The Dead Time

Back in my younger days…

OK, OK, sorry. I tried to figure out a way to lead into this one without sounding older than dirt. But that’s kind of impossible; I AM older than dirt. So I might as well just lean into it.

Anyway, I was a GI back in the 1980s, back in, y’know, when it was a “peacetime” (mind you, don’t ask the Nicaraguans or El Salvadorians about that…) Army.

Since we weren’t being constantly reminded of our “warriorness” we tended to do what soldiers in barracks have done since Rome; hide, shirk, and faff off whenever possible.

The week between Christmas and New Years?

PRIMO faff-off time.

In fact, many stateside units – many whole stateside posts – went to an official “half-day schedule” during that week. The joes and mollies would show up for PT after first call, then spend the rest of the morning pulling maintenance or sitting through the various mandatory classes that the DoD or Department of the Army or TRADOC or Post or Corps or…well, the Echelons Above Reality, generally, thought we needed.

Then fall in for COB formation at noon and the afternoons were our own.

We’d hit the gym, or hang out in billets watching television (and remember, Eighties here, so we’re talking if you could find a He-Man marathon on WTBS you were golden…) or napping.

The week was often referred to as “The Dead Time”, a sort of military Samhain, when we saw the old year out but the new hadn’t begun, when we simply drifted, waiting for the yearly cycle to begin anew.

What’s the point of all this memory-boxing?

Because since the first of December we Thorns fans are in our own personal Soccer Dead Time.

The sale of the club was announced on December 1.

The resignation of Rhian Wilkinson was announced on December 2.

Since then?

Nothing.

The initial rumors of the Strong group buy-out haven’t been refuted, but there’s been no word on the sale other than that there have been meetings between that group and Peregrine Sports. How well those meetings went, what was discussed – in particular, whether potentially contentious issues like the stadium lease and associated financials were discussed – and how near or far apart the two parties are?

No idea.

The replacement manager? Also nothing, and the draft is just over two weeks out. We haven’t heard whether Wilkinson has actually left the building, whether she’s helping advise the FO, or whether the FO is planning in scrounging up an interim head coach to plaster over the hole until the new owners are in place and can hunt up their own candidates.

In the meantime we’re so desperate for an outlet that the last Thorns piece up at Stumptown has over 1,000 comments, a tribute to both the unflagging interest of a subset of the fanbase and the commitment of SB Nation to the “news and nothing but the news” model of sports fansite reporting.

Offseason deep dives into human interest stories, statistics, or personal ruminations? Heaven forfend!

I won’t pretend to have anything much better here.

I’ve got no inside information on the sale, or the head coach. I haven’t seen anything on the players still at least notionally out of contract.

But I do want to come up with at least a couple of potential discussions, so…

The Draft

…looks, frankly, pretty lame as of 12/28/22

(FWIW, Chris Henderson, who actually follows the NCAA, thinks that the bigger names will drop in later, so we’re not looking at what we’ll see on Draft Day. But I’m going to begin here and will update as we get closer to the draft…)

First is because this just doesn’t look like a particularly stacked draft. There’s no immediate star-quality players this year. No Macarios, no Smiths, not even a Girma or two. There’s a fair number of decent players, but nobody that everyone is mad for,

(And recall that the vast majority of draftees never play; something like 40% of the 2022 draft class never played a minute last season. So even “decent” players might not be decent enough to make it as even a squad player in the pros.)

Second is that as champions, and with no residual picks from earlier deals, Portland is fucking dead last in every round. So #12 overall, last in the first round, #24 in the second, #36 in the third and dead last in the fourth.

How does that shake out for players?

Every year Top Drawer Soccer ranks the best players in college soccer. I looked through the top fifty; here’s 1-25, and here’s 26-50.

Of those top fifty players a total of nine appear on the NWSL site’s list of declared draftees this morning.

Assuming the first seven clubs – Gotham and Orlando have two first-round picks, the Damned Courage have three – cherry pick the top prospects we’re already down deep in the weeds before we get to pick #12. So it’s going to be a question of “what can the FO – whoever’s going to be representing the FO – get from the scraps”…or cross our fingers and hope that a bunch of top players drop in between now and mid-January.

