Thorns FC: TFW…

I don’t have much time to discuss last Friday’s 3-3 draw; tomorrow away against Washington is coming like an eastbound freight.

Except maybe this:

How the hell did the Damned Courage manage to come from two goals down at halftime to splitting the points at the final whistle?


First, let’s give The Damned and manager Sean Nahas credit; the Thorns gave Carolina nothing in the first period and, up two, sagged back and let them shell Bella Bixby in the second. Nahas sent his troops out to stick and move in the second half, and goddamn if they didn’t.

Here’s the shot chart – Portland attacking towards the bottom, Carolina the top:


Couple of things, first; just letting up and going easy in possession up two goals. I ranked on Coach Wilkinson for letting the squad do this in Seattle and letting the Damndelions back into the match.

Well, it happened again here against Carolina.

Another was some atrocious individual and team defending, which we’ll get into in the comments.

A third was Wilkinson losing the battle of substitutions. Some were too early; yanking Raquel Rodriguez for Janine Beckie after the first concession when Rocky was hammering the Damned midfield and Beckie’s defending is…ummm…optional wasn’t particularly clever.

But the worse was swapping Tegan McGrady – who was holding down Ryan Williams on the deep left side in the first half – for Natalia Kuikka and then swapping Meaghan Nally and Kuikka to keep Natu on her favored right side.

The result..?

Carolina ran wild in the southwest corner of Providence Park, and Nally had no answer.

Credit to Carolina manager Sean Halas for this, too; he saw Malia Berkley slogging through the first half (she’s #7 on the left hand plot) and when RW switched Kuikka and McGrady, Halas swapped Berkley for Meredith Speck (#25 on the right side plot) and she ran through Nally and the Thorns defense like a dose of salts.

Another, unfortunately, was a substitution that was too late; Christine Sinclair didn’t come off until 73′.

Here’s her progression; first half on the left, second half on the right:

That’s hard to look at. Keep in mind this isn’t anyone. This is Officer Sinclair of the Order of Canada, possibly the greatest player, or one of the greatest players, of all time.

But not in that picture. That’s just an older player just bonking by the end of the first half and completely running on fumes in the second. The Thorns midfield was playing 2-on-3 for the first 25-plus minutes of the second half, during which time the Damned erased that two-goal lead.


This was one of those awful “draws-that-feel-like-a-loss” things, and having that Daniels Woman stick in the dagger made it feel that much worse.


Time to pull up our big-soccer-player-panties and get over this mess, get stuck into the Spirit, and yank their beating hearts and three points out of their chests.


I may not quite be over this one.

Short Passes

Passing the Passing Test: Epic fail; OPTA has the Thorns at about 70% – actually worse, 69.8% completion – while the Damned were diming each other – 81% – and that’s just not okay. Too many boot-balls, too many hoof-and-no-hope bashes long when we needed to possess and see off the visitors.

Image by Arielle Dror on Twitter

We’ll talk about this in the comments, but Sinc had a hell of a first half – look at her serving Smith and playing off Hina Sugita. Sugita and Smith are passing well, and McGrady and Weaver are accurate if less productive.

But the usually-reliable Sam Coffey was having an off passing night.

And everyone else? Jesus wept, that’s just sinful. C’mon, gang. Gotta do better than that.

Image by Arielle Dror on Twitter

Abby Erceg and Denise O’Sullivan weren’t having a terrific night (and as discussed, Berkley was a dumpster fire…), but everyone else was lit, and that’s a problem for the Thorns midfield and the defense.

Corner Kicks

Sweet mother of pearl. Twelve corners? What the hell, was there a blue light special down at CK-Mart?

All long into the box (except for the weird 48th minute drive), four first half, eight second).

13′SmithLongCleared easily and recycled, but McGrady shot well wide.
15′CoffeyLongDimed Kelli Hubly, whose header went wide right for a goal kick
28′CoffeyLongSailed over to the far top of the 18, where McGrady’s shot was blocked, recycled, and eventually Caswy Murphy collected a long lob.
38′CoffeyLongInto the crowd, cleared, again McGrady tried a lob but Murphy collected easily
48′SmithLine driveCleared quickly from outside the near post.
54′CoffeyLongTo the back post, cleared out but Smith gained possession and cracked a shot which was blocked out for another corner
56′CoffeyLongLooped right to Murphy
67′CoffeyLongOn Sinclair’s head; her looping header was a good effort that Murphy had to get up strong to turn over the bar.
67′CoffeyLongMurphy boxed clear.
73′CoffeyLongCleared out, recycled, but petered out without a shot.
87′CoffeyLongCleared out to Nally, whose shot went wide.
90+2CoffeyLongDropped in to the back post and was cleared.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the Thorns create this many corners. But I’ve also never seen so many corners without any real threat produced from them. Lots of sound and fury, but outside of Sinc’s clever little header signifying nothing.

Image by Craig Mitchelldyer

Player Ratings and Comments

Smith (+17/-2 : +8/-2 : +25/-4) Utterly inhuman.

Obviously Woman of the Match, and worth noting that she created the first goal out of nothing and the third out of a terrific Olivia Moultrie lead pass, and then a mad run that was almost “out of nothing”.

If her teammates could play up to her level this club would run the table.

They can’t, but it’s a nice thought.

Weaver (73′ – +6/-3 : +2/-2 : +8/-5) Smart playing to follow Sinc’s shot to nick the second Thorns goal. Once again, active, intelligent…still needs something more to make her team better, and I’m just not sure how she finds it.

Ryan (17′ – no rating) Invisible, and at the worst time.

