2022 Final Grades: The Coaches, Trainers, and Management

So the last time we did this – away back in 2019 – we closed out the “Final Grades” series with a look at the folks up at what when I was a GI we called the Head Shed.

That included the folks at the top end of the organization diagram; the ownership, the general manager, the head coach (we threw in one of the assistants, too) and the athletic training staff.

That was a pretty deep dive, because we had a lot to talk about. The GM at the time had a c.v. going back to 2013. The head coach had been in place for four seasons. The training staff…well, we didn’t have much to go on about them as individuals, so we looked at the general health of the 2019 squad, which was actually a big deal because there were a lot of injuries that season.

Last season and the changes that occurred in the recent offseason make repeating the depth of that dive both difficult and pointless, because when we start with…

The Coaching Staff

…the first obvious change is that the head coach will not be coming back in 2023.

I could go over in detail what and how Rhian Wilkinson did last season, but why? It has no bearing on what the head coach – whoever that is – will do in 2023.

For the record?

I think Wilkinson had an ultimately successful year but made the season harder than it should have been, largely because she had several fixed ideas that weren’t true.

The Formation

She started the season with the fixed idea that the best way to set up her team was with a 3-5-2 formation, and as we discussed in the midfielders piece, hung onto that idea until more than a third the way through the season, and through one issue or another dropped points along the way, though mostly thru draws rather than losses.

After finally dropping the three-back the club went from 3-1-5 over the first nine matches to 10-2-5 over the stretch run. When you go from a 37.5 winning percentage to a 58.8? You’ve caught on to something.

But the frustrating part of that is that dropping those points early forced the desperation in New Jersey on Decision Day, and lost the Shield. In the big picture that’s just kind of an irritated shrug, but it was a self-inflicted wound and therefore not something that was out of the coach’s power to repair. Wilkinson should have done better sooner with setting her formation to match her roster.

Which brings us to the way she thought about that roster.

The Positions

Her other idea was her strange inability – or unwillingness – to see that all players have strengths and weaknesses that make them better in some situations and at some positions than others.

I can’t find a link to it, but at some point during the season Wilkinson made a statement to the effect that she felt that players didn’t have “positions”, and that players should be able to do well at whatever they’re set to do.

So in WilkinsonWorld if you are a good winger you should be a good attacking midfielder and a good wingback. Wilkinson’s idea seemed to be that to think that someone is “a right back” is to be wrongly focused on the player-as-position rather than the player’s overall skillset.

Whether that’s precisely what she said or not, if you look at her matchday rosters over 2022 you can see the effect.

She had Hina Sugita, possibly the Platonic Ideal of a #10; not particularly pacy but quick in bursts, a clever dribbler and a silken passer with great field vision, who could also put herself in dangerous positions to either strike at goal or provide service for her teammates.

Wilkinson’s observation? That she didn’t believe that Sugita-senshu was a 10, and instead the coach played Hina-san all over; as an #8, as a winger, as a central midfielder, everywhere except the backline.

That carried on throughout the season throughout the team.

Natalia Kuikka, a strongly right-footed player, had several outings at left back where she flailed in the manner you’d expect. Janine Beckie, a player whose ideas of defending are notional, started several times at right back with the expected results. Sugita, as we’ve mentioned, flipping from box-to-box #8 midfielder to winger and back.


Christine Sinclair…

We’ve beat that to death through the season as well in Sinc’s final grade comment, but I truly believe that one – if not the main – reason Wilkinson is no longer in charge of the Thorns is because her treatment of Sinclair.

Repeatedly starting Sinc over players who were in better form made it clear that Wilkinson’s judgement was not objective about her former teammate and longtime professional first-among-equals.

How could her Thorns players feel confident that once Wilkinson had developed personal feelings for another player that – given how she was willing to sacrifice her team’s chances to put her friend on the pitch – she would be objective and professional about that player and her team?

Summing Up

Rhian Wilkinson can be both; a manager with some very obvious blind spots and shortcomings, and a manager who was smart and skilled enough to make the adaptations she need through the season to take the championship.