Which brings up a larger question; what do the Thorns need from this draft, given that we’re probably looking at not-much-more-than-depth by even the first opportunity?

Well…a problem is that we don’t exactly know what the squad already looks like.

Take left back.

Right now we can agree that 1) assuming Meghan Klingenberg returns next season, she’s probably not good for a full 90 from every start, so that 2) we need a reliable backup, and that 3) Teagan McGrady isn’t officially re-signed, so it might be her…or it might not.

Take goalkeeper.

We need a third-string keeper.

Is a college level keeper going to be ready to step right in? Shelby Hogan sure looked like she could. Or would we be better off to, say, sign Michelle Betos off the waiver wire?

Since we don’t seem likely to be able to make any sort of guesses based on the combination of the Top Drawer rankings and the draft list, can we make some guesses based on Chris Henderson’s “draft cheat sheet” and the likely club needs, instead?

Given what we do know, here’s my guesses on needs, and my guesses of urgency:

  1. Left back (reserve) – as discussed above, this might need to be a draftee if McGrady isn’t re-signed. But she might be signed already! Let’s pin this and move on to…
  2. Centerback (reserve) – my guess is that Menges is done here. Last season RW experimented with Meagan Nally at CB, and she was better there than she looked at FB, but I think we still need depth if we can find someone decent. This one’s a bit of a tossup, though, because Provenzano might do well in this slot; she looked decent last season. So let’s stick a pin in this one, too.
  3. Right back (reserve) – same issues as with Kling; Kuikka needs a reliable backup, and right now we have some questions about the reserves (Nally, Beckman) here.
  4. CDM (reserve) – again, depth behind Sam Coffey; Taylor Porter looked pretty iffy here in 2022. It might be nice to have a good draftee behind Coffey and maybe Porter.
  5. Goalkeeper – need a new #3.

I don’t see any really pressing starting needs anywhere across the pitch, and I suspect we’re in pretty good shape for reserve forwards and wingers, too.

So let’s look at what Henderson offers as potential at the four positions laid out above.

Let’s take them in order of the list.

And I’m going to just pick out one or two top (or likely) picks; IMO given the low rounders and the kind of “meh” feeling I get from this draft I’m not sure how much value there is going deep into the weeds on this. If you want you can chase down Henderson’s cheat sheet at the link above.

So…

Left Back

Henderson’s top two left backs are a study in contrasts. I think one is at least a Thorns “maybe” get, but the other is a “huge longshot”, so let’s get the longshot off the board first.

Reyna Reyes

An Alabama senior out of Texas, Reyes has big numbers on Henderson’s rating scheme, which he used to call “Impact” and now calls “Pegasus”. Here’s how he explains it:

“I rebranded last year’s “IMPACT” rating as “PEGASUS”, simply because I liked the name better. It’s meant to be the catch-all measure that sums things up based on how often a player is one of the best on the field in games throughout a season.”

https://twitter.com/chris_awk/status/1606728385090265088

To give you an idea how these ratings look in the wild, here’s the LB portion of his chart:

The overall score – the “4-yr Pegasus” – looks like it’s weighted based on the conference quality. So, for example, on the chart above Indiana Wesleyan’s Turner has the highest 4-year number, but in a relatively smaller (i.e. lower-quality-of-play) conference.

It looks like a “Pegasus” below 1 is kinda sad, between 1 and 2 is “decent or better”, and above 2 is “pretty damn good”.

Given that, Reyes’ 2.77 for the SEC looks immense, and that tracks with Top Drawer’s assessment; she’s rated #7 in the nation.

So. If she’s there at #12, and we’re nervous about McGrady, and there looks to be roster space?

Go for it!

But…chances of her getting picked – especially by defensive dumpster fires like Orlando and Carolina and Gotham?

Ugh. Yeah. That. So probably not.

Well then, how about the other one of the top two impact-rated LBs on Henderson’s list?

Ruby Diodati

Diodati is a Massachusetts homegirl who finished at Michigan State. She’s ranked #71 at Top Drawer, which seems pretty low for someone who Henderson rates so highly.

