Thorns FC: Tings Bruk Down

“I don’t know why, Beka. But one time, when I was a young girl like you, a circus come to town. I can’t remember where it was from and don’t ask me what happened to it afta. The circus had a fluffy polar bear – a ting Belize people never see befo’. It died up at Barracks Green, Beka. The ice factory broke down the second day the circus was here. But nothin’ lasts here, Beka. Tings bruk down.”

~ Zee Edgell, Beka Lamb

For the second away match in a row the Thorns ran off the pitch with a 2-2 draw and a point.

For the second away match in a row the point felt like a loss.

In Chicago it was the lineup – the bizarre Beckie-for-Kuikka-swap – and the attacking sterility and the defensive breakdowns.

This time it was in San Diego and the lineup was…well, what we’ve seen a lot of, the 3-5-2 with Christine Sinclair and Sophia Smith up top.

But the other two issues?

Well, here’s the xG plot:

Image by Arielle Dror on Twitter

We’ll talk about this when we get to her comment, but holy Hell that’s a whole first half full of nothing other than Raquel Rodriguez falling down and nicking a penalty (and we’ll talk about that in a bit…)

Mind you, the Wave isn’t making anything happen either; take away the PK and neither side breaks 0.3xG before halftime.

That was my thought as I re-watched this dog; for the league-leaders and the team in fourth place these two can’t create for jack shit. There was a lot of end-to-end play, but in front of goal? Nothing.

Not that the Thorns weren’t trying to give up a goal; here’s a San Diego attack in the 16th minute:

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

That’s Emily van Egmond running unmarked into the center of the box as Alex Morgan delivers the cross.

Oh, and that’s Sinclair realizing that she’s supposed to be marking van Egmond and so is busting ass to try and recover.

Sinc didn’t; Van Egmond blasted a shot that took a weird carom off Taylor Korneick’s chest right into Bella Bixby’s hands.

So that was the first hour; the Wave couldn’t buy a goal, Smith potted a nice spot-kick, and then Samantha Coffey opened the second half with a lovely service…

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

…that Sinc finished nicely and it was 0-2 Portland and everything was easy-peasy, cruisin’ to the road win, right?

Well, no.

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

The screenshot above is from the 65th minute; the crowd in front of the Thorns’ 18 is waiting for Korneick’s long service to drop. It does, splitting Kelli Hubly and Meaghan Nally and running right to…

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

…Morgan, who’s backing in on Natalia Kuikka alongside her just-subbed-on strike partner Jodie Taylor.

Bixby dawdles on her line too long, Morgan gets to the ball and blasts a shot…

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

…that Bixby gets down strong and blocks as Kuikka, Nally, and Hubly all converge on Morgan.

But…who’s marking Taylor?

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Well…ummm…that’d be…nobody, as it turned out; Taylor hammered a shot that Bixby managed to get a leg up to turn around her post for a corner kick.

Are you getting the picture? The Thorns defense was a rat scramble in San Diego, made worse, I suspect, by Bella Bixby having a awful, very bad, no good day.

Oh, and it got worse. In the final ten minutes the Thorns shipped two Korneick goals; first in the 81st minute from a scramble inside the six on a corner kick the Thorns couldn’t clear, and then in the 88th when failure to stay touch-tight gave Kornieck a free header.

But you get the idea; Chicago, San Diego, same shit, different pitch; meager attack, fire-drill defense, crap draws.

We’ll get to this in the comments, but although some Thorns were off their game at Torero, this match wasn’t lost by individuals. As a team, the Thorns are struggling to score from the run of play and, shockingly, are defending like a rec league team.

This is not a particularly good squad at the moment. Because it’s not just a player or players underperforming that has to be considered a collective – that is, a coaching – issue.

And we’ll talk about that, too.

Short Passes

Passing the Passing Test: OPTA had the Thorns as 70% completion, and the Thorns did a lot of piss-poor Route One lobbing that went to a blue shirt or into touch. What’s even more damning is how the lopsided lack of possession – the Thorns ended up with barely 39 percent – choked the passing.

Here’s Dror’s Thorns chart:

…and here’s her chart for San Diego:

Christ, that’s like two entirely different skill levels; it’s like Real Madrid playing the local pick-up team. Looking at that makes you wonder how the hell San Diego couldn’t score until the final ten minutes.

Corner Kicks

The Thorns took one – one – corner. I told you they didn’t create for shit, right? Well, then.

31′CoffeyLongWent into the crowd, cleared out but only as far as Beckie, who blasted a shot that was blocked, and then the ball was recycled and the attack petered out…

So nothing there, either.

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Player Ratings and Comments

Smith (90+1′ – +7/-8 : +2/-4 : +9/-12) In what might have been the worst outing I’ve ever seen from her, Sophia Smith tried all her usual tricks only to find that Kristen McNabb and Naomi Girma had her number all night. Smith also coughed up a shocking number of turnovers; of her minuses three are being tackled for loss, while five are for passes that went right to a blue shirt.