(For the record I think that she should have also have been smart enough to know what her declaration to Emily Menges would do to her position with the club. Was it worth the loss of her position? Only she can say.)

That she was a good coach is both obvious and outside and beyond whatever choices she may have made as a person.

Grade: A- (with a note from the teacher: “Ms. Wilkinson, I can’t express strongly enough both how proud of you I was and how disappointed in you I am.”)

I’m deeply torn about Wilkinson. I was insane with frustration over the 3-5-2 and the player switches and Sinc.

Then, late in the season, she made a choice – and, again, whether it was the right choice for her or not is really not for me to judge – that sank her career here.

But aside from all that she adjusted and overcame her initial struggles as a matchday manager and was skilled and clever enough to put the team in place to seize the star. And that star will shine forever, regardless of what happened before or after.

So all I’m left with as I think about The Year of Wilkinson is regret.

Nadine Angerer

When we looked at Angerer last time I noted that:

“As a keeper Angerer was a terrific shot-stopper, and she was known as a penalty-save specialist, famously stoning Marta in the World Cup Final in 2007, and both Trine Ronning and Solveig Gulbrandsen in the Euro 2013 Final.”

December 16, 2019

Then we looked at the Thorns keepers against the spot-kick, and concluded that die Kaiserin had, indeed, trained up a solid corps of goalkeepers who imitated their mentor’s excellence against penalty takers. Given that most studies suggest that penalties are converted between 70 and 85 percent of the time the Angerer keepers of 2019 – A.D. Franch and Britt Eckerstrom – averaged a 33% save rate.

Can we do that again? How did the Thorns do against the spot this season?

Well…we’ve talked about her keepers in general, and the top two were outstanding. The third, Abby Smith, is no longer a Thorn, which kind of speaks for itself.

But unlike the previous seasons, there’s not enough penalty kick data to use that metric.

Bella Bixby never faced a penalty taker all season, and neither did Smith.

Shelby Hogan did – in her single outing against Los Angeles – and saved against Savannah McKaskill. That McKaskill scored off the rebound is not an indictment of Hogan or her coach.

I think we have to be willing to give the PKs a pass and settle for the overall quality of the keeper play in 2022 as a solid signifier that the Eisbär is still on top of her game. Which, I’d say, she still is. Hopefully she will get on well with the new gaffer.

Grade: A

Another damn fine season.

The Training Staff

Last time we looked at the IR to see how well the training staff did at getting players back on the pitch. As I mentioned, in 2019 that was a big problem because the Thorns lost two players to season-ending ACL tears (Seiler and Salem), had Menges down for a total of eight games for two different injuries, and several players picked up assorted knocks but that the training staff kept on the pitch.

Last season was very different.

Several players were in and out of the matchday XI, but most of those were for reasons other than injury or fitness; Meghan Klingenberg missed some time for bereavement leave, the US and Canadian (and Salvadorian and Finnish) national team players (including Olivia Moultrie with the juniors) missed some games.

Injuries, though, were relatively sparse.

The single worst was the foot…fracture?…that Emily Menges picked up against (I think) Washington in May. She struggled on for another couple of games and then was effectively out for the season.

Given that I’m still not sure exactly what that injury was – the Thorns were ridiculously coy about calling it a “foot injury” and not specifying what kind of foot injury it was – it’s hard to day whether the physios could and should have done better.

As we discussed in her comment, Menges has been a regular feature of the IR over the past several seasons. But 2022 was possibly her longest absence from the 18 to date. If she picked up something like a hairline fracture? That’s to be expected and there’s nothing the trainers could do to help her back on the pitch.

But we just don’t know.

To offset that concern, the overall fitness of the 2022 squad was outstanding. For all that the Civic Stadium turf is better than the awful stuff that was a feature of the baseball field it’s still turf, with all that implies for leg and foot injuries. That Pierre Soubrier and the training staff helped the coaches keep this year’s club healthy, turf and all?

That’s big props to them, so…

Grade: A

We keep hearing that the old barn will get a real grass field. Someday.

