again…the notion of trolling a player’s Twitter to find out if she’s a lunatic anti-vaxxer? I sure as hell wouldn’t have thought of that and I don’t fault KK or Wilkinson or their staffs for not thinking of it. They will in the future, tho…

        As I said in the piece; I haven’t payed attention to the NCAA this year, so all I knew of the draftees is what Top Drawer and Henderson reported. They are pretty high on all three. As always, the caveat is that it’s damn deadly difficult to project NCAA form onto NWSL form.

        Sophia Smith was a marvel of scoring efficiency in college: conversion rate 38%, 16 goals on 14 xG. Here? 9%, and I don’t have her xG/goals, but I’ll bet it’s something like 7 goals on 14 xG – she got a crap-ton of chances and half-chances and whiffed a crap-ton of them.

        Will Nasello become A-Rod or Sanchez? Who knows. She is certainly a promising rookie…but “promising” and $5.95’ll get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

        Here’s the thing with Nasello; she’s not going to stop being a red-meat Trumpkin in 2022. Or 2023. If she ever does it will be five, ten, twenty years down the road. The Thorns don’t have that kind of time, and the other players and coaches don’t have the responsibility of unfucking her headspace and timing problems. So with her attitude she’ll be a lightning rod for noisy discontent amongst a fanbase already pissy that Gavin hasn’t been 86ed.

        The Thorns need that like a hole in the head.

        So…yep. As we used to say, I’ll trade her to you for a case of C-rations and 200 rounds of blank ammunition, and if you’re hard up you can owe me the C’s and the blanks…

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  3. I should add this as a note.

    I’m a cis het middle-class white guy. Nothing of the bigotry this Nasello wench says or thinks hits me in the gut. I despise it, because of what it represents. But it doesn’t gouge me in a truly visceral way.

    And I’m not emotionally invested in the Thorns.

    They’re my local club, so I support them. But they don’t “stand” for anything I believe in or hold dear. They’re just a business I like, a brand I back, a group I adhere to.

    So when that group does something stupid – like not 86ing this Nasello wench most quick smart – I can sit back and say “Gee, that seems like a dumb-ass move, gang” and it – again – doesn’t kick me in the pants.

    I understand, though, that the team means more, in some cases a LOT more, to others. So what seems like “dumb move” to me is a heartbreaking betrayal to them.

    While I understand those feelings, I don’t share them.

    So if I seem dispassionate about this Nasello business? It’s because I am. I don’t have skin in that game.

    But I understand – and do sympathize, at least – with those who do. I’m sorry; I wish the club was doing better by you.

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  4. If Gavin wasn’t suspended and the transition wasn’t happening … would they have scanned social media?

    The equalizer said it was a mistake a lot of teams likely would have made and I agree. My belief is if they scanned previously, they’d have done it this time too so this was more probably more inevitable than I’d like to admit. That said, there was a public issue last year with a Red Stars pick that should have been a warning.

    Drafting her can be viewed as an honest mistake, but signing her is a different animal.

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see an opportunistic GM step up and make an offer. If you can trade the 29th or 31st pick for the 11th (and talent wise top 5), do you consider it if you are Orlando or Carolina?

    I’m viewing Sam Coffey as our first round pick this year. She’s the most talented player in our class regardless if Nassello signs anyway.

    When Nassello was on the board, she was my #1 talent available ahead of Ryanne Brown (OL Reign) and Gabby Provenzano who we selected at 22 out of Rutgers. I thought there were five good talents in this draft and a lot of interchangeable players after that. Sydny was one of those five talents, but I doubt she’s available if not for the tweets.

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    1. I agree; it was an honest (and to me, a 64-year-old who would no more have thought of scouring a draftee’s Twitter and Instagram than I’d have peeked into her underwear drawer, totally understandable) mistake.

      I think at this point there’s a fairly indigestible lump of former or nearly-former fans who are convinced that Paulson sits up in Tanner Ridge stroking a white cat and planning ways to infiltrate more Nazis onto the clubs. They’re never going to cut KK and RW any slack and will never believe they made an honest mistake.