Her college stats are pretty much a wash with Reyes’:

PlayerPass %Key PassDuelsAerialTackleInterception
Diodati800.3371%69%70%5/gm
Reyes840.269%67%78%7/gm

So Diodati seems like a pretty solid pick, and more gettable – assuming that the other clubs are looking purely at rankings – than Reyes. Might be worth keeping track of her on Draft Day.

Center Back

I think we’re seeing a lot of the same issues here we had at RB.

Henderson has two players whose “impact/pegasus” numbers pop out from the rest. One is a big hit over at Top Drawer, the other, not so much.

Let’s take them in the same way we did the left backs.

Jyllisa Harris

Harris is the ranked player here; #9 nationally at Top Drawer. She’s a Joisey Goil playing for the appallingly-named “Gamecocks” of South Carolina (my Bride is a grad-alum from Columbia and labored in the fields teaching Rocks For Jocks there, so I’m eligible by marriage to scorn the damn nickname…). She’s an excellent defender.

But, again…she’s well-known and will be a very obvious target for the other defense-bereft clubs.

Which leaves…

Sydney Collins

Collins is completely unranked at TDS. My guess is that it might be because her fifth-year-COVID-senior season was pretty thin – five games – but I can’t find a reason why. Was she lumberyarded to make room for true seniors? Injured? Pushed out by a better player?

Whatever the reason, her numbers compare to Harris in a similar manner that the RBs mirror each others’:

PlayerPass %Key PassDuelsAerialTackleInterception
Collins67N/A81%89%78%7/gm
Harris77N/A79%69%82%8/gm

My issue with both of them is passing; Harris kinda sucks, Collins reeeeally sucks. The one possibility that might mitigate that is that either player would be depth behind Kelli Hubly and Becky Sauerbrunn (and possibly Nally and even Provenzano), so it’s unlikely they’d be coming on with a lot of attacking to do.

I think we’re kind of in the same place we are with the LBs; I’m guessing Harris will be off the board by #13 at worst and definitely by #24. But Collins looks more gettable, and is another to keep an eye on, I think.

Right Back

Henderson lists two at the top of his table – Chaylyn Hubbard out of TCU…

…and Abigail Wolf from Pacific…

…and neither of them look shockingly good to me. Not awful, but not eye-catching.

Neither are ranked in the top 100 by Top Drawer, and neither of them has a Henderson “pegasus” score above 2.

Here they are matched up:

PlayerPass %Key PassDuelsAerialTackleInterception
Hubbard850.1269%57%73%4/gm
Wolf810.3778%67%90%5/gm

Wolf seems the better player by all the metrics, but remember that she played for a 1) pretty small school that had 2) a really awful 2022 season in a 3) second-tier conference.

She’s also a California homegirl and might as such be attractive to ACFC and SDW.

Worth noting that TCU lists Hubbard as a midfielder; the Horned Frogs might have played a three-back and so considered their outside backs as wingback-midfielders, or she might be a true midfielder and Henderson has her listed wrong (but her stat sheet for 2022 lists 10 shots and 3 assists in 24 games, which sounds more like a true fullback than a wingback).

Dunno.

Right now the only likely-looking draftee at

Defensive Midfielder

…is Molly McLaughlin, fifth-year senior at Xavier.

McLaughlin is #57 overall at Top Drawer, and her “impact/pegasus” number – 3.18 – is ridiculously above anyone else on Hendersons CDM list. Here’s her numbers:

PlayerPass %Key PassDuelsAerialTackleInterception
McLaughlin72N/A65%59%61%9/gm

I’m guessing we might see someone better come in by mid-January, but right now there’s a dozen DMs on the list, and McLaughlin stands out like Babe Ruth in a Babe Ruth League.

Finally, we need a third…

Goalkeeper

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of seeing if Shelly Betos will come here to be the bench mentor of Hogan the way she was for the young keepers when she was in Seattle.

If we do want a draftee keeper?

I got three potential candidates: Savannah Madden out of Texas…

…Ashley Orkus from Ole Miss…

…and Jessica Berlin out of Seattle.