Sinclair (73′ – +8/-0 : +3/-4 : +11/-4) I’m not sure whether to put it up to her former CWNT teammate Rhian Wilkinson being unable to sit the captain down and explain how she’s playing right now or what.

But that teammate is doing Sinc no favors right now.

Sinclair has about 40 minutes of good play in her. And she is good, in that time. She’s forgotten more about the game than most players will ever know.

But then she’s done. She can’t run, so she loafs in the opponents’ penalty area when they’re in possession and forces her team to play 10-v-11. And she can’t spring her runs anymore when she’s fried, so her teammates have to slow their attack to her pace, and that’s too slow to be effective.

She’s a good weapon to have on the bench.

But as a starter?

No. Her days are done. And a friend, a teammate, would tell her.

Moultrie (17′ – +3/-1) Some lovely passing, but too little, too late. Got Sinc off the pitch, tho, so, good work there.

Rodriguez (68′ – +5/-0 : +5/-0 : +10/-0) Rocky bossed the midfield for over an hour, and had Sinc been able to lend so much as a toe locking down Ordonez and Williams might have held onto the lead, but when she came out for…

Beckie (22′ – +6/-4) …that ship sailed, hit a rock, caught fire, rolled over and sank. Janine Beckie had some nice touches in attack and did what she could tracking back, but was not really the player that was needed at that moment.

Sugita (+8/-0 : +6/-2 : +14/-2) Hina-san is an operator on the wing, but when she had to move centrally in the second half was caught in the mixer and struggled. Not her best match, but 80% of Sugita is better than 90% the best of most midfielders, so there’s that.

Coffey (+4/-2 : +4/-3 : +8/-5) Not her best night, either. Struggled in the second half chasing down Carolina’s off-the-ball movement and largely didn’t do well at it. Probably as much credit to the Damned as her own issues, tho.

McGrady (45′ – +2/-2) Better than her numbers; her pressuring led to a lot of Carolina retreats and drop passes even though McGrady didn’t have to do a lot a number-winning tackling or defending. Can’t shoot worth a lick, mind.

Kuikka (45′ – +3/-7) What the hell..?

Stunk up the pitch against Louisville, and now this? Utterly asleep on the Daniels (spit!) equalizer as well as giving Ordonez a free header in the 79th that Bixby had to get all hero to save..?

What? Are you hurt? Still pissed about the Euros? What? This is so not like you!

Sauerbrunn (+0/-0 : +3/-0 : +3/-0) Individually, fine. As the boss of the backline? Her unit shipped three goals, including an easy header and a crappy rebound from a cross and shot that should never have been allowed to go in. That’s not what we picked her up to do.

Hubly (+5/-2 : +2/-10 : +7/-12) Completely deconstructed in the second half, including a horrific fail not-marking Debinha’s run in the 60th minute, getting outjumped by Ordonez in the 71st, and sleeping on the Daniels (spit!) run in the 85th minute to cough up two points.

Nally ( +4/-4 : +4/-6 : +8/-10) Hung out to dry at left back, and her coach and team paid the price. She’s not a bad player, but she had a rough outing and she’s NOT a left back, so that’s hardly surprising. I put much of her troubles on her coach.

Bixby (+0/-1 : +3/-2 + +3/-3) No keeper who ships three goals is going to be happy. That said, two of the three were largely on her backline or midfield, and the draw in general was on her coach for letting the Damned park in front of her penalty area and take shots at her through the second half. No keeper outside Kailen Sheridan can survive that for long.

Tough night, and I wouldn’t blame her if she was pretty irked.

Image by Portland Thorns FC on Facebook

Coach Wilkinson: Well…

Hard to find much to celebrate for the gaffer in this one. The goals were largely individual efforts by Smith (with help from Moultrie and Smith and Sinclair and Weaver), but the concessions were largely because of problems at the team level that poor tactics and substitutions made worse.

What made this harder was that we’d just seen a masterclass on killing off a a game holding a one-goal lead:

The Thorns don’t have that level of skill across the pitch, and the Damned were playing smarter (and getting luckier) than Germany was. But, still…to be hoofing the ball into the whins when up a goal rather than keeping possession, taking it to the corner and playing keepaway?

That’s not likely to work well, and it didn’t.

Well, that was that.

Tomorrow we need to go to the capital and do to the Spirit what we should have done to the Damned.

So let’s do that.

John Lawes
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One thought on “Thorns FC: TFW…

  1. The Spirit game worries me because, like the Courage, they are better than their record shows. The Courage put on a passing clinic in the second half and the Spirit are capable of holding the ball well too.
    I too am puzzled by Natu, what is up? I hope she can get back to her Worldie RB level she was at before the International break. We need her energy and skill.
    The other worry I have is that Amber Brooks and Sam Staab are very physical defenders and if they throw Sugita and Smith around like the Courage did with those two crucial players, it could be a rough day. If I were the coach I would want to keep Rocky in there the whole match just to have an equally physical midfielder. Coffey and Kuikka are both pretty physical too, but not Rocky tough. On defense, I think that we need to keep fast people on Hatch and Rodman (Weaver, Ryan and Beckie) to limit their threat.

    I am sure the Spirit know if they don’t win this game they are pretty much out of it this year, a shame because they are good, but for whatever reason they just haven’t been showing their quality. I am still baffled by them because I picked them to be the best team in the league at the beginning of the season.

    The Courage on the other hand do have a shot at the playoffs based on games in hand and the way they played in the second half shows they are capable of beating anyone on the table above them.


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