      Frankly, tho, at this point the club might as well publicly cut off dealings with Nasello. It sucks to lose the pick, but the bad press is worse.

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  5. What sucks is that we aren’t focusing on Sam Coffey, Gabby Provenzano, and Natalie Beckham.

    You guys brought a good point on the podcast. Watch her become the Colin Kapernick of the QAnon/Carlson crowd.

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    1. Largely because the focus would go something like this:
      Fan #1: Hey, how about that… (Coffey, Beckham, Provenzano)! What’s she bring?
      Fan #2 (who has seen at least some match footage of the draftees and not just highlights) Well, she… (describes how the draftee looked)
      Fan #1 Cool! Whaddya think she’ll do here?
      Fan #2 Well…(speculates based on NCAA performance, while knowing that there’s a huge suite of unknown unknowns that will impact that speculation)
      Fan #1 Sweet! Can’t wait!

      And this offseason the speculation is even MORE speculative seeing as we have a new HC, too, whose approach to the team we have no real sense for yet.

      The Nasello thing is an actual thing that people can weigh in on…which is typically more tempting than a lot of speculation.

      I honestly think it’s unlikely to get much play in the wingnuttosphere. It’s soccer, which is a girly sport played by Eurotrash and soyboys, and it’s women, who are all icky and have girl cooties, so no real red-meat Trumpkin/QANut will be interested for more than a moment. There’s so much more to be angry about!

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      1. The irony is the number of fans who believe they can influence the situation by yelling.

        I do think the team wants to do the right thing and I’d be surprised if Nassello ever dons a Thorns jersey. Frankly, I believe those percentages were set the moment that lil Ms oblivious didn’t consider that her Twitter was public.

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        1. Sadly, I think that the Riley horror has unleashed a kraken that has been lurking in the fanbase since before the Timbers moved up to MLS. There’s a hard core of “fans” who utterly loathe Gavin Wilkinson and aren’t particularly enamored of Paulson, either.

          It’s obvious to all of us who are still living in reality that the Nasello thing was just a mistake, a fuckup by a rookie Thorns FO that has been acknowledged and won’t be repeated (and I agree – the most likely outcome is that the club will just quietly not sign her…) but these people will NOT stop badgering the club about it.

          I wish there was a better option, but just ignoring the nonsense and moving on is our only real option. These people will have their hissy and then have to decide whether they want their imaginary purity or they want to support the club.

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          1. Paulson seems willing to engage for now. For as much criticism as he’s received, he has acted in a manner that suggests he at least is considering the feelings of supporters.

            I do wonder if there comes a point where he goes “I can’t win” and stops considering them at all.

            There are fans who believe they are more important than the owner that would be in for a rude surprise if he handled them in a manner that most owners do fans. Part of me would expect it, but I do believe Paulson at least wants to be liked to a degree

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            1. Paulson has long been thin-skinned and defensive with the more aggressively possessive of the fanbase. I think he was shocked back in 2010 and ’11 at the way that group treated his missteps in the USL-to-MLS process and he’s been nursing a grudge ever since (and so have they, IMO, against both him and Wilkinson…)

              Unfortunately that has led the organization to this, where they go into a defensive silence when they screw up rather than come forward sheepishly and admit the screwup. That, in turn, has led the sme group of fans to assume that anytime the club does something they hate it’s because the club hates them and their beliefs and is deliberately screwing them over.

              I’m not a huge Paulson fan. I think he’s made some poor decisions over the years. But, that said, overall he’s been a decent owner. He’s screwed the ticket prices higher every season but not ridiculously. He’s never played the “gimme a new stadium or I”ll move your team” game other owners have done (see; Columbus). He’s not an utter dick like Baldwin in D.C.

              I hope the fanbase is willing to cut him some slack or, yes, he might just decide that if “the fans” are going to treat him like a dick he might as well BE a dick. That’d help nobody…

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