Preseason Open Thread


I’ve run through our opponents. I’ve talked about the draft and our performance last season.


I kinda got nothin’.

Until the season opens – which is in barely over a month! – we’re just going to have the usual before-the-season rumor mill. So I’m going to open this one up. Anything you want to talk about? Hit me in the comments! Let’s discuss!

I got one; this picture, from the Thorns Facebook feed.

Y’know what jumps out at me from this?

Emily Menges.

Smiling, comfy, jogging in the squad warmups, no problem, no stress, nobody giving her the “You got our coach fired, bitch!” stinkeye…

I wasn’t sure how l’affaire Mengison would play out.

This suggests that, at least for public consumption, the squad is over it and working together. Could there be hidden stress fractures that might break out in adversity? Sure! Anything’s possible. But, at least for now, there appears to be no hard feelings in the squad.

Speaking of the squad, I was interested to see the name of Chaylyn Hubbard show up on the NRI list. Hubbard was a prospective right back draftee I discussed back in January. I mentioned her because she and Abigail Wolf from Pacific University were early favorites on Chris Henderson’s RB deaft board. I wrote:

“Here they are matched up:

PlayerPass %Key PassDuelsAerialTackleInterception

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.

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).”

Neither was drafted, and Wolf just signed in Norway, so I’m kind of intrigued to see Hubbard here. Is this a potential World Cup replacement? Or could Hubbard play her way onto the squad? I’ll be intrigued to see what happens.

I’m hoping to see some preseason games here – although the short time left before the season opens suggests we might not have any, or at least nothing more than a scrimmage against UO or something – and have some preseason notes to post before the end of March. We’ll see.

And, I should add a note: the 107ist issued a statement on Valentine’s Day asking for the fans to turn out for the Timbers and Thorns regardless of their feelings about Paulson.

Yeah, well…what else could they do?

Paulson isn’t going to sell. The league won’t force him, and short of a massively punitive boycott there’s no local groundswell to hit him in the pocket.

So if you’re a “Timbers fan organization” you’re gonna kinda have to deal with that. He’s won; vae victus, woe to the vanquished.

I don’t have to like that.

But I can’t pretend it’s not the fact.

Update 2/21: I was resigned to not having true preseason tune-ups before the season starts in a month; the interval seemed too short and there hasn’t been so much as a peep out of the FO about them. But Daniel Stratton in the comments found a Laura Harvey presser that suggests that at least the Reign will be here to scrimmage sometime between now and the season opener:

In the past this preseason “tournament” has included one other NWSL team (IIRC it was Chicago in 2022) as well as a local college squad – typically OSU or UO – and the US U-23 WNT.

The junior Nats are in France right now, so I’m not sure if they would be available. But certainly the college teams and another NWSL squad – ACFC or SDW are now close enough to make travel less onerous – could certainly make the trip.

So…I’m now cautiously hopeful. I’ve always enjoyed these preseason scrimmages. Everything about them – the cold rain of late winter, the relaxed, almost lazy atmosphere, the anticipation of searching out form and faces, looking for hints of how the squad might shape – is pure fun.

So…here’s hoping we get good news soon!

Update 2/23: According to Kassouf the first use of VAR in the NWSL will take place this coming week:

“…it will get its first test in a real game scenario that involves NWSL teams: a Wave intrasquad scrimmage at Snapdragon on Wednesday, followed by a Pride-Current game at Exploria on Thursday.”

I’m cautiously optimistic. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen over the ten years in this league has been officiating, ranging from sketchy to downright appalling. Will VAR be a magic bullet? Of course not. But, hopefully, it’ll help both with correcting obvious errors on the field and with making the center referee more aware that their calls will be under review so they’ll think harder about their work.

John Lawes
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16 thoughts on “Preseason Open Thread

  1. John thanks for all the team recaps and previews. It got me in the mood for the season to read all of your deep dives. That must have taken beaucoup hours, so thanks for putting in the work.

    I don’t have much to say about the Thorns either. Really hoping one of the draftees hits and becomes a starter some day. If two did I’d consider it a really successful draft.

    1. Ta. I’m glad you (and whoever else) enjoys these. It’s fun for me, so time isn’t really an issue but it’s more fun when y’all enjoy it.

      I’m kind of funny about drafts. I’m always happy for the draftees when they hit. But as you’ve probably heard me say before – soccer is the team-y-est of team sports. So for me the whole needs to be a good sum of the parts. The squad needs to combine well, and the gaffer needs to manage minutes and sub well. If that means that someone doesn’t see the pitch because someone better is ahead of her? Well…pro sport is a tough life.

      So I’d just like to see a good mix on the pitch; veterans, rookies, draftees, regulars and subs…whatever it takes.

  2. Oh here’s another thing, in the form of a question:
    Which was a more successful season, 2021 when we won 3 trophies but not the championship, or 2022 when we won “only” one trophy but it *was* the championship?

    I lean toward 2021, in part because the Shield represents team quality much better than a playoff win and in part because one trophy was for beating OL, which was great fun. But 2022 earned a star that will be on our jersey forever, so it’s close.

    1. I’d consider ’21 not so much the “more successful” but the better season – but purely for the Shield.

      I’ve always felt that the Shield is the “true” championship. It certainly includes a degree of luck, but requires much more quality across the entire season. As the members of the 2015 Timbers can tell you, to win a playoff championship you just have to get hot at the right time. It’s a crapshoot – even moreso when the knockouts go to PKs! – and while it’s kinda fun, it doesn’t really separate the wheat from the chaff.

