Thorns FC: False Spring

Now is the winter of our discontent (well, okay, it’s supposed to be winter – freaking 62 in my yard yesterday, WTF’s up with that..?) as we have a whole freaking month to sit around and worry if RW can assemble a functional team around the lean roster she’s been left with after the high-profile departures.

(Except sit around and tube the winter Olympics, which as far as I can tell is hours of curling and the occasional actual sport, although I insist that as fun as it is biathlon would be vastly improved as entertainment if the IOC took the sport back to it’s roots and awarded extra points to the Finns if they set up a motti along the course and sniped at the Russians. Old school!)

Anyway, soccer.

I see two distinct but related issues here with Portland (because the backline and goalkeeping look solid).

The midfield, where the loss of Horan and Salem leave two disparate but big holes to fill, and up top, where the same cast of characters (less Charley) will return…but with the same finishing issues, or not?

If the former…ugh.

Without Horan passing out of midfield and with Everett and Sinc invisible and Smith and Weaver shanking shots all over SW Morrison, that could be ugleeee fast.

But if RW finds some combination of returnees and rooks to muddle through in midfield and has unlocked the scoring mojo between the forwards?

We might be okay.

But for a month?

We got nothin’. Not even a scrimmage with UP at Merlo or OSU in Corvallis.

We can still discuss.

So consider this a February-March open thread.

Update 2/15: Here’s an odd bit in the letter USSF President Carlos Cordiero sent in reply to the open letter from the USWNT players regarding the recent youth coaching abuse news:

“Finally, The Washington Post has reported that Christen Press raised her concerns about coaching abuses with U.S. Soccer in 2014 and filed a complaint in early 2018…while I was U.S. Soccer President, I was not aware of either Christen’s allegations of abusive coaching or any investigation into her allegations by the Federation.”

Cordiero letter, Feb. 14, 2022

Okay, that’s weird. The guy is the boss of USSF – is running to be the boss again – and says that he was just kind of hangin’ out there and didn’t know any of this stuff?

This is where the Yates investigation HAS to come through and HAS to be released to the public in full. No redactions, no “summations”. The whole business HAS to be laid out.

And that is – assuming that the people like Cordiero and Merritt Paulson are telling the truth – in the best interests of the league and club leadership…even if they don’t seem to believe that.

Because now the default position of many fans is suspicion and condemnation. It’s far to easy to just assume that “you knew” if the entire issue is shrouded in mystery, much of it generated by the club or league being silent.

I’ve already seen #PaulsonOut petitions, and as a long-suffering Newcastle United supporter I’m here to tell you that Mike Ashley and the fucking oil sheiks make Paulson look like a goddamn choirboy. Be careful what you ask for. A post-Paulson owner might just decide that a Las Vegas Thorns looks reeeeeeal profitable…

But Yates has GOT to bring the receipts. The story needs to be told, and if that story condemns Paulson, or Cordiero, or Gavin Wilkinson?

Then pitchforks and torches, yes.

But until then…

Let’s not be entirely grim…

I want to open the discussion to the songbook.

Let’s face it; the songbook is stale. We haven’t had a new song since “Iko Iko” three years ago, and that one barely gets sung anymore. We have NO player songs.

So I’m gonna start by suggesting this one: adapting “Clean Up” by Charmaine Neville for a 90th minute song, something we sing to wave goodbye to our defeated opponents:

Clean it up! (you gotta go now!)/
Clean it up! (we don’t want no more now!)/
Clean it up! (you gotta go now!)/
We gotta clean up after you go home…

So what you got? Let’s come up with some ideas for the new season!

Update 2/16: So…nothing? No song ideas? Not a thing? Okay, then.

I know we’re tired of the drama, but I wanted to note this, from Timbers gadfly Chris Rifer:

I think he makes a very good point. A crap-ton of what’s driving all this fan ire is the club’s silence. As Bolt’s Thomas More says; “silence implies consent”, and the implication from the Peregrine FO’s silence is that someone or ones in that organization actively consented to Riley’s and Polo’s criming.

If they did not – and, surely, I hope they didn’t – but were simply stupid or clueless or distracted and let matters get out of hand, I think they’d be better off coming forward and saying that: “Yes, we should have known. No, we have no excuses. We’re sorry and want to do better, and here’s how we will.”

Unfortunately I think the silence is baked in. They FO has been so tacit for so long they literally can’t think of a way they can apologize and accept responsibility without bending the knee to the ultras.

