2022 Final Grades: The Backline

So last weekend we looked at the Thorns’ goalkeepers. Short look, since only one gave us enough to really talk about.

This week we move up the pitch a bit, though, and have quite a bit more to discuss as we take a look at the defenders.

For the purpose of this post we’ll talk first about the Core Four: Natalia Kuikka, Kelli Hubly, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Meghan Klingenberg. Then we’ll add in the reserves and part-timers, but there’s a bit of give-and-take there because several players moved around the pitch a bit, consistent with Rhian Wilkinson’s stated belief that no player has a “position”.

For this post we’ll include players like Meaghan Nally and Tegan McGrady who were unquestionably defenders though in Nally’s case the “what position” changed quite a bit through the season. We’ll also include Emily Menges, whose minutes were cut short by injury, and two rookies who had a cup of coffee each; Gabby Provenzano and Natalie Beckman.

I’ll note here (as a marker for the remainder of this series of posts) the we won’t discuss several players who are either still rostered or are reported by the NWSL site as having “played” for Portland in 2022.

The rostered player is Jennifer Vasconcelos. Her onl yreal appearance was twelve minutes in the 5-nil home destruction of Gotham in July; the other two were garbage time single minutes in July.

The league site lists three others as having at least dressed for the Thorns. Two actually “played”; Cheyenne Shorts played a minute in the 5-nil home win over Gotham on July 16, and Sophie French a minute the match before that, the away draw in Seattle. Someone named Katy Byrne is listed as dressing for three games in July.

It’s pointless to even consider any of these four; we simply have no means to measure them, how they did, or whether they could or should be pieces of the Thorns. So we’ll simply note them as having been there and move on to a look at the backline.

First, let’s take a look at how the backline did as a unit.

The BacklineS by The Numbers

The Thorns were the third-best defense in the league last season based on goals against, so let’s start there. Here’s how the top four looked last season.

The defenses are assessed based on nine categories. The raw data include four metrics; goals conceded (“goals”), shots against (“shots”), shots on goal against (“SOG”), and xG against (“xGa”).

These are broken down by the raw values divided into minutes played: minutes played per goal conceded (“M/G”), minutes per shot (“M/S”), minutes per shot on goal (“M/SOG”), and minutes per xG against (“M/xGa”).

Obviously a squad that gives up shots and shots on goal more frequently – that is, if the M/S and M/SOG numbers are smaller – is giving their opponents more looks on goal.

A squad that gives up more xGa and goals more frequently – that is, that goes fewer minutes between expected goals and goals – is giving those opponents better looks – and more successful looks – at goal.

So how’d these four do? Let’s list them, ranked top-to-bottom by goals-against.

TeamGAShotsSOGxGaMinM/GM/SM/SOGM/xGa
OL Reign192568523.62247118.38.826.495.3
San Diego213079827.72390113.87.824.486.3
Portland242879834.0233097.18.123.868.5
Houston272448429.2226583.99.327.077.6
Averages22.7273.591.328.62308103.38.525.481.9

Portland’s goalkeepers faced about an average number of shots for a top-four keeper (only about 5% above the mean, a statistical hiccup) and about the same average for the frequency of those shots – one every eight minutes or so.

Shots-on-goal are fairly nominal; Portland sitting about seven percent higher than average, but that’s also within the range of random variation enough so as to be as likely to be noise as it is to be really significant.

The minutes-per-goal are right where they should be, given the overall goals-against; third in GA, third in minutes-per-goal.

No, I think the worrisome numbers are in the xGa columns.

Portland gave up 20% more dangerous opportunities than an average top-four team last season. More than 40% worse than the league’s best xGa stat (put up by the Seattle Damndelions).

To sum up:
– Portland’s goals-against is in the top four in the league (good!)
– Portland’s goalkeepers faced roughly similar numbers of shots and shots-on-goal per game as the other top four teams’ keepers.
– But the Portland backline allowed (or were worked into) conceding more dangerous shots and shots on goal than the other three goals-against leaders.

Which means that the goals-against stat is not because our backline was crushing opponents in front of our goal and preventing dangerous shots but because Bella Bixby is a goddamn beast, and she (and Shelby Hogan…) stoned those shots.

Relative to the top defenses in the league, the Thorns defense gave those opponents a LOT of good looks at goal last season.

So with that in mind, let’s talk defenders.

