After the leaves fall…


The Thorns are champions. The trophy looks down on the concourse. The confetti has been vacuumed off the Audi Field grass. The players and coaches and staff have all scattered like the leaves of late November.

What now?

I have some thoughts and I thought I run them by you.

Beginning next week we’re going to take a look back at last season’s squad, handing out final grades much like we did back in 2019, starting with the keepers and the backline and moving up the pitch.

We might stop along the way and chat about some roster issues, too, before the coming NCAA draft in January.

I want to kick around the New and Improved Challenge Cup a bit; is it really all that improved? And, if not, how could it BE improved?

The NWSL/NWSLPA investigation almost surely has to drop sometime between now and March, and as difficult as it may be we’ll need to discuss that, along with all the issues relating to it such as the suggestions we’re hearing about partial fan ownership, or at least a change in the ownership situation.

Given that the current owner wasn’t welcome at his own team’s championship?


As we get closer to the new year it might not be a bad idea to look around at the draft list to see if there’s anyone who might be nice to have here. The free agent pickings seem pretty lean; there’s Debinha first and the rest pretty much nowhere.

(Much as I love the idea of Heath returning for a final cup of coffee, her age, cost, injury history, and the current roster make her an expensive luxury…)

And then there’s the new season.

I think we’ll have enough to keep some seasoning in he Silly Season with all that.

Anything else? Should we have a chat about something that is still bugging you about last season? Something you’re wondering about the next? Just want to knock around?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next week, then…

John Lawes
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5 thoughts on “After the leaves fall…

  1. That is a pretty good list of interesting topics John.
    As I look at this year I am really chuffed that the Thorns did so well. Losing Horan and Salem and then Menges basically not being available all season, Woof! I had thought the Thorns would be one of the four best teams in the league. However, I only had two of those right: Seattle and Portland. I saw Portland as maybe third best behind Washington and Seattle.
    Of course I think few guessed that a slender Japanese player and the rookie midfielder would be so good. I think everybody expected a rough patch for Rhian Wilkenson and very few expected San Diego to be so good, but the evidence was there, good coach, good defense, pretty good midfield, Alex Morgan and a very improved Taylor Korniak.
    Once Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams were lost for the season, I gave KC a snowballs chance in hell. Like Forrest Gump’s mamma used to say “life is like a box of chocolates you never know what your going to get.” This season was kind of like that and it was fun.
    The Thorns will have a lot of holes to fill during the World Cup break and as you are fond of saying the depth isn’t isn’t that great. I don’t follow college soccer, but my impression is there is not going to be a lot of impact players at spots we need players.
    I think there are players on the Thorns that need more playing time starting with Moultrie, McGady, Porter and Betfort at the top of the list. The World Cup will give them all a chance to show and grow. They are hanging on to Vasconcelos for a reason, I think she may be a good fill-in player.

    1. I have to give RW credit; she learned and changed, I didn’t think she would after hanging onto the 3-back so long (and standing by her initial formation in her pressers..). But, yeah. She did. I agree that a big part of the team’s success was that the players seemed to really like her.

      I really don’t have a good sense for which of the depth pieces are “good enough” to get more minutes – Vasconcelos is the poster kid for that, BTW; 14 minutes over three matches? That’s…I dunno what that is. Pretty much nothing.

      As for the others, we’ll be talking about them next week!

      And I won’t kid myself about last season. It was wonderful fun. But the club dropped the Shield on the last day, needed two wonderstrikes to get past SDW, and were damn lucky to get a toothless KCC in the Final instead of an OLR that had our number all season.

      But all sport is a mixture of “good” and “lucky”, and the Thorns were good enough, and got their luck at the right time. I’ll sop that up with a biscuit.

      1. Vasconselos was drafted 11th by Chicago in 2017 after a pretty impressive career at BYU. But she missed her first season due to pregnancy.
        Years Team Apps (Gls)
        2016 Real Salt Lake Women 7 (3)
        2018–2020 Chicago Red Stars 31 (3)
        2020 Utah Royals 1 (0)
        2021 Kansas City 10 (0)
        2021–2022 → Sevilla (loan) 8 (0)
        2022– Portland Thorns 1 (0)
        National team 2017 United States U23
        So she has some experience and as a mother some maturity. But not an impressive professional record either before or with the Thorns. She has scored a goal for Chicago against the Thorns. What I see is a pretty calm person that can come in not make many mistakes and maybe poach a goal or two plus she has some wheels and dribbles well in traffic. Possibly a lot of wishful thinking on my part, but I feel confident that if she plays she will be good enough. At 29 she may only have a couple more years. Here is hoping she has some fun.

  2. I’ve been thinking about Wilkinson’s progress. In the early part of the year she was experimenting, seeing what she’d inherited from MarPar in terms of both players and styles of play. So far so good – you hope and expect a new coach to do that. The 3-back formation was a disaster, though, and she hung on to it far too long. Things looked the grimmest mid-season, when the 3-back wasn’t long in the rear window and she was still experimenting a lot with players and positions. But we started to play better and win more games, and it felt like the team really came together by the end of the year (well, except the Gotham game).

    The players have appeared to like her from the get-go, and that didn’t change from the tea leaves I could read. Winning the championship and nearly the shield will also give her a lot of cred, so she should be able to implement what she wants next year (unfortunately that will probably include Sinclair starting most games). We have a LOT of good players and they all look bought in, so from the outside, her player management looks very good.

    For a near-rookie coach that’s a pretty impressive track record.

    1. I agree in general; RW adapted and grew into the season. She deserves the plaudits and will get a free hand next season. I WILL be interested to see how she deals with the Sinclair Issue, as well as how she and KK do with the draft. Should make for a busy offseason…


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