So on and on we go.

Update 2/17: So look who showed up on my Facebook page this morning!

Our youngest Thorn is also the first to get in the “monetize my image!” door! She’s a “premiere athlete” for this fish outfit.

Now I may be a crusty old commie but I can still give some love for a youngster out selling lemonade to make money. Or, in this case, pitching fish.

And more power to her for turning 264 minutes over nine matches into an “NWSL Star”! Y’gotta give it up for the kid; she’s got chutzpah and she’s not shy about making a buck.

Because did you check out the “Premier Catch” site and look at the price for the salmon she’s hawking? $68 for two and a quarter pounds? Dude! That’s thirty bucks a pound! No disrespect, Moultrie, but Freddy’s sockeye is, like NINE bucks a pound. I loves me some capitalism, too, but, c’mon!

At this rate I predict in thirty years she’ll OWN the damn team. Watch and see if that happens…

Update 2/17 p.m.: I tuned into the Zoom Q&A tonight with RW and KK. Missed the first 20 minutes or so (traffic, %#&!#!%!!) but caught most of the rest.

Frankly, a lot of it was painfully excruciating; fans asking “How will you regain our trust?” as if either woman had had anything to do with 2015 or the Iron Front or Polo or what-the-actual-fuck (Wilkinson reminded the questioner that she’d been here in 2015 and had seen nothing – which makes total sense, given that Riley was a slimebag not a fool and so he’d be sure that everyone but his victims saw nothing…).

And, frankly:

  1. I have no idea what the questioner expected either one to say. “Oh, yeah, Merritt said that he knew that Riley was all rapey but, hey, shit happens…”? The point is that they don’t know, we don’t know, all our reactions at this point are formed from our prejudices, suspicions, and biases. I wish one or both of them had had the sack to just say that: “We don’t know and neither do you. If that makes you distrust us, nothing we can do will change that.”
  2. I’d have paid good money if KK had answered the one questioner’s cry of “How will you restore our trust?” with something like “Fucking A, I will slay Gavin and drink his heart’s blood. That work for ya?”

I heard two things I was unaware of, however.

First, that the entire reason that the club did not invite any non-rostered players was the COVID. Wilkinson answered that one, saying thar they had relied on host families in the past and couldn’t do that due to the plague. And that omicron AND the CBA made things even more complicated, so the club just didn’t think it was worth it.

Second, that Wilkinson (who kind of ducked and dodged around this question) thinks that the team needs to attack with more width. I asked about a 4-3-3 and didn;t get an answer, but the implication of the answer she did give is that while she sees a lot of continuity with Parsons’ 4-4-2 diamond she wants more width.

She also denied that there are any concerns about thinness in the roster.

How realistic is all this?

We’ll see in March…

Update 2/20: So apparently these things turned up in a Dick’s Sporting Goods outlet:

Now the FO immediately warned that they aren’t official, and the white shirt looks suspiciously washed out – the blue on the collar and badge are funky and weird – and that the actual kits may look a little different.

But given what we know from these;

  1. I like hoops. I’m one of the few people who didn’t haaaaaaate the “tire tracks” alternate kit from 2018. But I’m betting that, like the tire tracks, the hoops don’t go all the way around. C’mon, Nike! Show some courage; hoops go all the way around! The blank back thing is lame.

    Plus the thin red thorns pattern is too finicky. I’d like to see the hoops bigger and bolder. And why a gray background? Hopefully that’s just a preseason goof and the actual kit will be red-on-black.
  2. The alternate? BO-ring. Even with a bolder collar and cuffs and badge, this is just WhiteTShirtFC. I realize that coming up with an interesting light-colored kit isn’t easy – it’s gotta be white but “plain white” is just drab – but there has to be a better alternative than this.

    Go to the post at the “tire tracks” link above and look at the 2015 second kit. That was the one with the black sleeves and shoulders, red hoop, and white body. It was (mostly) light colored but striking. Fun kit, and I thought the club gave up on it too easily. Certainly there’s no reason not to do something like that here. Or revive the thorns-ring pattern from the 2015 reds only in dark gray on white with a black thorns-loop strip down the sides! Something, almost anything, would be more interesting than this.