Natalia Kuikka

The supposed primary starter at right back, Kuikka’s 2022 was marked by three major hiccups; her repeated appearance across the pitch at LB, her absence for the Olympics, and her (possibly related to the first two) disastrous mid-season loss of form. Here’s her net plus-minus rating (PMR) over the season. The Thorns average PMR in red, Kuikka in blue.

Having started well above her squad, Kuikka ran into trouble immediately, and by Matchday 5 was performing well below average. This coincided, if you recall, with several appearances at left back, where she was very clearly…not a left back.

She’s strongly right-footed, for one thing, so she would tend to cut inside when pressured to put the ball on her favored right foot. The whole business seemed to shake her, so when she left for the Olympic Games she had just begun to recover her form…

…and something at the Games knocked her back down again.

It took five matches for Kuikka to recover anything close to her early season form, and late in the year she was still up and down; luckily her best match after midseason was also the Final, where she helped bring home the goods.

Her numbers are solid defensively (fullbacks aren’t likely to win in the air, so it’s the first two that make her look good) and her passing is decent.

It’s worth noting, though, that in a modern system fullbacks are expected to provide attack, largely by passing and crossing in. Compare Kuikka’s 2022 with a much-less-used teammate who also played along the right touchline:

PlayerMinutes playedCrossesSuccessful crossesKey passes
Kuikka1,65836818
Beckie896451318

That’s not a great look for Kuikka.

Don’t get me wrong. I like what she brings. I think she’s a good defender, and works hard in attack. I don’t have major issues with her, and I’ll be fine seeing her here next season.

But when I look at the tables above, and then look at this…

You know who this is, right?

Yeah, her. That’s kinda…hmmm.

Grade: B- (with the teacher’s note: This student showed much improvement towards the end of the semester. Keep it up!)

I think that a lot of Kuikka’s issues last season were a combination of coaching and confidence problems, both here and for her national team.

Hopefully she and Coach Wilkinson have worked things out, and she’ll be in better – and more consistent – form next season.

But last season she was not significantly better than a journeywoman right back (Westphal), so there’s still room for improvement, and I think Kuikka needs to keep after it over the next year and beyond.

Kelli Hubly

Here’s Hubly last season by the numbers.

Those are respectable numbers! Here’ s her PMRs, first against the team average:

Again…respectable. Though what I see there is a player who went through a weird patch in midseason, yo-yoing from “terrific” to “WTF?”.

Hubly’s deal back in 2018 and 2019 when she was still largely a reserve and spot-starter was that she was a “high-risk/high-reward” player. One match she’d crush it, the next she’d cough up a massive defensive hairball and lose you the game.

A big part of her progression to starter meant cutting down on the derps, and she did; over the past couple of seasons she’s been rock-solid in back.

Last season I think the same early-season coaching issues – changes in formations, changes in rosters, changes in tactics – that hit Kuikka hit her hard, too, and that contributed to her troubled midseason.

As the coach and team stabilized towards the runup to the playoffs, Hubly did as well. She had a bad game in Jersey on Matchday 22, but was a rock in the playoffs.

Overall, though, she’s had better seasons:

Obviously the small sample sizes, especially in 2019, skew these numbers but again we see how Hubs cut down on her minuses – a lot! – but also had fewer big games and pluses.

That’s not the end of the world, but I’m hoping that with a full stable season under her coach and with her teammates she’ll have a better 2023.

Grade: B

Decent work, not up to her best, but still among the best in the league and, obviously, enough to bring home the spatula. I trust that this will springboard Hubs to a better season next year.

Becky Sauerbrunn

‘Brunn returned to the Thorns struggling with injury, and had to play her way into full fitness.

When she did she was defensively solid and excellent at passing out of the back.

Her PMRs are likewise respectable.

Tough three-match period returning from the Olympics, but after that tracking perfectly with the team, suggesting how important ‘Brunn’s form is to the backline.

Grade: B+

Sauerbrunn is often touted as a prospective coach in the future. That’s…interesting, because based purely on my observation as a player she doesn’t seem to do a lot of “coach-y” things. She seldom organizes the backline, and you seldom see her talking to her teammates; that’s Klingenberg, or Menges when she’s there.