Nicely struck spot-kick. But overall? Not a good night.

Betfort (4′ – no rating) Not sure what this sub was for. Timewasting?

Sinclair (65′ – +4/-2 : +1/-1 : +5/-3) Here’s the problem.

Christine Sinclair can still play. She scored a gorgeous goal, and she can still impact a match under the right circumstances. But…look at her numbers. +5/-3? That’s painfully meager. Late match subs have those sorts of impacts.

The thing is that in her post-match presser Rhian Wilkinson complained that Smith is too often isolated up top. She’s right, mind, but…who paired her with a 39-year-old? Why do you think Smith is so often alone, when her supposed strike partner struggles with pace?

I love Sinc, too. But just scoring a goal or three here and there isn’t making this team better as a team.

Pogarch (25′ – +2/-3) Madison Pogarch isn’t a terrific defender.

(It might be interesting to throw her up front and see how she does there; certainly it can’t be as nerve-wracking as waiting to see if she gets skinned again…)

But she wasn’t the primary reason that the Thorns defense went to Hell in this one.

Still…the club cratered within fifteen minutes of her entrance, and it’s hard not to speculate.

Sugita (+8/-3 : +1/-2 : +9/-5) Hina-san tried to be her usual creative and clinical self, but the Thorns virtually abandoned playing through the midfield in favor of bombing long down the flanks, and that was when they had possession, which was barely a third of the match…so few opportunities for Sugita-senshu to shine.

Coffey (+3/-1 : +4/-2 : +7/-3) See Sugita’s comment above. By any objective standard had a decent match. By her own, struggled to make an impact and had to cope with the Wave flooding over her team like a goddamn tsunami.

Rodriguez (78′ – +5/-1 : +0/-0 : +5/-1) La Saltadora “earned” a penalty kick in the 21st minute.

I’m sorry, but that’s as soft as fucking church music. Yes, McNabb steps in. But Rodriguez runs on a full step past McNabb’s foot before suddenly collapsing.

I know, I know. And what goes around comes around – the Thorns have been victimized by this sort of soft call. It’s still kind of embarassing.

Not a bad shift other than the dive, with the same caveats from the other midfielders’ comments.

Moultrie (12′ – +1/-1) Good call by RW to yank Rocky after her yellow and signs that she was starting to get frustrated. Still…same sort of thing as with Po; not her fault, but things did go to hell after Rodriguez came out for Moultrie, so, hmmm…

Kuikka (+1/-5 : +4/-6 : +5/-11) The Thorns defense had a pretty rotten night in Torero, and Kuikka was no exception. Unusually poor passing from a normally reliable server, positional errors like in the 65th minute screenshots above…let’s hope this one was a one-off.

Hubly (+5/-2 : +2/-7 : +7/-9) The centerbacks were perhaps the low points of the club, and Hubly was a tire fire in the second half; huge errors in the 48th minute (when she completely lost Sofia Jakobsson), 55th minute (failing to stay tight on Morgan), and 88th minute (where she and Kuikka both sagged off and gave Korneick the space to equalize). Let’s put this away and move on. Ouch.

Nally (+2/-1 : +2/-4) Worked hard, and seldom had the same positional problems the other backs did, but wasn’t enough to hold on to two of three points, so…

Sauerbrunn (+4/-2 : +0/-2 : +4/-4) Amirah Ali megged you like a big boss in the 93rd minute, ‘Brunn. I know you were tired, but…Ali? A rook with, what, 12 matches on her list? Day-um, girl. That’s gotta be embarassing.

Beckie (+2/-2 : +1/-10 : +2/-12) Holy shit, what happened to your second half? I mean, I know the rap on you is that you don’t or can’t defend, but…yike! Heavy touches, poor passes, bad tackles and marking…you did it all, in a “holy crap how could you do that?” kind of way. On a night that the Thorns defending was an runaway-fuel-truck-on-fire-crashing-into-a-melting-down-nuclear-waste-repository-then toppling-over-a-cliff-into-a-burning-landfill you were kind of driving the truck. Damn.

Bixby (+0/-2 : +1/-2 : +1/-4) I’m sorry, but that’s a goal.

I can understand San Diego’s frustration. First Rodriguez nicks a ridiculously soft PK, then Bixby makes some sort of bizarre hop-and-poke at a Jakobsson cross that goes completely over the goal line…but the assistant referee is screened and center referee Mark Allatin just didn’t see it.

I’ve seldom seen a stronger case for VAR.

Beat on a 35-yard van Egmond shot that luckily for you came off your leg over the byline and not into the goal, came out late on a Taylor attempt in the 74th minute, and a good save in the 82nd minute doesn’t really make up for all that.