John Lawes
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16 thoughts on “Thorns FC: False Spring

  1. On the brighter side, not having a game to go to for awhile gives this Pandemic a chance to ease into an Endemic. I think mid March we should see some real improvement.
    But I am eager to see what the Thorns have. Coffey is intriguing. Everyone that has watched her play says she is special. I am also interested in how Sugita fits in. I have only watched her in the She Believes Cup against the US and I liked her game. While Smith is gone we can see what improvements Everett and Ryan have made to their game. I think Weaver is definitely going to benefit from not making the USWNT roster. She needs playing time and some speedy poachers to feast on her havoc.

    1. Or develop a new and more horrific variant.

      I can’t express my loathing and disgust at the plague rats who refuse to take the simple vaccination step that the 20th Century showed was the way to control infections disease strongly enough. Instead of relegating this damn thing to a measles-and-smallpox-level event we’re going to be burdened with the likelihood that the 30% of stubbornly unvaxxed will provide us with a new version of this shit every year.

      And as for the team…I know I sound like a broken record, but soccer is the most team-y of team sports. Rarely there emerges a Maradona- or Pele-level talent that can seize a match by the throat and singlehandedly change it. None of the current squad has that level of talent, so the real question is neither Coffey or Sugita or Weaver but Wilkinson. How can she field a squad, how can she set up their formations, and direct their tactics, so as to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses?

      I mean…some individual players are going to have to be her focus. Weaver has GOT to start converting (or, as noted above, RW will have to find a role for her that uses her speed and wrecking-ball energy to find goals…though that implies the existence of a poacher of the sort that the current squad given prior form lacks). Smith needs to be given options that allow her to do something other than shoot wide or directly at the keeper. Someone needs to fill Salem’s hole, and Horan’s, and Sinc needs…something. A new role, a new position…new legs!

      But that’s why the whole “no games” thing is so frustrating. To see if RW is doing all this we need to see the whole squad on the pitch, and that’s not happening for another month plus.

      I should add this as a sort of “open thread” topic: #PaulsonOut.

      The Polo allegations, on top of all the other damn things, have got people petitioning to turf Merritt Paulson out, force one or the other leagues to make him sell the teams.

      Now, first; two huge caveats. If Yates brings in the receipts that Paulson knew exactly what Riley had been (and presumably, was still…) up to and was still palling around with him? And knew that Andy Polo was beating his wife and re-signed him and did nothing?

      That’s a huge problem.


      As someone who’s EPL team was once owned by total shitbag Mike Ashley and had to be “rescued” from him by selling it to Prince Bonesaw and his Saudi pals? I’d just caution to be careful what you wish for.

      Paulson – assuming he’s not a skeevy dirtbag who’s letting rapists and wife-beaters slide – has been a decent owner overall. He’s not Del Ray Hansen, he’s not Steve Baldwin, or Aulas in Tacoma. He hasn’t threatened to move the team every time he wants to jack more cash out of the City of Portland, or jacked up ticket prices, or any of the other usual sleazy owner tricks.

      I’m not a fanboy of his thin-skinned entitled rich kid stuff. But all in all, he’s been as decent an owner as we can hope for – again, unless he’s enabling skeevy sex perverts and spouse abusers.

      But until we KNOW that – until we have actual details showing he knew Riley was sliming on his players, or Polo was a wife-beater and not just a dude with anger issues – I’d simply say that we might want to be careful before we insist that we defenstrate the devil we know.

  2. I agree with you completely. When the whole Polo issue came out, my reaction was Oh Man, not again! Sport has been rife with this stuff for years and it needs to end, but there are still a lot of Neanderthals, and they are not all necessarily old that just don’t get it.
    My wife and I were walking out of a restaurant on Fremont yesterday with our masks on and some guy in a pickup driving by unleashed a torrent of F-bombs at us. Someone with that kind of anger management issue shouldn’t even be driving, but some of the blame goes to right-wing media amping up this anger with misinformation and lies.

    1. The thing that everyone needs to get is that sport is a business like any other business. Unless and until it becomes bad for business to tolerate sexual wrongdoing and domestic violence it will always be tempting for a sports organization to try and get away with keeping things on the downlow.

      So…did the owner and his cadre know about all this wrongdoing and keep it on the downlow? That’s the temptation above. So the immediate temptation for the fans – which is currently abounding all over the Timbers/Thorns internet – is to shout “YOU KNEW” and condemn the FO to the ninth circle of Hell because their misbehavior seems tempting and likely.

      BUT…all we have now are suspicions. We don’t know what the club knew about Riley. We can guess, we can suspect, SHOULD they have known..?