I have the same sense about ‘Brunn that I do about Christine Sinclair; that they’re “lead by doing” sorts of players. While they have a crap-ton of soccer intelligence, I’m not sure that they would or will be good at imparting that to people playing for them. I’m not sure they want to try that, either. But we are likely to see before too long; both are aging out, and I doubt that either will be here long after the coming World Cup cycle.

Still, a good season from Sauerbrunn, and – provided she can Beat the Player-form Reaper (see Klingenberg, Meaghan…) should be solid in 2023.

Meghan Klingenberg

What can you say about Kling what hasn’t been said? Team spirit, sparkplug, huddle ranter, ageless…she’s been a defining part of the Thorns since her first season here in 2016.

As her past-seasons PMR chart suggests, though, while she can still run with most wingers not named “Purce” she’s losing the race with Time.

Like Hubly, she cut down on her oopsies last season but, also like Hubly, she didn’t have nearly as many big games, either.

One metric that really dropped off was her support for the attack. Her crossing numbers? Ouch.

Again, look up at the Westphal numbers. Kling really struggled going forward last season compared to Westphal, a good-but-no-more-than-that fullback.

Some of that was purely roster-and-tactics changes that didn’t suit her game.

The 2022 Thorns were less dependent – and less successful – at the crash-the-box-and-cross-in sort of direct play they used a lot while players like Lindsey Horan were here. Sophia Smith is a very different sort of striker, and she lacks the need for Klingenberg swinging in crosses or lead passes that Tobin Heath and Horan and Nadia Nadim did.

But part of it was, I suspect, Kling having to stay home a lot more to prevent being skinned.

Her pace has got to be dropping off rapidly, and positioning, anticipation, and intelligence can only get you so far. The brutal hiding she took from Gotham’s wingers in Matchday 22 was a reminder than sometimes youth and energy does overcome age and skill.

Grade: B- (by team standards) C+ (by her own)

I’ve been here before; predicting the End for Klingenberg, and every time she’s given me the finger – hell, back in 2019 I got the Amber Brooks Two-Middle-Finger Salute when I called her dead at the end of 2018 and she roared back that year – but I think the erosion is getting pretty rapid and steep now.

I think one big red flag might be trading or drafting for an elite left back over this offseason. Tegan McGrady is a decent journeywoman, but if we see the club deal for someone with big numbers at LB? That might be the sign that Kling has signaled for a sub off.

Until then?

It’d be foolish to write her off completely. I suspect she’ll be in the southwest corner come April.

That’s it for the regular starters. We also have three part-timers and reserves.

Meaghan Nally

Nally was Coach Wilkinson’s preferred fill-in when the regulars were gone for whatever reason. But her position varied and with it her performances.

Overall she’s a good defender; those tackling and duels numbers are among the best of the backline even though the N’s are pretty small (20 tackles, 44 duels – compare that with Hubly; 52 and 170, respectively) and her passing is outstanding.

As a centerback she was solid; not quite up to Hubly/’Brunn levels (which is why she wasn’t starting…) but did enough to keep the team going and occasionally terrific (hello, Matchday 6!).

As a fullback…hmmm, not so much. She’s not super pacey and lacks a fullback’s read of the game she needs to not get caught upfield.

That string of midseason games seems to have convinced her coach that she needed to stick with the starters so, after an especially awful outing in Cary on Matchday 16 we saw no more of Nally in 2022.

Grade: C

I’m not sure that the (relatively) low grade is entirely on Nally; her coach did her no favors shopping her around when it looks like Nally is uncomfortable at fullback. And she’s a reserve, and young one; I think there’s a lot of room there to grow and improve. But for now, her numbers and her play last season suggest she will continue to be a reserve in the coming season.

That’s fine. Everyone needs reserves.

Tegan McGrady

McGrady came to Portland in a midseason deal that sent Madison Pogarch to San Diego, breaking the hearts of all those fans who loved Po’s football-linebacker/hockey-enforcer attitude and style of play.

Here she appeared in only seven of her 16 matches listed for 2022, six of them as a late-match sub.

As you can see; overall, McGrady is a very decent player. Her crossing, in particular, compares favorably with the player she usually replaced, Klingenberg.

And she matches up fairly with the player traded for her:

Better in the air and marking, not as good a tackler, and as passers pretty much a wash.

Plus McGrady is the anti-Po; low-risk/decent-reward. She’s not going to dime Yazmeen Ryan for an equalizer at the death, but she’s also not going to get sent off for some dumb aggro move.

