Thorns FC: Gasp

Well…it was a point on the road.

The mess in LA started with a soft penalty and Savannah McCaskill doing the most McCaskill thing ever; striking a crap penalty shot that Shelby Hogan saved but that rebounded right to the Angel City striker for the putback that put the home side up one within the second minute.

Ninety-four minutes of Thorns pickup soccer against Angel City organizational ineptitude later Madison Pogarch found Yazmeen Ryan’s head for the equalizer and the Thorns scratched out one of those “draws that feel like a win”…except the quality of play (especially in the second half) was so dire that it was hard to feel anything but a sort of exhausted relief that somehow Portland had scrabbled a point.

It sure must have been a draw that felt like a loss to ACFC, mind.

Given the utter strip-mining that the international callups performed on the Thorns roster? I’m inclined to take the point and run. It could have been worse, and might well be worse if this bash-to-fit-file-to-hide-paint-to-cover roster can’t do better than they did in LA next week in Seattle.

What was more than a bit troubling was that Portland grew out of rather than into the match. Here’s my notes for the first forty minutes or so. Portland “significant actions” on the left, ACFC on the right:

Not exactly a barn-burner, but at least some dangerous chances being created, including:

  • the penalty, and
  • another big Hogan save off a Jun Endo shot from distance in the 7th minute,
  • a Portland opportunity at the other end, with a fine Hina Sugita cross in to Ryan forcing Didi Haracic to turn around the post,
  • several ACFC half-chance attacks (a ball through the box in the 18th minute and a Le Bihan shot in the 21st), before
  • a huge Portland miss when Hannah Betfort conked a free header over the crossbar in the 26th minute.

But here’s the whole second half:

There’s just nothing there; fifty-one-odd minutes of mishit passes, futile running about, and offensive and defensive errors.

Image by Arielle Dror on Twitter.

As a Thorns fan it was painful to watch, even more painful to watch again, and if I’d been a neutral I’d have been hunting for a good re-run of Naked and Afraid by the 53rd minute. This game was just. That. Bad.

From both teams.

Yes, the Thorns connected in the dying seconds and equalized, but this was epic Crap Soccer, the sort of thing that people who hate soccer point at, and if we play this way in Seattle the Damnedelions are going to hand us our ass.

So let’s just snatch the point and hope to hell that the squad is practicing better interplay this week, because once is happenstance, twice is deliberate failure.

Short Passes

Passing the Passing Test: Per OPTA, both teams managed barely above 70% completion; 73% for ACFC, 72% for Portland, which certainly matches the eye test wherein both squads lumped ugly balls forward and shanked most of them; the completions are, as always, fattened by little drops and lateral dinks.

Image by Arielle Dror on Twitter

Nobody’s passing well out of the back, and Taylor Porter is doing poorly trying to link the lines. Meghan Klingenberg is doing a lot of passing without doing a lot of dangerous passing, and the only people who are diming are Hina-san and Ryan, and they’re not really connecting enough to make things happen.

Mind you, ACFC wasn’t, either.

Endo and Clarisse Le Bihan are making things happen, but the Angels are just spread all over hell and nobody’s pulling them together.

All in all, a dreary tale and best soon forgotten.

Corner Kicks

Three total, two first half, one second. All direct, long into the box

4′RyanLongInto the mixer and cleared, but only as far as Kling; her shot was blocked out of the 18 to Kelli Hubly; Hubly blasted a good effort that went barely wide left.
16′KlingenbergLongLofted to the far side top of the penalty area and cleared, but again to a running Thorn – this time Natalie Beckman – who fired wide right
82′CoffeyLongWent to Olivia Moultrie who executed a pretty foot-flick-on, but nobody could get to it; ran through to Beckman who misplayed it out for an Angels throw.

Both the first two produced shots, but long shots with pretty low xG, while the third might have produced something had anyone been in place to take a whack as Moultrie’s flick. As it was, nothing, really.