I’m not a hater, but here’s something I’ve noticed about Bixby as opposed to her predecessor. Both she and A.D. Franch had some off nights. But Franch has a sort of hard-ass attitude that seldom shows any emotion. She concedes, gets pissed off, and goes right back to work.

Bixby, though…when she’s off, she looks off. She looks hesitant and shaky and I can’t think that doesn’t get into her backline’s heads.

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Coach Wilkinson: There has to be a point where the management has to take responsibility for both performance and results.

The 3-5-2 is supposed to be defensively sturdy when the wingback drop into the five-back line. We’ve now seen two matches where the defending has broken down repeatedly.

The wingbacks are supposed to provide service, but in San Diego your wingbacks got out-crossed…

Image by

31 to 9!

Sophia Smith is one of the best young attackers in the game today, but she’s being stranded, and there’s no mystery as to why.

Once again you were out-coached on substitutions; Taylor, Ali, and Makenzy Doniak improved San Diego; Po, Moultrie, and Betfort did nothing for the Thorns.

I’m really trying to be patient, but this doesn’t seem like rocket science. The formation doesn’t fit the roster. The tactics are sterile. The subs aren’t working.

We’re a third of the way to the season, and the internationals are going to be gone sooner than you think. If things aren’t fixed, soon…well, let’s jump off that bridge when we come to it.

Because remember that goofy mascot thing in Chicago? Check out the San Diego Hippo and reflect;

There’s worse gigs.

Non-Obligatory Post-Match…well, not exactly a rant. More like a whuuuuu..?

See the collar thing on Rocky’s neck?

You’ve seen Klingenberg wearing this gimmick, too. It’s something called a “Q Collar“, and the idea is that it’s a concussion-prevention device.

“The non-invasive device, called Q-Collar, is a C-shaped collar that applies compressive force to the neck and increases blood volume to help reduce movement of the brain within the cranial space which may occur during head impacts.”

~ FDA Authorizes Marketing of Novel Device to Help Protect Athletes’ Brains During Head Impacts, February 26, 2021

So are you getting that? It presses on your neck and “increases blood volume” to your brain. Keeps it from sloshing around.

Okay, now…that sounds peachy. But…how does this rubber/plastic neck thing “increase blood volume”? I mean…there’s no blood in it, right?

Right. Instead it works by pressing on, and reducing the return flow of blood through, presumably, the external jugular vein.

This isn’t some sort of new and innovative technology, mind you. It’s been used a long time to increase volume in another part of the body, only there it’s called a “tension ring” or “constriction ring” or sometimes “erectile dysfunction ring”.


This thing is a dingus-ring for your neck.

Wait. What?!?
John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

3 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Tings Bruk Down

  1. Woof on the defense. What a mess Beckie was especially. Is Po better though? Ugh. We really miss Kling, but while she’s out Rhian gets to use her absence as an excuse for more Beckie as wingback. I don’t see it changing until Kling is back, or Beckie leaves for Canada duty.

    With the IR coming out tonight, I imagine we have a similar starting XI vs. Houston that we’ve had the last two games….unless RW decides for some truly wacky rotation. But, Menges and Kling are still out. Weaver is out of the “questionable” zone, which is good. I’m hoping this means Weaver and Smith up top with Sinc back at the 10. Rhian surely couldn’t stick a 39 yr-old (it’s true…HBD to Sinc) back up top with this 3 game match-week in the sticky hellscape that will be Houston tomm? Well, of course she would….but I’m hoping she doesn’t since we have a fresh Weaver ready for battle. I’m guessing that would drop Rocky to the bench, which, I’m ok with.

    The Dash will be without Daly, and possibly without Nichelle Prince (she’s “questionable”), so theoretically we should have an easier time…but I’ve thought that in the recent past and have been pretty disappointed. I think every time I’ve watched the Thorns in Houston I’ve thought they’ve looked like they were running in quick sand…

  2. I think we have to begin to start to accept that San Diego as a good team, not one that we should expect the Thorns to beat. They are not your typical expansion team and LA is not far behind. The league table looks nothing like what I expected at the beginning of the year and we are moving into a period where if the Spirit don’t right the ship they are not going to make the playoffs. They will be hammered during the international break. The Thorns will be too, but I think Seattle has set themselves up to manage the loss of their stars. The Courage are beginning to look like the threat I feared they would be with Kerolin being the new super hero.

    With Menges, Coffey and Weaver going to this next camp unexpectedly Wow! the bench is really going to be tested. It is really a shame that Vlatco will not be able to see peak Menges because she has deserved to be on the team for years.
    Even with no Daly and possibly no Prince, the weather in Houston looks scary. A draw would be a great outcome. And remember what Ted Lasso said about a streak of draws, it is just part of growing up.

    1. Menges, Weaver, and Coffey haven’t officially been called up. They were just on a 59-player preliminary roster. That will be cut down to 23 players. I don’t think Weaver or Menges make that final roster, but I do think there’s a good chance Coffey does.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.