I hope it’s soon. The players really deserve it, and, who knows? We might even get a national team match here. Someday.

And it’ll make the trainers’ jobs easier, and that’s never bad.

The Front Office Management

As of this moment the Thorns FO consists of two people; owner Merritt Paulson and general manager Karina Le Blanc.

Again, we’re dealing with a mess of issues here. They include:

  1. The trash fire that was the behavior of Merritt Paulson between 2015 and 2022,
  2. The short tenure of the Thorns GM, Karina LeBlanc,
  3. The difficulty of parsing the relative 2022 contributions of LeBlanc and now-fired Timbers GM Gavin Wilkinson, and
  4. The uncertainty over the potential sale of, and new ownership of, the Thorns.

Several of these issues are outside the scope of a post-season discussion so I’ll deal with them quickly and up-front.

I’ll just simply state that based on his history of evasion and deception just since 2021, as documented first by Yates and then in the NWSL/PA investigation, Paulson earns a solid F for failure as a steward of the club.

Bad enough that the PA report amplified the way Paulson ducked responsibility for removing a predator from a position of authority between 2014 and 2021.

But, worse (to my mind) was the constant thread of evading and deflecting from that responsibility once it was revealed to the public in 2021. He simply couldn’t stop trying to bullshit his way out of trouble.

The end result was to make him untrustworthy to many of the fans, and many of his own players.

What’s tragic about this – in the dramatic sense of “tragedy” – is that Paulson was and is a pivotal figure in this league.

He took risks and supported a league that many thought was as doomed as the earlier editions. He put his and his daddy’s money, his time, and his hard work, into keeping the league and his team working and growing.

Had he simply done what was morally right rather than legally safe he would probably end his days with a statue alongside Sinc and Diego Valeri at the corner of 18th and Morrison.


He and his pals – Gavin Wilkinson, Mike Golub – are just more flaming refuse in the Dan Borislow “magicJack” Memorial Dumpster Fire of History.

That leaves…

Karina LeBlanc

KK was a massive fan favorite as keeper in 2013, and I know a lot of fans welcomed her back as an anodyne to the #GWOut drumbeat that erupted in 2021. I love her bubbly personality and loved her ferocity as a player. I had high hopes for her.

That said, the whispering that began nearly immediately after her hire was that she wasn’t really up to the task of general manager, and the whispers became roars when the top pick in the 2022 NCAA draft turned out to be a Twitter Trumpkin and had to be flushed and wasted the Thorns best pick.

The other two picks – Provenzano and Beckman – turned out to be depth pieces, so hard to be either condemnatory or laudatory about them.

I know I’m old, but, honestly? I wouldn’t have thought of parsing a draft pick’s Instagram, and given the short lead time that KK, RW, and company had before the draft I’m not inclined to be too hard on them for that.

Plus the draftee, Sydny Nasello, turned out to be another meh selection (she’s currently mired in mediocrity in a Liga F club in the Canary Islands) in a meh draft year. So I’m not sure that she’d have gone anywhere here anyway, not on a club with Smiths and Weavers and Sugitas. The 2022 draft was poor, but I’m not sure how much, or even whether, that can be hung on Le Blanc.

No, the thing about KK that has me worried is her handling of l’affaire Mengison.

First she let her head coach put herself in a compromising position.

Yes, there was – and is – no official rule against fraternization between management and employees.

No, its never a good idea, no matter what the setting, and LeBlanc should have known that and made it clear from the jump. Fuckadoodledoo, that’s how we got fucking Riley (spit!)!

Then, when the news broke, she did…very little.

First when the news broke internally LeBlanc could have stepped in and taken charge of the locker room, and put everyone in lockdown until things got sorted out.

Or sacked the coach. Or traded the player.

Or come out with the news in a team meeting and strongly supported the coach and the player, given that the league cleared them both of misconduct, and assured the squad that she would ensure that nothing unprofessional would come of the relationship.

Instead she sat on it, received a delegation of players worried about the situation, then when the names of the players who came to KK were leaked to that coach (and leaked to the player she was connected to) the players, spooked, wrote to the league office, the whole mess exploded into the public, and the ensuing detonation cost the coach her job.