She’s a classic “reserve”; good, not great, but reliable and steady.

Grade: B+ (as a reserve)

As such, I see no reason she won’t be here next spring…unless the draft turns up someone shockingly better.

Okay, now…these two

Natalie Beckman

This player was a winger at the University of Denver, and both Chris Henderson and the writers at Stumptown loved the hell out of her when she was picked last January.

Well…she may have played one match at winger…on July 10 she subbed in for Yazmeen Ryan in the 73rd minute at the Clink in the 2-2 draw there.

I wasn’t impressed;

Beckman (17′ – no rating) As discussed; not the problem, but a problem in the sense that Wilkinson just doesn’t have impact subs when the internationals are gone, and that’s on the FO. Not discreditable, but couldn’t help hang onto the three points.”

~ Point Taken, July 14, 2022

So…as a winger, not so great, and her other outings were all as a defender:
– on June 12 she subbed in for Sauerbrunn at 64 minutes,
– on June 19 she replaced Pogarch in the 74th minute,
– and on July 16 she came on for Pogarch again in the 78th minute.

So pretty much garbage time minutes, and hard to tell anything from that.

She did play one full match, the 1-1 draw at Angel City on July 1. Her performance then was…well, I’ll let me speak for myself:

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…”

~ Gasp, July 4, 2022

Ouch. That’s just brutal. And that’s really all the information we have, so…

Grade: F

I’m not sure that Beckman is worth keeping if she can’t be better than that. Hopefully she can be better than that. We just don’t know.

Gabby Provenzano

Provenzano got even less time on the pitch than Beckman. Thirteen minutes on June 3 as a replacement for Sauerbrunn – Wilkinson was still using the three-back at that time – against Angel City, and replacing Nally, also as a centerback, in the July 10 match in Seattle for the final 17 minutes.

Provenzano’s only full match was as a centerback in the same road draw in Los Angeles that Beckman cratered. Here’s what I had to say then:

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.”

~ Gasp, op. cit.

So…better than Beckman, anyway. But that’s not a lot to go on. Let’s be charitable, though, and…

Grade: B

I don’t have strong opinions on either of these players; right now they’re virtual unknowns, deep defensive depth. Provenzano seems decent, Beckman doesn’t, but we may well have to find a way to get good service out of them during the World Cup next yer. So if we can’t…well, we need to replace them sooner than later.

Now comes the section I simply hate to write.

Emily Menges

She’s been a fixture in the backline since 2014.

Since her terrific 2016 and 2017, when her name was consistently mentioned as a prospective national team player, Menges has, as the sportwriters put it, “struggled” with injuries.

Struggled is putting it kindly; Menges has been fucking hammered with knocks, and hasn’t played a full season since then until last year. I’d hoped…well, we’ll get there.

Then came 2022, which was perhaps her worst hammering over the post-2017 period, going out with a foot (fracture?) after Matchday 2 that kept her off the squad the rest of the season.

In her first two matches she was in terrific form.

This hurts me to write. I’ve loved this player, both professionally and personally, for years. She has always carried herself with the sort of quiet professionalism that I believe a true sportswoman should carry.

She’s been a mainstay of a very good defensive unit through that time, and I had great hope that her largely-healthy 2021 suggested that her big problems with fitness were behind her.

That didn’t happen. 2022 was not good for her and, I think, her backline as a unit.

Grade: Withdraw (Passing)

She’s only 30…but I’m really concerned that she’s become that dreaded adjective; “injury-prone”. I worry about her staying on the pitch next season.

I hope I’m wrong.

I think that in 2023 this unit will need a stiff infusion of Great Wall Emilyness, and I hope to see Menges be the one to give it.

Summing up

The Thorns had a respectable defense overall last season…but one that had an unnerving tendency to 1) go walkabout at times in scary ways, while 2) giving up a lot more dangerous opportunities and shipping bad goals that they should have.

My personal suspicion is that having Menges back full-time will settle a lot of that. She’s just that crucial. I think having their coach settled into a regular back four will settle that, too; no more three-back? Ohhellyes!

Still, overall? There’s a lot to like here now, and I think we’ll like it more next season.

Overall Grade: B (with a note from the teacher: “I like what I see and have great hopes for better next semester!)

Next up: The Midfield

Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

14 thoughts on “2022 Final Grades: The Backline

  1. I’m more than concerned about the ability of coaching/ management to draft after and/or develop young players. 3 strikes for the 2022 class. Ouch.
    Hope for a better 2023 class.

