So I’m going to totally take credit for being the stinging bee that turned Morgan “Ferdinand” Weaver into the Mad Bull of Morrison Street:
So it was written, so it was (almost – the assist wasn’t there…) done; riding a second-half Morgan Weaver brace the Thorns hammered the Chicago Red Stars flatter than an unlucky squirrel that failed to beat the CTA L-train into Oak Park station.
Mind you, at halftime that beating assumed facts not yet in evidence. As they had in Kansas City, and again Wednesday against Louisville, again the Thorns were all over their opponents in the first half, and, again, all that sound and fury signified…well, not “nothing”, but surely “nothing in the way of goals”.
Lots of good ball movement, sure – both Sam Coffey and Hina Sugita pretty much were free to dictate pace in the midfield – and several nice moments; Sophia Smith with a balletic turn and run in the 30th minute (but without support, and Alyssa Naeher stoned her shot); Morgan Weaver with the cross just barely beyond Smith’s head in the 34th minute, and a point-blank Christine Sinclair header off a 40th minute corner kick that was, unfortunately, right at Naeher.
Even with all this, neither side had more than half a goal by xG (Portland ahead of Chicago, but as you can see that was a reeeeeal low bar…) at the turn.
And then the Thorns came out for the second half…
I dunno what happened in the dressing room. I don’t know who said or did what.
All I know is what we all saw; Morgan Weaver decided to get up from under the fucking tree, quit sniffing the fucking flowers, and stomp down to purely gore the living fuck out of the hapless Red Stars.
The second goal was particularly nifty; Smith takes the Kuikka pass in stride and breaks for the near post…
…Naeher breaks late but tight to her post while Weaver thunders through the Red Stars backline…
…for Smith to slot the slide-rule pass across for Weaver to apply the hammer.
By the end of regulation Chicago was down two goals, one player, and deader’n the dodo (thanks for getting sent off for an Amber Brooks Two Finger Salute…
…for a freaking throw-in, Bianca St. Georges, you dope!).
Taylor Porter’s injury time rocket was just kicking the corpse.
I’m not going to spend a bunch of time fretting about the first half; the story of the end of the 2022 season appears to be that the Thorns are just a second half team, and against Chicago Morgan Weaver, Sophia Smith, and the Portland Thorns kicked ass in the second half like crazy monkeys.
One thing though.
The Thorns have won their last four matches by a combined score of 9 to 1.
The Thorns last four opponents have a combined record of 27-30-27
The Thorns top four potential playoff opponents have a combined record of 39-21-24
Passing the Passing Test: Both clubs were tidy in possession, competing about 80% of their passes.
Dror’s diagram shows the nice connection between Smith and Weaver that made all the difference in this one. Also note how high up the pitch everyone is; we’ll discuss in the comments, but I think that Christine Sinclair had a lot to do with that.
Also, Kuikka is an utter beast.
As for Chicago…
…jammed up around the center circle, with Pugh forced deep to get possession. Didn’t help that Yuki Nagasato had a really off day.
Not so much “bad”, but really meager, and the scoreline showed it.
Three; two first half, one second, one short and the other two directly into the box
|38′||Coffey||Long||Past the far post and cleared out to Klingenberg, whose looping whatever-it-was went over the byline|
|41′||Coffey||Long||Kind of a low, flat arc right to Sinclair; her header was strong but right at Naeher|
|90+6′||Beckie||Short||Just timewasting; went to McGrady, who knocked it back downfield.|
Sinc had a nice look from the second corner, nothing from the first and the third wasn’t even trying, so call it 50%? That’s not bad.
Player Ratings and Comments
Smith (+9/-2 : +13/-2 : +22/-4) Sophia Smith…
…doing Sophia Smith things…
…is just goddamn fun to watch.
The big point I got from this one is one that a bunch of us have been trying to make all season; put Smith and Weaver together and emphasize to them the need to play together and see what happens.
Guess what happens?
Oh, and FWIW there was some pissing and moaning about the coach leaving Smith out there for the full 90+ that ended with her getting her bell rung. That was unfortunate, but I think RW’s hand was forced by Coffey picking up a knock in the 70-somethingth minute. She’d had to sub Raquel Rodriguez off before the hour, and getting Coffey out used up her second “window”. Pretty sure that the Weaver-for-Dunn and Kling-for-McGrady were preplanned, and that was that.
Should she have pulled Smith with Coffey? Smith’d just combined with Weaver for a gorgeous team goal and the two looked like they were rockin’ the house; I’d have hated to break up that party.
So…I dunno. Just hope Smith is okay; she’s in concussion protocols or was as of the other day.
Weaver (83′ – +7/-5 : +10/-3 : +17/-8) Hard not to give Weaver WotM; the brace, all the usual Chaos Muppet energy and excitement, and…
…the silly celebration that was the distillation of pure Happy Weaver Warrior Goodness.