That was an avoidable own-goal. Avoidable with a stronger HR policy. Avoidable with a more proactive response to the affair. And that she didn’t avoid it worries me more than KK failing to find out that Sydny Nasello once showed up to a frat house in blackface.

Grade: C-

Normally after the meh 2022 draft but a championship season I’d have given LeBlanc a B-, but her handling of l’affaire Mengison drops that a full grade. The larger question now, I think, is whether she can continue here as GM?

I don’t know…but I have to think she’s been badly weakened by these messes.

I do think that she’s going to have to sell herself to the new ownership pretty damn hard. I know if I was a new owner I’d be looking at her fairly critically.

And speaking of new owners…

The Sale

Because of the endemic fuckery we discussed above Paulson now has to sell the Thorns.

The dude couldn’t attend his own team’s victory party because he’d have been booed off the stage! Of course he has to sell. The official announcement came on December 1st.

For the next 18 days, to the time I’m writing this?


Immediately after the announcement speculation in the press was that the most likely bidder was a group led by someone named Melanie Strong, who’s described as having:

“…spent most of her life in the sports marketing industry, with 17 years of experience working at Nike leading teams in running, soccer, women’s, training and most currently skateboarding…currently she’s been the VP of Marketing for Nike Women and VP/GM of Nike Skateboarding, driving an agenda around innovation, inclusivity, sustainability and access to sports.”

~ https://www.crunchbase.com/person/melanie-strong

She’s also a venture capitalist, a “managing partner” in something called Next Ventures, an outfit with an office in Hood River (as well as Aspen and San Francisco) that has money in everything from medicine to Outside magazine. .

One of her two other managing partners?

That well-known doping cheat, Lance Armstrong.

Hmmm. Okay, then.

Point is, right now we have no idea whether the Strong group is even really bidding for the team, how serious any bidding is, and how close this sale is to happening.

We also don’t have any idea how that will work with Paulson keeping hold of the Timbers, and his Peregrine organization holding the lease to Providence Park/Civic Stadium until 2035.

I will say this; if the Thorns new ownership cannot get a deal – and a good, profitable deal – for the Civic from Paulson and the City the team and the new owners are in deep trouble.

And the devil will be in the details; things like ticket sales, concessions, shared facilities…this is going to be a tough negotiation, and the season starts less than four months from now.

Summing Up

Well, we’re a little more than three weeks out of the NCAA draft. We don’t have a new owner. We don’t even know if there is a new owner or owners in the works or how those works are working.

We have a general manager who, I suspect, is not on great terms with her players.

We don’t have a head coach, and even if an interim manager were to be scrabbled up there’s no guarantee that the person could do anything substantive or who would be acceptable to a new owner.

Indeed, my guess would be and my hope is that the new ownership will thoroughly clean house, including getting shut of most of the Peregrine organization.

This team has lumbered on for too long under the grab-ass, catch-as-catch-can, good-ol-boy Paulson Rules, where an asshole like Mike Golub can get away with being, well, a complete asshole to the people who worked for him because “Hey, that’s just ol’ Mike bein’ Mike!”, where a coach can drink with or date their players and nobody stops for a moment to think “Gee…this probably isn’t a real good idea”.

I think we as Thorns fans have been so sandbagged by this shit for so often for so long that we tend to just groan “Oh, Gawd, what now?!?” when stuff like this happens.

I’m going to be the anti-Eeyore now about this.

I think that this might be an opportunity.

A chance to break out of the Paulson Way.

Paulson – for all the good that he did, and he did do much good! – set the club on a foundation that was deeply flawed.

The Riley atrocity sank deep into those broken foundation stones, cracking them even further, shattering the trust with lies and evasions, and as such foundation failures always do, the failures worked their way up and down through every wall and timber of the house until the failures became too obvious to hide and too fatal to ignore.

So here we are.

Now we have a chance to change that.