      But we don’t actually KNOW.

      Same with Polo. Naturally we believe his wife (because there’s pictures, I understand), but we don’t know what the club knew in May. Based on the story in the Oregonian ( they didn’t. SHOULD they have suspected something?

      But we don’t know.

      Like I said above. Paulson is a snitty little rich boy. But as an owner? He’s so far from being the worst possible that it’s not even funny. Again…if there’s actual evidence? That changes everything.

      But right now it seems to me that there’s a hard nut of fans who have convicted Paulson already and have no interest in bullshit like “evidence”, and they want to overthrow the Czar, period.

      And all I have to say is remember what came after October 1917…

      1. Name one prospective owner who wouldn’t be criticized by the same people asking for Paulson’s head

        Paulson has been one of the better owners in the league in terms of commitment and performance.

        Can anyone make one majority owner in any sport who comes across as a liked human being?

        1. Also, what are the probabilities of people rich enough and interested in soccer, and even more rarely interested in women’s soccer, which usually does not make money to come forward and buy out Paulson. I would say that would be really rare. And as John said remember what came after Czar or after the Shah of Iran. One could argue that the USSR was better than the Czar’s kleptocracy but that is debatable.
          I am angry about the Riley thing and Polo’s behavior, but maybe the best approach is just to demand better of the organization.

        2. I’m not sure if there’s a comparable situation at another club. There are lots of toxic owners – ask a big percentage of ManU supporters about the Glaziers, or Columbus fans how they feel about Precourt – but Paulson hasn’t played any of the usual “bad owner” tricks. You’re right; purely on “owner” terms he’s been at least better than average.

          What complicates all this here is that he bought the team when it was kind of limping along in the USL but had been picked to move up. I think he saw himself as the “savior” of Portland soccer and was shocked to find this group of ultras who dismissed him as a lightweight rich kid who was just the latest figurehead – THEY were the heart and soul of the club, and he immediately tangled with them. That bad blood has never really gone away.

          Meanwhile his buddy Gavin had already gotten on the wrong side of those fans during his disastrous head coaching spell. I don’t recall if it was Gavin’s idea, or Paulson’s, or both to astroturf a supporters group to compete with the Army, but you can imagine how well that went…

          THEN you had the Iron Front. THEN you had Riley. Now you have Polo…and the consistent response from the FO has been…kinda nothing. Anodyne pressers when they have no other choice, but as often as not silence.

          The thing is, my suspicion is that something like 80-90% of the fanbase kind of doesn’t really get wound up about this stuff. They don’t like that Riley got away with it, they’re not happy with the FO’s response to Polo’s problems…but they’re not dropping their season tickets, either.

          I think the FO is right in that if they could just find a way to muzzle the 5-10% of the North End who are the hardcore ultras who have an unshakeable dislike and distrust of Paulson and GW they could eel past all this. But I think the FO is wrong in thinking they CAN do that. The outrage is here to stay, and they need to figure out a better way to deflect it or counter it.

          And I think that means 1) that the Peregrine culture of “let’s say nothing and hope nobody notices” has to change, 2) committing to releasing all the receipts when Yates is done, and 3) hopefully, that all this problematic-looking stuff IS just appearance, and that nobody in the organization really did ignore or, worse, cover for the people involved.

          And we won’t really know until Yates is done. If then…

          1. I’m not anticipating that we’ll see transparency when the Yates findings come out from the team or the league directly, but I do anticipate that Meg Linehan will get excerpts after it’s shared with the players

            I’m walking in assuming GW is the great individual contributor who is Ill equipped to be a leader who gets promoted into a leadership position. He’s a phenomenal talent evaluator who can spot undervalued players who can stick in this league but not be pursued by bigger leagues and he understands contractual dynamics.

            That is easily the most important skill for a GM, but Paulson needs to put a support staff around him that overcomes his lack of skill set in managing these issues.

            That probably gets minimized by the 5 to 10 percent of the fan base who want only one thing at a time (it’s GW Out now, but the horizon says MP Out is the next bucket list item), but for most fans … a hire that brings diversity and skill set will be appreciated until that person makes a mistake 😉

            1. Well, with all the buildup and anticipation if Yates doesn’t bring in a full and complete accounting of – at least- what happened here in 2015 I’m okay with pitchforks and torches, as mentioned above. The owners have a massive rock to roll uphill with a fairly big portion of the fanbase, and they won’t get any help if they suppress this investigation.