Here they are side-by-side-by-side.

“xGa” is expected goals against, and “DDiff” is the difference between xGa and goals against; “DDiff/Game” is the approximate goals-against the keeper saved her team over game. Henderson compiles a state he calls “Big Save to Error” ratio, the final column.

PlayerGames PlayedxGaGoals AgainstDDiffDDiff/GameBig Save/Error
Madden2223.911310.910.4910
Orkus2024.91186.910.389.5
Berlin1825.251312.250.681.2

The two top shot-stoppers look like Berlin and Madden; the two top “safe hands” keepers – that is, the two who keep their big mistakes down the best – are Madden and Orkus.

Interestingly, none of the three is ranked by Top Drawer (whose top-rated keeper is Lauren Kozal at Michigan State, #10 overall although Leah Freeman, junior of Oregon, is in at #21; perhaps a name to watch for next year.

If I had to pick I’d take Madden; I love Berlin’s shot-stopping numbers, but I can’t see her error rate as acceptable. I’m not Nadine Angerer, though; perhaps there’s a simple mechanics solution there die Kaiserin can train her out of.

That’s kind of all I’ve got for the draft at this point. We’ll circle back in a week or so and see if there are any more likely looking candidates.

What else is there?

As we discussed at the top. Sale? Nope. Coach? Nothin’. L’affaire Mengison? No news. LeBlanc’s annual review? Who knows?

How about this – and I will freely admit cribbing this from ABell4’s comment over at Stumptown;

New Kit?

Back in the spring of 2020 I did a review of all the Thorns kits to that date, and talked about what I liked and what I didn’t.

Couple of things about that piece; I missed the “Black Rose” 2020 primary, possibly the most fun – certainly the most dramatic – shirt the Thorns have ever worn, and that it reminded me that even though the 2015 season looks even worse in retrospect than it did at the time, the kits that season kicked ass.

I didn’t hate the “barb wire” primary or the “twisted thorn” change strip the club wore in 2022, but will we see them again next season?

It’s worth noting that the Thorns have fielded a new kit every season except
1. 2017-2018 (when the club kept the “gray sleeves” kit, probably because they’d won the championship in it…) and
2. 2020-2021 (when the Black Rose kit was 1) a great kit and worth keeping an extra season after having been 2) sideswiped by COVID and never seen in Portland.

So the priors run 8-2 in favor of a new kit. But…the last championship kit hung around for another season, so 50-50 chance no change.

Here’s my thoughts in random order.

It’s time to go back to red.

Red is the Thorns’ color. The blacks have been fun, but the Thorns have always been the Women in Red, and after three seasons it’s time to circle back to basics.

That said…I love the details in the 2015 primary. Clean lines, fun white thorn-loop side stripe, subtle thorn-ring pattern overall. That kit, after the Black Rose, is the best looking shirt the club has ever worn.

I feel like it would be great to revisit that shirt and overwrite the horrible memories of 2015 with a new day under new owners.

I can understand wanting to never see it again, mind.

But whether it, or another? Red. Let’s go there.

Here’s a thought: plaid.

The short-lived indoor lacrosse team the Portland Lumberjax ran out a third kit that was a red-and-black plaid.

Now we have a sorta-plaid warmup top, this thing:

That’s…okay.

It’s more black than red, though, and I dislike the finicky little red grid. It looks moe digital than caulk boots to me.

The Jax, on the other hand…

Okay! Now that’s plaid!

That’d ease back into red – with lots of black (kind of like the 2019 “Jenga Blocks” primary…) – and would totally rock the Northwest/Sasquatch/timber sports feeling.

Plaid. Just sayin’.

Green? No. Just No.

I’m reading people at Stumptown giving the olive drab warmup shirts a lot of love.

I like this shirt. As a warmup kit.

Green is not a Thorns jersey. It’s the Timbers color, and the two clubs are going their ways this winter.

Let’s stick with what we do.

Red. Roses are red. Blood is red.

Thorns are red.

Let’s do a white kit that’s not boring White T-Shirt FC.