To find a set of owners who want to put the players and the team and the fans and the city first, who want to set down a set of fair and honest rules, and then make sure that everyone at the club can and will live by them.

To find a head coach who will see and speak clearly and intelligently, who will make smart and sensible decisions, who will lead the team openly and decently.

To find a way out of the lies and the drama and the drama into the broad, sunlit uplands of honest sport.

That’s where I’d like my team to play.

Wouldn’t you?

Let’s hope that we’re going to find new owners to help take us there.

John Lawes
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13 thoughts on “2022 Final Grades: The Coaches, Trainers, and Management

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful article. There silence from the top is deafening. Normally I wouldn’t care this time of year, but with so much hanging in the balance, it’s stressful for those of us paying attention.

    I look at teams like KC & SD and wonder why not us? Ownership groups should be knocking down the doors right now, yet just one suiter. Do you think Paulson has priced out suiters at 50-60 million? Given Spirits 30mill sale, it would seem so. Maybe it’s his way of keeping the team? “I tried to sell, but no one would buy, so I’ll have to save the team again” MP

    1. Coupla things:
      1) The ‘silence from the top” is Business as Usual. I know I sound like a broken record about this, but that’s how Peregrine does business. Contracts, promotions, announcements…we the fans will find out…whenever. There’s never been any real effort to get information out in a timely fashion and I can’t imagine that’ll start now. I’ve stopped stressing about it. We’ll know when we know. It’s fun to chatter about it, but to get worked up is just unneeded stress. They won’t help you.
      2) Apples, oranges. KC relocated from the Utah tire fire, California was an open market. This is an established club with a) a troubled owner-fan-player relationship history in b) a town with a notoriously demanding and intrusive fanbase. A lot of time and troubles have largely obscured the whole Paulson-Army dustup back in 2011, but Paulson hasn’t forgotten. There’s a lot of institutional memory over the way the owner had to bend the knee a lot to the vocal elements in the Timbers Army. That has to be a factor.
      3) Price? Who knows? Sports teams are like fucking NFTs; they’re worth what people will pay for them. Are the Thorns really worth $30M? $60M? Fucking $6M? Again, this is something that we the fans have no way of knowing. The books are secret. We have no idea if Paulson made or lost money on the Thorns in 2022, and, if he did make money (and my guess is he did) how much.
      4) Paulson can’t hang on to the Thorns. The part about “getting booed off the stage”? That won’t change, not next season, or the one after. That ship has sailed, hit a sunken rock, caught fire, rolled over, and exploded while sinking. No. He’s done here. The only question is who takes it from him, when, and for how much. And what kind of deal can they yank out of him on the lease.

  2. Woof. This is a hard post to read, even after living through the past year-plus.

    One question, for people more versed in applying HR rules than me: assuming the league puts an anti-fraternization policy in place, should Pierre still be allowed to work for the Thorns? I honestly don’t know, he’s not a direct-line manager of the players, but he certainly is in a position where a player could think that Crystal had an issue with her and therefore think that Pierre might not be giving her the best care.

    I’ve said it before, that while Rhian pointed out that she went through a formal interview process before being hired, I don’t believe anyone has ever suggested that KK did the same. The timing between Gavin stepping away from the Thorns and KK being hired always made it feel like she was hired based on a single call from MP with the goal of appeasing the fans. I don’t think she lasts a day beyond a sale.

    (As for Nasello, I’d place a bet on her scoring 8 for the Courage in 2023. Isn’t that the way the world works sometimes?)

    1. The Soubriers do sort of fall outside the sort of relationship that a fraternization policy is designed to prevent. Pierre isn’t Crystal’s supervisor, nor is he in her direct “chain-of-command”.

      OTOH, he’s unlikely to be objective about her training regimen, so if he’s sensible he will ensure that he’s not directly involved. As the head of the staff he can’t be completely outside that process, but the best way to handle it IMO would be for one of the trainers to deal with the bulk of her day-to-day training issues.

