Thorns FC: Three Is A MAgic Number

I doubt the visiting Kansas City Current would have agreed, but the Thorns 3-nil home opening win was pretty magical.

Somewhere in that ancient mystic trinity…You get three as a magic number.

Morgan Weaver scored. Christine Sinclair scored. Sophia Smith scored with a rocket that A.D. Franch saw coming, got up strong, got a hand on, and still couldn’t save.

The Thorns forechecked the KC backline, controlled the midfield, and the Thorns defenders could have laid down on the soggy turf and had a nice nap for all that the Trickle Charge could do about it.

Now, before we go too wild; let’s consider that the nice people at American Soccer Analysis called out four Kansas City players in their 2022 season preview. These four were the engine of the top-of-the-Cup-group-Current. Where were they last weekend?

Kristin Hamilton? Came on in the 65th minute with her club already down three goals, no impact.
Hailie Mace? Injured and didn’t dress.
Lynn Williams? Out with a season-ending injury.
Sam Mewis? Injured and didn’t dress.

Plus the Trickle Charge have a Cup semifinal match this Wednesday, and so some of the other KC starters were probably rotated for that; Addison McCain hadn’t started a match since the loss to Louisville on April 2nd, Kate del Fava hadn’t started in over a month…

This was not a full-strength Kansas City.

That said, the Portland side didn’t give them even the chance to sneak a road point, putting the boot on Trickle Charge necks and never letting them up; outshooting them 19-5 (12-to-1 on goal), and putting up…

Image by Arielle Dror on Twitter

…a 1.7 to 0.5xG that turned into an easy three-goal romp.

We’ll talk more about this in the comments, but the keys to the win were a combination of solid team play, some terrific individual efforts, and this:

Image by Twitch. Licensed under Fair Use.

That’s deep in the KC third, and Elizabeth Ball is trying to play out of the back and finding, like the other Trickles found all evening, that the Thorns forwards and midfield had been sent up to forecheck them mercilessly.

Janine Beckie is up in Ball’s grille. That’s Weaver shadowing the other KC centerback in the “D”, and Sinc and Raquel Rodriguez are marking up Kristen Edmonds and Chardonnay Curran. Del Fava is open along the near touchline and that’s why Natalia Kuikka is steaming over to lay a lick on her. Back near the center circle Sam Coffey is patrolling the center midfield like a goldfish defending her tank.

Kansas City wasn’t very good last weekend.

But one of the big reasons is that Portland ensured they didn’t even have the chance to try to be good. The moment KC got possession Portland pressed them, and it worked like magic.

Here’s InStat’s defensive summary:

Image by Chris Henderson on Twitter

I said after the away loss in LA that one of the most consistent issues I’ve seen here with the Thorns is their tendency to play down to the level of their opponent.

Not this match. They came, they saw the Trickle Charge couldn’t whip their weight in weasels, and they conquered the living shit out of them.

Well done, Thorns.

Short Passes

Passing the Passing Test: Once again, depends who you believe; OPTA had the Thorns as 78% and KC at 72%, while as you can see above InStat had both sides in the 80’s. But as with the LA loss, the big difference was to whom and where the passes went.

Here’s Arielle Dror:

Image by Arielle Dror on Twitter

Finally! Weaver is getting service. So is Beckie, to somewhat less of a degree. Sam Coffey is utterly lit, working more like a #10 than the #6 she played. All across the backline and wingbacks people are hitting people. While on the other side of the midfield stripe…

Image by Arielle Dror on Twitter

Holy Penned In Your Own End, Batman! Keep in mind McCain was a notional forward. Both Bennett and Lo’eau LaBonta are practically at the kickoff spot, and you can see how futile wasting 25 minutes of Hamilton’s energy was. Woof. That’s just ugly.

Corner Kicks

Hey! Heyheyhey! WTF, people? Didn’t we already agree on this? “The Thorns get five corners a match”. That’s how it goes! That’s how it is! Five. Six shalt thou not get, nor four, except in going on to five!

How the hell do you get off sneaking the sixth oorner in there?

To add to the unbounded chaos, four of the six of the corners went short!

2′KlingenbergLongDrifted out to the far top of the 18, where Beckie tried a long shot that Franch sucked in easily
5′KlingenbergShortTo Coffey, who was quickly tackled and dispossessed, but the Thorns turned it over, Beckie made a strong run and won another.
6′BeckieShortTo Coffey again, who played a 1-2 with Beckie. Beckie’s cross floated too close to Franch, who collected
33′KlingenbergShortTo Coffey (clearly this was how practice went all last week…); Coffey cracked a shot that was blocked high, pinged around, and eventually went out the east touchline for a throw that led to the Sinclair goal
55′CoffeyLongHigh floater that went right to Franch
85′PogarchShortTo Coffey (natch…) whose cross was cleared out quickly.

The 33rd minute corner was part of a sustained Thorns attack that culminated in the second goal, but none of the others really amounted to much.