Oh, and huuuuuuge props to the group of fans who tried to start a “Dream Weaver” song after her goals. Sorry, gang, the capos won’t let you out to play; 1) player songs are pure spontaneous fun, and 2) the whole idea of “capos” means that spontaneous fun ain’t on the bingo card.
Keep trying, though. We need more of that.
Dunn (7′ – +4/-1) Just fine.
Sinclair (+6/-4 : +4/-1 : +10/-5) Two things can simultaneously be true:
Christine Sinclair had a decent match last weekend; she connected some nice passes, moved well, and helped out defensively in midfield that allowed her teammates to push upfield.
Christine Sinclair should not accept that low bar as a metric for “decent match”.
Sinc DID play pretty well, and it’s painful to reflect that at this point that’s a pleasant surprise. I really hope that she and the club sit down and talk after this season. That needs to happen because Sinc wants to go to the World Cup in 2023, not in spite of it.
Sugita (+3/-1 : +8/-1 : +11/-2) All her usual pluses, although playing out at right wing – where RW moves her when Sinc comes in – tends to mute her strengths.
Rodriguez (59′ – +4/-3 : +3/-1 : +7/-2) Normally I’d rather see Rocky in the midfield over Janine Beckie. They are both effective going forward, but Rodriguez is usually the better defender, and with Sinc lumbering about that’s usually important.
But Sinc was leaping about like a young roe among the mountains, so what turned out to be more effective was…
Beckie (31′ – +10/-4) …going forward, and Beckie had that all over against the Red Stars. Some really pretty passing, tho, yeah, she still doesn’t defend. Didn’t matter in this one.
Coffey (74′ – +6/-1 : +2/-1 : +8/-2) Was doing all her usual good things when she went down. Hopefully she’s okay. We’ll need her in the post-season, certainly.
Porter (16′ – +4/-0) Did nicely filling in for Coffey at the #6, and wow, what a rocket.
Klingenberg (84′ – +4/-3 : +6/-1 : +10/-4) Did well nerfing Mal Pugh, who was really all Chicago had, and provided some pretty service.
McGrady (6′ – +2/-0) Just needed to see out the match, and did, so fine.
Sauerbrunn (+4/-1 : +6/-0 : +10/-1) ‘Brunn had a damn fine match; nothing flashy, but always well positioned and one of the big reasons Chicago ended up with only a single shot on goal.
Hubly (+1/-3 : +5/-2 : +6/-5) Again, Hubly is the “attacking” centerback and is responsible for uncorking the big boomers out of the back. So, when a lot of them go to the opponent she gets a minus, and that’s two of them. But the others are for some positional goofs, so, need to clean those up, Hubs.
Kuikka (+11/-5 / +9/-2 : +20/-7) Whole lot of haakaa paalle goin’ on last weekend; tons of terrific tackling, great passing, plus the hockey assist on the second goal. Lots to like there, especially the recovery-from-whatever-that-slump was.
Bixby (+2/-0 : +0/-1 : +2/-1) Largely untroubled.
Worth noting this, from Chris Henderson:
The thing that drew my eye to this was the raw xG against numbers. A keeper that’s facing a lot of good shots is one whose defense is leaving opponents open for those shots.
It’s hardly surprising give what we saw last week that Katie Lund’s Louisville backline might as well just take matchday off; she, Aubrey Kingsbury, and Didi Haracic must feel like every match is like facing a junior high school recess or the horde in one of those zombie apocalypse films.
Our defensive xG-against is almost perfectly average; 27.87 over 21 games, about 1.3xG per game. But Bixby’s xG-to-goals-conceded is a nifty -10.24, though, meaning that it’s likely she saves us about half a goal a game, similar to Haracic at the top of the league.
To me the shocker is Kailen Sheridan. Despite her defense – the best in the league at 16.96xG, or 1.2xg per game, her differential is only -2.96, or less than 0.2 goals saved per game.
I guess I just automatically assume that “Kailen Sheridan is the best keeper in the league” (except for A.D. Franch in 2017…) and much as I appreciate Bix, it was a bit surprising to see her compare so well with her group.
Well done, Bix. Take some time off and have a mojito.
Coach Wilkinson: Well played, coach.
I’ve been hard on you all season. But here we are, looking at needing just one more win at Gotham to nick the Shield.
It’s hard to fret about matchday details when you look at that.
We do need to win in Gotham.
But then…matchday details will matter, because every match after than will be all-or-nothing; win or go home. There won’t be time and space to make up for mistakes of bad decisions.
That’s going to be a tough test, a test that your predecessor failed his last two seasons.
We’re all in for it now. Let’s see how well you and your troops can do.