      But the other 2021 “trophies”? The Challenge Cup was a COVID innovation that’s become a ridiculous cashgrab and a pointless Regular Season 2. Make it an Open Cup, bring in the USL and W-League? Great! Win that and I’ll cheer. But as it is it’s just another playoff-league and a joke one at that.

      And the WICC? Fuuuuuck don’t make me laugh. Win a “trophy” that consists of two games? Against European opponents in preseason mode? I mean, it’s a cute little friendly and I’m fine with it – provided the NWSL teams play smart and don’t load more miles on already-tired starters’ legs – but as far as “trphy” I rank it up there with the little gold plastic participation trophy my kid got for playing U-9 soccer.

      You’re right, tho, that 2022, like 2013 and 2017, are “what counts”.

  3. I was surprised to not see any preseason games posted for early March already. Parsons was big on his preseason tournament. Loved the games at UOP when we could sit behind the bench and hear Mark giving instructions. The inured Thorns were sitting behind us one year and I got a “high five” from Midge as they walked by. Good times.

    1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that we won’t get any of those actual preseason scrimmages this year. The season starts early, and between it and the Cup there’s a lot of fixtures.

      I miss the Merlo games, too, but just miss in general the whole “settling in” feeling; arriving at the quiet field – whether Merlo or the Civic – bundled up against chill (and, usually, rain…), tucked up under the Shed with my spendy beer and Rite-in-the-Rain notebook trying to pick out numbers and associate them with names, looking at familiar faces to see how they look this year, looking for new faces to see how they shape…I’d like to think we might get one or even two (maybe UO and OSU..?) but I’m not going to bet on it.

      Too bad.

      1. Challenge Cup started March 18th last year and we had the preseason March 5th-11th games. This year Regular season starts 25th, 26th for us. I still see the pre season games happening. We didn’t have the announcement for the pre season ‘tournament’ until the 23rd of Feb last year. I am expecting some announce by the end of the month

        Also Reign have said they will be returning to Portland as part of their preseason training, the coach then said oh I wasn’t supposed to say that yet, but they are coming. I suppose it could be closed doors but I am not

        1. Really expecting closed door games in Portland. Since a new set of jerseys is rather likely for this year. Only year we did not get one was COVID hit 20/21, off loading deep discounted old stock and 2 star merchandise is going to be a big incentive to get some people into Providence Park.

            1. Well! That’s…promising, anyway.

              FWIW, IIRC the preseason games here have never been closed. Which is not to say they couldn’t be closed this year…but I’m not sure at this point if there’s a tactical reason for not allowing the public in.

              I guess my question would be “who else”? Seattle has been doing this every so often, and the usual other two teams have included another NWSL club (I think it was Chicago last season…) and the USWNT U-23s.

              I don’t know whether the Junior Nats will make it; they’re in France right now for friendlies. AFAIK there’s no “U-23 World Cup” (the highest juniors level seems to be the U-20s, and their cycle is every two even-numbered years, so nothing this year) so they might travel out here right after they return…but might not.

              I hope we DO have them, and can see them. Like I said – I really enjoy the low-stress, casual feel to them, and the opportunity to see how everyone is shaping as the season ramps up…

  4. I really like the Thorn’s draft picks and think that both Reyes and d Aquila are ready to contribute right now. I am thinking that the chance to shine will be easier for d Aquila then Reyes. Reyes was the first choice, but her position is filled by two veterans that will be here for the World Cup. On the other hand Izzy has a lot of competition ahead of her gone including five players who will miss some or a lot of time during the WWC; Smith, Beckie, Sugita, Dunn and even Rodriquez. There will be competition from the remaining attacking players Hannah Betfort, Lauren DeBeau, Michele Vasconcelos, and Morgan Weaver. Weaver is the only one of those that is a sure starter.
    That said I hope both Reyes and McGrady get some good playing time.

    1. Oops! I forgot about Sinclair as an attacker missing during the World Cup. That is six attackers absent during the World Cup from the Thorn’s strongest part of the team. That is a real opportunity for the remaining five.

      1. I’m hoping to see Sinc’s minutes greatly reduced this season. She needs to come off the bench, or even be used in second-tier matches like the Challenge Cup. I think that we might regret relying on her for another season; she was typically well below replacement value last season and is still losing the race with Time.

        Frankly, I’d suggest that even when she’s HERE she’s an opportunity to be played onto the bench by a rising young player, but that will depend on whether Norris is willing to step out from behind the “Sinclair Starts Every Match” billboard.

    2. Well, at this point the only real response is “we’ll see when we see them”. Pretty much the full 2022 squad is returning – with Dunn presumably in better form and Menges fully rehabbed, so even stronger – so I’m not sure whether ANY of the rooks and draftees is in a “right now” sort of position.

      If we DO get a preseason tournament we’ll have a better idea…up to a point. Perfecct example, go back and read the preseason writeups I did for 2022. I was all about Beckman and Porter, who turned out to be fairly “meh” during the season, and very worried about Sugita (several comments about her as “Andressugita”…) who turned out to be one of the best players of the season.

      So, honestly? Breaking into a good squad as a rook takes a lot of hard work AND tons of good luck. I don’t even pretend to know right now who among our draftees has or will have them.

      Betfort was not promising last season, Vasconcelos barely even saw the pitch, DeBeau is a complete noob, so Weaver as the starter is, yeah, pretty much a lock.

  5. Pre season confirmation. Tickets are in my season ticket holder account. Nothing on their website, social media and nothing in my inbox yet.

    Louisville 12th Sunday 5PM
    U-23 USA 15th Wednesday 7:30 PM
    Reign 18th Saturday 7:30 PM.


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