Image by Twitch. Licensed under Fair Use

Player Ratings and Comments

Weaver (74′ – +13/-0 : +6/-0 : +19/-0) I had a tough time with Woman of the Match for this one (I’ll explain…) but I kind of have to go with Weaver. Goal, assist, wreaking Chaos Muppet havoc everywhere…the Renton Wrecking Ball was pure energy last weekend, and the results showed everywhere on the pitch. Had a good synergy with Sinclair, but she and Kuikka were a freaking hive mind, and the Finland-Washington Connection was pure murder to the Teal-flavored Trickle Charge.

Everett (16′ – +4/-1) Nice shift; ran hard, forechecked nasty, kept the boot on, well done, Marissa Everett; that’s all a coach or fan could ask.

Beckie (45′ – +6/-4) Beckie got a fair amount of love both from the announcers and in the match thread over at Stumptown. I thought she was fine – nobody in black didn’t have at least a decent day last Saturday – but I also thought that she still lacked some tactical sense; too many misses passes and forced efforts that turned possession over.

Some allowance had to be made for unfamiliarity, though, and Beckie looked much better than she did in LA, so let’s see how things go.

Smith (45′ – +12/-4) Sophia Smith, on the other hand, came on and tore the goddamn cover off the ball. She’s one of the reasons I had such a struggle with WotM. Besides the insanely beautiful goal, she was doing stuff like diming Weaver with a no-look rainbow in the 57th minute, or running through the entire Trickles midfield and backline in the 80th minute.

Image by Twitch. Licensed under Fair Use.

Chef’s kiss. Indeed.

Sinclair (81′ – +7/-1 : +3/-1 : +10/-2) Before I say anything else, let me say this; even when she’s no longer otherworldly, Sinc is still a hell of a player when her legs are fresh and she’s fully charged.

That’s Sinc, just out front of the “D” running at goal as Kelli Hubly drops a pretty long pass on a running Weaver.

Image by Twitch. Licensed under Fair Use.

Weaver heads the ball down to Raquel Rodriguez, who was a bit of trouble with her defender…

Image by Twitch. Licensed under Fair Use.

…but who fights through her and slots a tidy lead pass into Sinclair’s path.

Image by Twitch. Licensed under Fair Use.

Franch is a damn good keeper, and she gets out big and goes down strong to parry Sinc’s low hard shot away.

Image by Twitch. Licensed under Fair Use.

Unfortunately for her, though, her teammate Izzy Rodriguez has completely lost track of Weaver, who simply runs onto the ball…

Image by Twitch. Licensed under Fair Use.

…and smashes it into the net for all the goals Portland would need.

That’s a hell of a pretty team goal, and it’s great to see Sinc still helping make them.

That said…she was gassed long before the 81st minute. Keeping her on the pitch, up three goals, for damn near the full 90, is not a good way to have a fresh and energized Sinc come mid- or late-season. I know she wants to play. I know she hates to come out.

But that’s the head coach’s job, and if she can’t begin to do that Wilkinson’s team is likely to struggle down the road.

Ryan (9′ – +1/-0) No impact.

Coffey (+7/-5 : +3/-0 :+10/-5) Better than her PMR suggests largely because a lot of her work was pressing that allowed her teammates to win the ball or break lines. Also got a ton of help from her forwards forechecking, making her day a lot easier. Still did excellent work.

Rodriguez (45′ – +5/-3) If I had to pick a Thorn that had a kind of “meh” day it’d be Rocky. Not bad – like I said, nobody was “bed” – but not really able to do much positive, either. Made a few nice passes, tackled for gain once (but also got stripped once) and generally didn’t make a mess. But that’s damning with faint praise when you think that she was replaced by…

Sugita (45′ – +15/-0) Unreal; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a full-match PMR in the thirties. Maybe Lindsey Horan had one or two in her Great Horan period. Maybe. But Hina Sugita was a monster Saturday, and had she played more than a half she’d have been a lock for WotM, goals and assists notwithstanding. Too many great passes to mention, and some slick ball-trickery worthy of Tobin Heath at her trickiest.

Kuikka (+13/-1 : +6/-2 : +19/-3) The fourth of my Four HorseWomen of the WotMPocalypse, Kuikka was an utter beast, as always, both providing and defending. As mentioned above, had a nearly telepathic connection with Weaver, seemingly able to drop passes onto Weaver’s foot at will. Hakkaa Päälle!

Hubly (+5/-2 : +5/-3 : +10/-5) Like I said earlier, the Trickle Charge was so low-voltage that a lot of the backs could have taken some time off and never paid for it, but Hubly was her usual solid self, along with providing some nice service forward.

Menges (+6/-1 : +2/-2 : +8/-3) Pretty much what I wrote above; solid, competent, untroubled. Utterly owned Elyse Bennett, too; Bennet was the puppet and Menges had her hand up…anyway, Bennet, who was supposed to be the Trickle Charge’s most dangerous remaining attacker, was utterly and completely nerfed by The Small But Sturdy Free-Standing Column of Emily.