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Player Ratings and Comments

Betfort (64′ – +7/-3 : +1/-0 : +8/-3) Except for the missed header Betfort lumbered around doing what she could, but she’s deep down the depth chart for a reason. As a striker she’s a good tackler, and did some nice forechecking. But she’s the anti-Sophia-Smith, and she just couldn’t make any sort of real attack happen.

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Weaver (26′ – +6/-3) Weaver was an interesting study in this match, because she came on at the exact moment as the Big Name that the Paramount+ talking heads had spent damn near their entire match chattering about, Sydney Leroux.

Here’s their respective stat sheets:

Two things jump out of that:

First, that the two are pretty much a wash; Leroux has more touches but Weaver has a couple of shots, including a block and another on frame.

Second, neither really accomplished much in their nearly-half-hours. Leroux was playing her first minutes with a completely new club, so she kind of has that excuse.

Weaver? I’m not sure. As I said over at Stumptown, I’m not sure why she hasn’t developed. She was practically a littermate of Smith, and she seems to have all the tools; pace, size, workrate. Why hasn’t she managed to become even an impact sub? As the match notes above showed; the Thorns looked random and adrift before she entered and looked just as random and adrift afterwards.

I’m not giving up on her. But I really want to see Weaver be better, and soon.

Everett (71′ – +8/-1 : +1/-0 : +9/-1) Her PMR is deceptive, because while Marissa Everett did good things in the first half not many of those good things involved helping put the biscuit in the basket. Utterly bereft after the restart.

Moultrie (19′ – +2/-1) Better than her numbers suggest, because she entered just as her club had entered the terminal phase of the controlled-flight-into-terrain crash that was the second half. I’m increasingly impressed with young Moultrie, and I’d liked to have seen Wilkinson bring her on earlier. She’s sort of the anti-Weaver; a player with otherwise modest physical gifts who seems to be improving herself daily through pure application of soccer intelligence.

Sugita (+9/-3 : +9/-2 : +18/-5) Woman of a very dire Match, Sugita-senshu struggled mightily against the swamp of mediocrity, using her terrific ball-skills and field vision only to find that providing service to Hannah Betfort and Yazmeen Ryan produces very different results than to Janine Beckie and Sophia Smith.

Still, as always, ganbare, Hina-san!

Coffey (+7/-6 : +4/-4 : +11/-10) Samantha Coffey had a decent but not outstanding match; she mishit way too many passes – 9 of her 10 minuses are for poor passes – to be up to her usual standard.

Porter (+3/-3 : +2/-2 : +5/-5) I thought Taylor Porter had an even less effective match than Coffey, but the InStat boys sure loved her;

Go figure. Not bad, but didn’t really create anything IMO, so goes to show how subjective this whole “player ratings” thing is.

Ryan (+3/-6 : +8/-4 : +11/-10) Here’s the real “go figure”. Having done nothing of any real value in the first half, having looked better tracking back but still not offensively dangerous in the second (four of her eight pluses are for defensive actions) Ryan makes a run, gets dimed, sinks the header, and is the hero.

Soccer is a damn cruel game.

Klingenberg (71′ – +5/-4 : +0/-2 : +5/-6) Completely gassed after halftime, and continuing in her not-providing-attacking-service thing she’s doing this season. I’m normally a “Kling-over-Pogarch” partisan, but this time the substitution was well warranted.

Pogarch (19′ – +5/-1) Another entry in the “Why Po Drives Me Nuts” file.

This is a hell of a nice service…

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use
Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use
Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use

…and a well-deserved assist.

But this…

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use

…is goddamn stupid and if I was an AC fan I’d be steamed because Po never should have been on the pitch to dime Ryan, because this…

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use

is a fucking straight red. Two-handed shove? Jesus wept, Po! What the hell were you thinking?

I know there are people who love Po for just this sort of “hard-nosed play”. But in this case this was as idiotic as the McCall-Zerboni-uses-Shea-Groom-as-a-welcome-mat foul that got Z-bone tossed in the 2018 FCKC match that is now famous for Michelle Betos’ header.

Dammit, Po. You’re not a rookie anymore. This sort of thing doesn’t help you or your team. Hard-nosed? Hard-headed, more like. Knock it the eff off.