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    1. All I am going to say about that is it is easy to pick the number one or number 2 pick in the NWSL draft. Outside of that it is a crapshoot. Maybe you get Yu, maybe you get Sam Mewis.

      In 2016 Parsons first year saw Alex Morgan leaving and we got the second half of the wall of Emilys out of that. Rest of the draft we got Emily Ogle. It is easy to hit on the Number 2s.

      Wilkinson and co were part of what turned Coffey from a high level college level 10/8 to a National team level 6. Provenzano can be Nally. Not everyone comes ready to play day one. 2020 Nally did not play, 2021 4 games 26 minutes. 2022 17 games 1500 ish minutes in NWSL competitions. Was placing her on the wing a disaster, yes. However, she did a serviceable job when in the middle. It can even be said that Weaver has developed more this year then in the 2 years under Mark. I will say the jury is still out on if this team can pick immediate impact players from college. If we don’t trade up past 12 I don’t think we will get a good look on that this year either.

      I will say I find grading draft classes before at least 3 years after in any sport is a fouls errand.

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      1. We now all of this is academic. Thorns will have a new coach, new owners, and the team team will be entering the draft in 6 weeks possibly without a coach. I guess it is on Katrina to rely heavily on her scouts to help make the picks. With the eventual separation of duties between the clubs this draft could be one of the worse ever in terms of proper vetting.

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        1. I suspect that both LeBlanc and Wilkinson already have their targets mapped out and, frankly, the Thorns don’t have many or many high picks in this draft; the last pick in each round.

          I’m more concerned about what sort of factions might have emerged in the locker room about the combination of the Menges-Wilkinson affair and the reactions to the Paulson sales announcement. It seems like there might be a big rift with Sinclair and Menges on one side, Klingenberg and Sauerbrunn on the other, with their teammates caught in between.

          I might pause this series to post an open thread to discuss. Thoughts?

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    2. ????

      Beckman was an attacker but has been used largely as a centerback. That’s not a particularly simple or easy conversion, so that it wasn’t successful is more on the coaching staff than the FO. We know Wilkinson has stated her belief that there is no such thing as a “position” associated with a player. In some cases that might have worked. For Kuikka and Beckman, it didn’t.

      Provenzano has been a fine depth piece.

      Nasello was a 100% “Portland” problem – you’ll note that the Damned didn’t even blink before re-signing Daniels. Would she have done well on the field? Who knows.

      I wouldn’t have thought to check her Twitter for MAGAism, either.

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      1. Last year’s draft was destroyed by the COVID draft and extra eligibility. My top players just went off the board one by one. This years draft doesn’t appear much better, but we’ll see who applies.

        When we acquired the 12th pick, I was thinking Cameron Tucker. Nope. She was a discovery player. I was actually happy when Nassello dropped because she was one of the few players left in my original top 15.

        To be fair, I didn’t see Ordonez doing what she did, but she was my cut off point in good players last year and Nassello was right after her.

        Nassello had one outstanding skill (her dribbling) and some tools to work with, but her adjustment to the pros was always going to be a challenge with her size.. I doubt she’s good enough to overcome the negative way her pro career started, but I still stand by the skill set is there.

        The irony is I think a lot of fans are quick to judge players. I never believe there will be more than a handful of players capable of making an impact in year 1. I expect rookie seasons like you are from Provenzano and Beckman. They are the norm. Not the exception.

        Provenzano is a smart player with limited speed. She’s going to be a solid backup for a long time and I think she has some Rachel Corsie possibilities to her game at the high end. She’s smart and in position, but foot speed is a problem. I’m fine with her as a backup.

        Beckman is kind of the same and I thought she showed well in the preseason with some interesting attacking potential from the fullback position, but she was outmatched as the season went on. I think there is a player there, but can understand the negative perspective.

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        1. Nasello has been unimpressive for her Spanish side. I’m not sure why, obviously I haven’t seen her play. But it does suggest that, at the very least, the possibility that her skills peaked at the NCAA level.

          I think Provenzano is exactly that; useful depth. Beckman? I think it depends on what the new HC makes of her. Wilkinson tried to make her a back, and she was a very poor back. She might do well as a winger, but this club already has a lot of wingers. Unless another of them moves on – and Beckie might just do that – I don’t see Beckman moving up the depth chart much.