      LeBlanc goes back a loooooong way in WoSo, way past NWSL to the WUSA/WPS days. This is a small community, and I’d be shocked if the Peregrine staff didn’t have much to ask her about just in general. She was director of women’s soccer at CONCACAF when she was hired here, so she had administrative and managerial experience. And I think the original plan was that Gavin would mentor her along as she learned the GM job.

      That’s not a bad plan, actually, and her being a fan favorite had to play into it. What nobody foresaw was 1) the thoroughly discrediting Yates report that forced Paulson to can GW, and 2) KK turning out to not be as good with managing people as her c.v. suggested she’d be.

      Now…that’s my view from the outside. It’s entirely possible that if we knew the full inside story I’d be easier on her, and a new owner will have the full story. As I said…I suspect that her position looks precarious, but I don’t honestly know. We’ll see, if the new ownership brings in their own GM.

  3. Very thorough piece John. I think your grade for RW was very fair. She made some rookie errors, then fixed them, owned up to mistakes, made a few really good choices and the team seemed to like her and trust her until they didn’t. She made one judgement error that I hope doesn’t derail her career, because I think she can coach. She is very likeable and honest.
    For LaBlanc your grade was fair too. She has some worked to do to keep this job and pull her grade up to an A.
    I am with Jeff Creel, the purchase of this team is taking a long time. Thank God we had a great WC to follow and enjoy. I have never watched so many games. I have followed men’s soccer in the US somewhat and Spanish Futbol more closely, English teams more sporadically. I had never watched Harry Kane until recently and he is good. Mbappe; what can you say? Just amazing! I have been a fan of Messi, Modric and DiMaria, for ages, Those last three I will probably never see them in another WC so it was sweet.

    1. It seems forever to us, but given all the details to be wound up I suspect that it isn’t really exceptional taking several months for a sale to get worked out. Supposedly we’ll hear something more in January.

      I had hopes to see Morocco in the Final, but France and Argentina gave us more than enough excitement. It can be both; a fun, exciting, engaging event and a byword and a hissing of corruption and shame that FIFA handed the damn thing to Qatar in the first place. But I make no secret of my opinion of those jamokes.

      And, yes. I’m glad that Messi finally got – in what was surely his last chance – his cup, along with DiMaria and the rest of this generation of Argentina. Mind you…had France played like they did in the final 10 minutes of regulation in the first 80? We might not be talking about it…

  4. If the sale announcement goes past January, Do we see an interim coach? Who might that be? Nadine? Your thoughts.

    1. I think someone has to fill in for the club at the NCAA draft, so the answer is “yes”…but if that’s an “interim coach” or just some warm body from the Peregrine staff? Who knows. I’m not sure that Angerer wants to be, or would be ideal as, that person.

      We have about three weeks and we’ll find out, though…

  5. I appreciate your analysis- particularly the finer points of how Rian & LeBlanc handled the menges-Wilkenson entanglement. I also find myself grumpy at Menges, a player I have adored. She knew the team was hurting due to player/coach issues and she was on the NWSLPA, so can’t pretend ignorance. Feelings can’t always be contained, but actions can. She should not have sent the text (she had options) nor should Rian have responded as she did. They should not have approached players who deserved to be protected & anonymous & her argument that they should “trust” her speaks to at best, a harmful naïveté. They were selfish and hurt the team and opened wounds that should have been left to heal. Argh!! A new, exciting, supportive ownership could go a long way. I went to the Wave /Red Stars quarter final and it was exciting in ways I’ve never seen at Providence Park (engaging announcer, fireworks, halftime show that did not involve terrible shots on goal & people dressed as manky fruit, etc.). So I’m hopeful, but given the past, not very.

    1. I think it’s important to remember that “we” – that is, the public in general – don’t really know what went on between Menges and Wilkinson BEFORE the affair became known to the squad.

      I agree that Menges chose poorly to insert herself in her coach’s emotional life in the middle of the season. I’m not sure how much this was affected by her injury. EM has been hammered with injuries since 2017, and I can’t help but suspect that she was pretty stressed and unhappy. Did she reach out to Wilkinson hoping for some love and support? Doesn’t excuse the disaster, but might go a long way to explain it.