Provenzano (+2/-2 : +4/-1 : +6/-3) ACFC was so poor it’s hard to really rate the Thorns defenders. Gabby Provenzano was as good as any of them, but it’s hard to assess how well she might have done against a team that could score. We might find out this coming weekend, though.

Hubly (+4/-3 : +4/-6 : +8/-10) If she’s remembered at all for this match Hubs will probably be remembered for this:

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Couple of things.

That’s soft. Soft as church music and I know, I’ve been saying that a lot. But it relies on Miri Taylor dragging her foot across Hubly’s, and that’s kinda sketchy.

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

But if it’d been Weaver or Betfort falling over Ali Riley’s foot? We’d be screaming for the penalty and you know we would.

Yes, it’s soft. No, it’s not outside the range of penalty-producing-fouls. Hubly leaves her leg stuck out, Taylor flops over it…that’s at least arguable. And as discussed above, McCaskill botched the PK, anyway, so it’s not like it was a gimmee that torpedoed the Thorns. Bad luck, shit happens, etc.

No, my problem with Hubly in LA was that she was a turnover machine, especially in the second half. Defensively, fine – her stoning of “The Great Leroux” in the 80th minute was a tiny gem – but Hubs was a hot mess passing out of the back, and as the “regular” amongst the reserves has got to be better than that. The attack can’t die at the end of the first pass out of the defensive third. C’mon, Hubly. You’ve been and can be much better than this.

Beckman (+2/-3 : +4/-8 + +6/-11) On the other hand, Beckman…oof. Just a mess of defensive errors and turnovers from poor passes and tackles-for-loss. This player looked promising in preseason, so I’m hoping that this was just rust from too long on the bench. Because if not…

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Hogan (+2/-1 : +3/-1 : +5/-2) Ignore the minuses; they’re for ticky-tacky little clearing passes. The pluses are huge; three monster saves including the penalty and nearly back-to-back 52nd and 54th minute full-stretch heroics. Coach Wilkinson owes the referee (for not booting Po), Po, Ryan, but especially Shelby Hogan for the point.

Hell of a job, kid.

Image by CBS Sports. Licensed under Fair Use.

Coach Wilkinson: Well…it was a point on the road.

The good is that it’s looking increasingly likely that the goddamn 3-5-2 is dead as Jacob Marley.

The…I’m not sure if it’s bad or what it is…odd is how is seems to me, is that what seems to be the way RW picks her squad.

Why start Betfort over Weaver? Why start Everett over Moultrie? Why start Beckman over Nally?

(In the comments Stephen Duncan points out correctly that two of the three were in the injured list while Moultrie had just returned from international duty. That still leaves open the question. How much worse would a jet-lagged Moultrie – who looked fine in her twenty minutes – have been than Everett? If there’s no one better at forward than an injured Weaver than Betfort, what does that say about depth? Why did Beckman, who looked at least decent in preseason, look so poor in LA?)

I assume that’s because how everyone looked in practice. But if so, then…wow. These practices sure didn’t produce anything decent in LA.

My other thought would have been “Without the bulk of the starters why not play for the scoreless draw against these people?” but the early PK put paid to that, so we’ll never know.

So the XI is an oddity but the tactics are still a mystery. Perhaps next weekend we’ll see what Wilkinson had in mind when we travel to Seattle. That’s one that I’m genuinely worried about; the Damnedelions seem to have had our number so far this year, and it’d be brutal to go there with this makeshift roster and get a total hiding.

That’s a real potential morale-breaker.

So…let’s grab the point, run…and not do that.

We saw how poorly we looked in LA. Let’s see how well this group can do in Seattle.

John Lawes
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2 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Gasp

  1. “Why start Betfort over Weaver? Why start Everett over Moultrie? Why start Beckman over Nally?” – I think the simplest answers are probably right: Weaver is coming off injury (unavailable previous match on injury report) and was not deemed ready for 90, Moultrie was coming off of minutes in youth international play and was deemed not ready for 90, and Nally was listed as questionable (left hip).


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