Nally (+4/-2 : +1/-2 : +5/-4) The junior centerback was also the one who had the most struggles last Saturday, but overall did just fine and looks more comfortable with every match. We’ll have to see how she stands up to the big guns when we visit Cary next weekend, as well as the next time we see Washington or Seattle. Which is (checks notes) oh, yeah, the next two weeks after that!

Klingenberg (82′ – +5/-4 : +1/-0 : +6/-4) I don’t have much to say simply because, like all the other backs, Kling didn’t have a lot of defending to do, and in her case Kuikka and Coffey were doing all the passing, so she could just sort of kick back, as much as she ever does. Which is not really at all.

Pogarch (8′ – +2/-3) The PMR is deceptive; Po had a decent shift – her minuses are all for speculative passes that went astray.

Bixby (+0/-1 : +1/-0 : +1/-1) Aside from being untroubled by enemy action, Bella Bixby had one self-induced scary moment. In the 26th minute she collected an easy backpass and booted the ball out to exactly no one…other than Del Fava, who was closest to the orphaned pass. Del Fava snapped it up, dished to Bennett, who was unable to get her effort on frame and tie the match. Damn, Bix, don’t do that shit.

Image by Thorns FC on Facebook

Coach Wilkinson: So the coach reverted to the 5-3-2/3-5-2 for this one, but it didn’t really play like that. It looked a lot like this:

Image by Twitch. Licensed under Fair Use.

In defense it was a flat back five with a sort of 3-2; Coffey sitting over Menges as the #6, Sinclair and Rodriguez/Sugita pushed up and Weaver and Beckie/Smith as bookend forwards. Going forward it was more of a standard 3-5-2 with the wingbacks pushed up.

Against a dreary Kansas City everything worked like a charm. And that’s all we needed. Blue skies and happiness abounded.

Now. Starting this weekend the sky changes. Three matches, three boss fights; North Carolina in Cary followed by Seattle here, followed by Washington.

Let’s see if we can make the magic happen again, shall we?

Yes, it’s a magic number!

Obligatory post-TFC Mini-rant: WTF, NWSL?

Despite what it looks like, this…

Image by Fucking Twitch, and if you want to sue me over this? Come at me, bro.

…is not an Impressionist painting.

It’s the Twitch “stream” in the 35th minute, right after Sinc’s goal. That’s the replay; the dark blob in the right foreground is Beckie putting the cross in. Not that you could tell unless you had the vision of freaking Renoir.

This is ridiculous. First, it’s goddamn Twitch. There’s no excuse that after ten years the league is streaming matches on a goddamn gaming service. And, second, if the games have to be shown on this pathetic sub-basement-level platform, the least it can do is provide a seamless visual. My kid’s an obsessive game and he wouldn’t tolerate this crap.

No. This is inexcusable. The league needs to stop kidding around with these rinky-dink outfits. You’re a professional sports league. You need to start acting – and looking – like one, including on the screen. Your players and fans deserve better.

John Lawes
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4 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Three Is A MAgic Number

  1. Thanks for the write-up. Really good point about Sinclair, too- no need for her to play almost that whole game- that second half couldve been valuable development minutes for Ryan, or Moultrie, or some other young player needing minutes and confidence.

    1. Well, from the looks of it the plan was Ryan-for-Sinc, so keeping the captain out there for nearly the whole second half definitely robbed Ryan of minutes. Everett got a good shift, and, frankly, Moultrie has looked so sketchy over her last few outings I’m not sure where she is on the depth chart right now; not sure if she’d have had more than a few minutes even in a three-goal rout.

      But…yeah, I think we may be headed for problems if Sinc’s not willing to sit with her club up by three and the opponent utterly hopeless. Like I said; that’s where the manager has to sit down with her and have the come-to-Jesus-talk. And that isn’t happening.

  2. Gotta say how much I appreciate a good Schoolhouse Rock reference. This game was so great – it is my favorite kind where we play beautifully and win big (probably not a unique stance :). I’m not convinced that Ryan is better than a tired Sinc. Yes, maybe she could be if she got more minutes, but every time she steps on the field I ruminate on why Parsons worked so hard to get her… just why?? On the day I was much more excited that we were lucky enough to get Coffey, and that feeling remains.
    So – I’m going to put this out into the universe…. I think Macario is going to want to come back to the states in the next few years, and that Horan, Mandy, and Ellie should convince her to come to the Thorns. We let them have Ellie, and borrow Horan. That should equal a Macario – right?!
    Finally, my middling guesses last year won me a gift card for Thorns gear. I would like to know who funds the gift card. (I appreciate this site & I don’t want to take funds from it)

    1. Funny thing…I think we need to sort out the midfield before adding strikers. Sugita is terrific, and Sam Coffey is killing it at the six. But that’s kind of all we’ve got; Rodriguez is turning out to be more-or-less a journeywoman – decent enough but not a real force – and Ryan and Moultrie seem to have sort of stalled out.

      I mean…who doesn’t want a Macario? But I think we need to figure out how we’re going to get the ball to her consistently first.

      We have a dark money site that supports us; I think it might be backed by a Russian oligarch. So don’t worry. You’re helping prevent us blowing that laundered money on booze and parties…


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