      And we don’t really know how Wilkinson responded. Did she reply “Yes, dear, I care very much for you, too, but I’m your coach and we can’t do this now. Let’s put a pin in it and we can explore things after the season”? The external investigation suggests that might have been the case…but, again, we don’t know.

      One part we DO know, and which reflects poorly on the couple’s judgement, is that insistence on the “trusting” they expected from their teammates. Given the history of interpersonal fuckery at the club, given the favoritism RW had shown to her pal Sinclair all season? No, that was boneheaded.

      And for KK, or whoever at the FO that turned the players who complained over to RW and Menges, to not have seen what that would do, well…

      The whole thing reflects poorly on the management at the club, and will, hopefully, be a priority for the new owners.

      And as for them, well…I won’t pretend I really want or care for the sorts of trappings that SDW and several other clubs are providing. I’m there for the football. But I do agree that a more engaged, proactive ownership group would be a good thing for a club I see as kind of mired in a dysfunctional past. We’ll see in the new year, I hope…

  6. You are right, of course, we don’t know the nature of the interactions & my “should”- laden post may not be warranted or fair. But I am grumpy it happened at all. You are on to another post, so may not see this response, but I’m curious about the non-football trappings you refer to. Also, who do you think our coach will be? Is it good or bad that we missed out on Parsons?

    1. I get the irritation. Sometimes it just seems that the club can’t resist pissing in our oatmeal. But, sadly, people being people that kinda comes with the meal. But I hope that the new owners will make personal responsibility a priority.

      By “trappings” I mean all the stuff that you remarked on at the San Diego game; announcer, fireworks, halftime. That stuff – like chi-chi food stalls and cute little tchotkes (although I did like the stretch where the Timbers did a series of player-heads-on-a-stick just because they were so doofy…) handed out at the gate – is kind of “meh” for me if the soccer is crap.

      Good, exciting, aggressive soccer what I go for. I’ll happily sit on a wooden bench in the piss-pouring rain drinking a lukewarm Rainier pounder if the squad is sticking like a big knife.

      And the Thorns soccer at the end of the Parsons Era was kinda crap; lots of kick-and-rush Route One that sometimes worked against the cans but usually got us stomped by The Damned (and in 2021 by Seattle, too…). So adding fireworks and a smokin’ playlist? Not working for me…

      I’ve said this repeatedly over at Stumptown; I got no idea who the new owners are, or what their priorities are, so I REALLY have no idea who they want in here to run this squad. I’m hearing names thrown out without any real idea if those people are legitimate prospects…but the main thing is that until the sale is done the coach is way down on the list.

      The way I see it, the order of operation is:
      1. New owner
      2. Reorganization of the FO
      3. New head coach (and staff, if that new hire wants their own staff)

      So who will that new gaffer be? Look at everything that has to happen first and I’m fairly confident that there’s so many inflection points that it’s damn near impossible at this moment to do more that throw darts at various names.

      And I don’t have enough deep knowledge of the biz to know who’s available, who’d be likely to come here, and who’d be a good fit. So I’m more than ready to wait for steps 1 and 2 to find out who’s behind Door #3…

    2. Oh, and Parsons.

      I think looking at his progression here tells you all you need to know.

      Got a terrific squad to the Shield in 2016 and got screwed out of a Final by Riley (spit!) and FuckingMarcoVega.
      Got to the Final in 2017 and the star (had to thug up The Damned, true, but payback is a motherfucker…)
      Got utterly owned by The Damned in the 2018 Final.
      Got utterly owned by Chicago in the 2019 semifinal.
      Got utterly owned by Chicago in the 2021 semifinal.

      So two steps forward…and then three steps back. It’s a long time gone but that was his rep in D.C.; that he could coach a squad to the knockouts but then his matchday failings would get his squad knocked out short of the top step.

      He seems like a good guy, and he does seem to run a tight HR ship. But I’m not sure we need to try to step into the Parsons River twice. If we did? I’d be fine. They guy’s a solid manager.

      But since we didn’t? I’m not bereft.


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