              I’m not sure Gavin is such a great talent scout. He’s a damn good operator in the complex and goofy world of MLS financials. His record for player acquisition? Kinda mixed. For every Valeri there’s a Melano, for every Horan there’s a Crnogorcevic. Overall I think he’s done well, and I don’t share the reflexive GWOut-ism of that 5010% of ultras who just haaaaate him.

              But he’s a dick personally, and that’s hard to overcome just by giving him a better staff. He’s just one of those people whose personalities are just abrasive – not exactly a shock for a Kiwi jock – and that’s going to emerge when he deals with anyone he doesn’t have to truckle to. Not sure if there’s a solution for that…

    1. If you follow the link near the top of the kit update (it’s linked to the words “tire tracks”) I talked about the Thorns kits through the years and, yes, there’s a new kit pretty much every season – how can the FO make money selling kit if the kit never changes..? So there’s at least one new jersey (and usually two, a primary and an alternate, typically “dark” and “light”) every season.

      I was okay with the Black Rose kit from 2021 (the white was just kinda “white”); I’d wanted a black kit every since the club ran out in black during preseason beginning in 2016 (I think…). I thought the screened roses were over the top, but overall? Fine.

      As I said in the other post, I still think the 2015 primary red is the best kit the club ever wore. Sleek, simple, but with fun detailing (the thorn ring pattern) and just a great look overall. Unfortunately it’s associated with horrible season (and now Riley…) so there’s no chance any of those elements will reappear. Ever.

      As for these…like I said; meh. The thorn hoops are a nice idea, but the execution is meager and underwhelming – why not make them thorny! Loop ’em, weave ’em, make them alive! The little flat boring lines look underfed. The gray color looks washed out, too, and hopefully that’s just a trial and the actual body will be black.

      The white? Ugh. It’s even more boring than the usual white top.

      Not the worst kit the team has ever worn. And WAY better than the Red Wedding thing the Timbers came up with (“Heritage Rose”?)that looks like the wearer has lost a knife fight. But not really all that interesting…

    2. Looking back at my fashionista post, the club held onto the same kit twice: the “gray sleeves” kit was the primary kit in both 2017 and 2018. And the Black Rose kit debuted in 2020 and was still the primary kit in 2021, but given the Plague I’m not sure how heavily to count that.

      Otherwise it’s been a new kit (in one form or another) every season.

      1. I know this sounds odd, but I wish they would keep the black kit and do a better version of the road kit with maybe some different color adjustments

        The unofficial jerseys reveals suck. Zero interest in buying either of those

        1. I’m the opposite; I’m kinda over the black and want to get back to red. That’s the Thorns color, and we haven’t had a TRULY red kit since 2016, and that was the “cuffs-dipped-in-ink” one that I was really meh about.

          The problem with whites is that they have to me at least mostly white, and that’s inherently fairly boring. I thought the 2019 “smoke” kit was a good stab at making road whites less boring, and as I said, I was one of the few who didn’t hate the tire tracks (tho I thought there were better ideas that might have been less, well, ugly). I’d have liked a white top with thin swirly red thorns, sort of like the gray version shown only more wild and random instead of boring little straight lines…

          I agree on these, tho. Ugh. Not interested.

          1. I’m on the fence. They should do Black, red, and white kits. I was always a fan of the Blazers’ blacks, but when they brought the reds back, boy those were sharp. There is a crispness to the whites. Black has a traditional and formal look to me. Which is also good

  3. So I was up in the ADA section above 109 for the Timbers home opener last night (fuuuuuuck it was cold! Glad the boys woke up and made the second half more fun…) and what I thought was…interesting…was the amount of #MPOut signage I saw in the GA section of 108. Not a huge amount…but way more than I’ve ever seen before. There’s always been a hardcore #GWOut faction but last night I saw it extend to Paulson to a degree I’ve never seen up in the North End.

    Still a very tiny percentage of the fanbase, and even a pretty small part of the TA ultras, but, still…another indicator that the battle lines are hardening. I think that regardless of the outcome of the various investigations, even if Yates shows absolutely that Riley hid his crimes and that the club really didn’t know that Polo was beating up his spouse, there’s now a small hard core that will accept nothing but total surrender from the FO; firing GW and MP selling up.

    How much that will impact the teams and the fans going forward?

    I don’t know.


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