If you go back to the “Fashionista” piece from 2020 you’ll get sick of reading me bitch about how sucky the Thorns white strips were.

But they were.

The best of the lot was the 2019 “smoke” shirt, but the screened smoke pattern was so subtle that from forty yards away it just looked “white”. Same with last season’s “thorn barricade” change strip; not visible from a distance.

Here’s a thought; how about a white base with a bold solid color accent, like this:

The Portland flag design is simple and striking. You could do this in red-and-black on white, or you could use a light green base color with the blue-and-yellow of the actual flag for the stripes if the white background doesn’t work for you.

Isn’t that more fun than just-plain-old-white?

Or how about this idea? This was a concept kit from 2020 by someone with the screenname “vtgco”:

The idea was that the black and orange lines were the Willamette River and it’s tributaries, and the crest is where Portland sits at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia.

That’s a really interesting idea…but here’s the real Willamette and its channels and tributaries:

Now how about THAT in shades of blue (or green, or red…) on a white shirt?

It’s a river…or a vein…or the roots of a rose…so many possibilities.

There’s so much we could do with this shirt other than another run of White T-Shirt FC.

But we’ll see. We’re going to have a new owner, new roster, new players, new kits?

It’s almost like it’s a whole New Year!

See you then!

Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

10 thoughts on “The Dead Time

  1. Thanks John for giving us something interesting to read during “The Dead Time.”
    I hope that Tegan McGrady is here for 2023, we didn’t see a lot of her but I saw a steady LB. Same with Porter. She is not Sam Coffey but she is good enough.
    Your right the army green warm-up are best for warm-up, but I must be getting nostalgic for my Air Force fatigues because I am wearing that color all winter. I love it for some reason.

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    1. I was a graduate of BCT in March of 1981, so I was one of the last troopers in the old OD Green Army – the first gen camoflage “battledress uniform” was issued in September 1981. So I get the nostalgia for the ODs.

      But not for the Thorns. Keep the green for the men’s side of the house.

      I’ll be the first to admit that the draft picks are pure spitballing. I don;t know either the Thorns roster picture or the NCAA draftees well enough to be confident about what the team needs or who’d be best to fill those needs. The suggestions are a conversation-starter more than anything else.

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    1. Already passed; 2022 was the 10th season.

      My thought would be that if the club wanted to commemorate the first ten seasons (which isn’t a bad idea in itself…) that the first idea that comes to mind is to field either a reproduction or a tribute to the original red-shirt-white-bar 2013 primary. Yeah, it’s kinda rec-league and kinda boring, but it’s the OG shirt and the first championship season. So there’s that.

      But my guess is that the organization had their chance to do something like that in ’22 and didn’t, so that ship has probably sailed…

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  2. Is it just me or is it true? I went to Stumptown Footy to lament over Casey Murphy extending her stay at NCC and not becoming Bixby & Hogan’s back up but the comment section for the post about Rhian’s exit now has the comments section closed. “Comments are now closed for this story.” 1,143 comments and no more. I suppose I could try commenting on the post about Weaver signing a contract extension.

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    1. My recollection is that SBN posts are limited either by number of comments (and that number is usually pretty small – 300 or 400 or so – or by calendar time, and the clock starts running when it’s posted. I think you’re right and it’s 30 days from the date of posting.

      Well, we just gotta wait for 1) the draft, or 2) a club presser. Bets on which comes first?

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  3. Looks like the Stumptown posts give you a month to comment as the older stories have also had the comments section closed.

    Until a new possible sale (but likely a draft post) is posted we can no longer comment there.

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  4. The “Dead Time” is so dead that there is really nothing to comment on and yet I was vainly thinking something would happen this week. I guess not, and yup we need to wait for new management and actually it does not appear there is much in the draft or free agent pool that is a significant improvement t over the group we already have. Hopefully the existing management is keeping the players motivated to stay with Portland through the impending changes.
    One of the things I have noticed during this dead month is that there are a lot of STF commenters that follow things way closer than I do. I have enjoyed reading the comments both there and here. So thanks again for providing this place to discuss all things Thorns.

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