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          1. I never believe a player peaks at the NCAA level. Nassello has a special strength and a massive weakness. She can handle the ball like very few players, but she’s a small finesse player and those players flame out a lot.

            You have to have a special demeanor to overcome lack of size with the physicality of pro soccer (Denise O’Sullivan and Meghan Klingenberg). My guess is players are more apt to be more physical with her because of her attitude.

            I think Beckman is worth a flyer much in the same manner than Marissa Everett was. I’m not expecting much, but she is a smart player whose a good passer. I wouldn’t want her as my prime backup, but as the 21st or 22nd player. Fine. Her skill set made her a good pick compared to others around her in last years dumpster fire draft. Is she differentiated from Jada Talley? Not really,

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            1. You’re kidding, right?

              Talent in ALL sports is a pyramid, and at every level from youth and rec league on up numerous players top out. For every 1,000 players at the youth or rec level maybe 100 are good enough to play at the senior amateur/NCAA level, maybe 10 will make it as professional-level squad players, and 1 will be genuinely good/star/international-grade.

              And, yes; that’s a big part of it – at the pro level for every good player who’s 5’2″ and 102 pounds that runs a 4.4 40 yards there’s a player who’s 5’6″ and 122 who is just as fast. That’s another big element in the “peaks at the high school/NCAA/semipro level”. That, attitude, intelligence, mental hardiness, coaching, environment…

              So is Nasello capable of being a useful pro? Sure! Or not! So far she doesn’t look very good at the pro level, which, again, points up that having the tools is only part, and sometimes not the most important part, of success in moving up to the next level.

              Beckman needs a coach who will either use her as a winger – which seems to be her strong suit, that’s where she played in preseason last year and looked decent – or take the time to work hard with her on defending. I don’t think Wilkinson did the latter, and she only did the former once.

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  2. Thinking only about soccer for a minute:

    I’m surprised by Kuikka’s low-ish PMR score in the semifinal. I thought she did an outstanding job there of keeping Jakobsson in her pocket. Perhaps part of the score is that she didn’t get into the attack as much as she did earlier in the season, which could well have been a coaching decision. But overall I’d have given her a B for the season based on the eye test – from what I remember she was good early on, dropped way, way down to awful after the mid-summer break, became good again, and then rose to exceptional in the playoffs.

    I don’t know if Westphal has gotten better since leaving here, but at the level she was here, I’d have benched her in favor of Kuikka any day of the week – with the possible exception of that post-midsummer period of Kuikka’s.

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    1. Her first half was ug-lee going forward; lots of bad pass giveaways. Here’s what i wrote:

      Kuikka (+4/-9 : +5/-2 : +9/-11) Like Hubly only tighter and flailed more in the first half; all her minuses are for turnovers or other losses. Like Hubly, righted herself in the second half, and the bottom line is that her unit didn’t let San Diego pee a drop after the 8th minute, so…

      If you look back, pretty much the whole backline got B’s – good, not great (which is kind of the definition of “B” as a grade). Those who were a bit better, like ‘Brunn or McGrady as a reserve, got B+, those who struggled, like Kling and Kuikka – either over the whole season or in Kuikka’s case just in mid-season, got B-. Had her whole season been like the beginning and the end? B+, even A-. But with that big dropoff in midseason – even tho I think a lot of it was on RW and not her alone – I can’t see her as better than her B-average unit…

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  3. Hubly is the poster child of skill development at the pro level. She just kept improving and getting better and better. You see jumps in players. Seeing the development from mistake prone athlete to what she was this year was really lovely,

    With regards to Becky, I did notice that she spent more time talking to Coffey during game play and I’d see Sam correct items on the fly after those conversations. Maybe reading too much into that, but I doubt it.

    I love Kling. She’s such an entertaining personality and I thought she was washed years ago, but she keeps coming back and playing within her skill set

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    1. She actually had a bit more uneven season in 2022 than she’d had in a while – some of those big derps returned. As I said in the piece; I wonder how much that had to do with the tinkering that RW did with the backline?

      The ‘Brunn-Coffey thing seems weird until you think about how long ‘Brunn spent behind Julie Ertz. I’ll bet she saw some technical skills that helped Sam Coffey out.

      Kling is one of my long-time favorites. But time is the one opponent that eventually skins you.

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