Tuesday Morning Maundering

The Bride and I spent the past week jauntering all over Vancouver Island, so I’ve been away from the laptop and this venue. It was a fun trip, but I’m happy to be back home and familiar surroundings.

The Canadian broadcasting people were all over the CWNT so I got to see a lot of the World Cup ties. The Thorns? Not so much, though the always-invaluable work of the Stumptown crew help me stay current with what was happening here.

Still no real NWSL soccer in sight, so I’ll just throw out some general thoughts prompted by the footy.

Challenge Cup: Un-Bound and Down

The Thorns Challenge Cup run ended with a dreary 2-1 loss to Angel City away on 29 July, and it sounds like all the same issues that we’ve been seeing from NorrisBall were involved; failure to finish, tactical disorganization, lack of steel in the backline, and poor individual performances.

This is the third time the Thorns have played through a World Cup break, and it’s instructive to contrast the three.

In 2015 Paul Riley (spit!) was entirely about his first-string/international players. He had no interest in preparing for the break, despite having league matches to play (unlike this year), and did nothing (or at least nothing visible to us as fans) to prepare his replacements/reserves. That group looked unprepared and were, winning one, drawing two, and losing six between mid-May and late July. It didn’t help that the Cup drained the life out of critical starters like Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan, and the Tomato Can Tour contributed to the club losing three of their last four to finish out of the playoffs.

Four years later Mark Parsons took a different approach. His Cup period run was 6-4-2 (win-draw-loss) between late-May and early August (interestingly, the two losses were to Seattle, who won all three meetings that season). What helped was the sudden emergence of Midge Purce and Simone Charley as team leaders, but in general the squad looked disciplined and well-drilled; it looked like Parsons had prepared the left-behind group to do what they could as best they could, and that worked out well for the club over the break.

This year the Thorns look more like 2015 than 2019.

Some of that is that the club has fundamental issues – that we’ve discussed to death here – and while those issues aren’t enough to reliably sink the squad when its at full strength when Izzy D’Aquila and Hannah Betfort are leading the line, they do.

But another is that the group as a whole looks undercooked and unprepared. The wild variation in results suggests that, too; going from a dreary loss to Seattle to a multiple-goal dunking on San Diego to a lackluster loss in Los Angeles. Form simply doesn’t hold with this group, which, in turn, suggests that there’s a lot of randomness involved instead of organization and discipline. That’s on the coaching more than the individual players, and suggests that the post-World Cup period might be pretty fraught, too.

We’ll see.

Cup Ties

Speaking of undercooked…the USWNT is looking pretty underwhelming through the group stage. I made the mistake of getting up early today to watch the Portugal game replay and…ugh. Lack of connection, unforced errors, poor individual effort. This outfit is unlikely to get through the knockouts playing like this.

Even sadder was the early exit of the CWNT. Needing a draw against Australia the Canadians were hopeless, the Matildas beat them down and out, and our captain continued her awful run of form that began with an atrociously poor penalty in the opener. I know, I know. Still, it’s hard to watch. She’s been a magnificent player for so long. I wish someone who loves her would sit her down and explain how this is killing her legacy.

Tough, too, for the Canadians who were invested in their team. We saw a lot more maple leaf stuff than our last visit a decade ago, and it seemed like more interest in the CWNT than I recall seeing before. Sorry, neighbors.

It’s been fun watching the Nadeshiko responding to the pre-tournament “book” on them (“Technically good, can’t finish”) with an insane outburst of scoring, including four against Spain.

My other emotional favorite, the Tigers of South Korea, has been the opposite; winless and scoreless over the first two matches, and with Germany to play Thursday. Ouch. Sorry, Korea. That was ugly.

Also felt for New Zealand; that first match win was a huge emotional peak, so to see them revert to their usual dire form against Philippines was just sad. It really is a cruel game.

Any other thoughts? Favorite moment so far? Predictions?

Canada Runs From Dunkin

Unsurprisingly our trip to Canada included searching for morning coffee. The little place in Sidney had a coffee maker, so, fine, and the place is crawling with Starbucks just like the Lower 48, so there’s that.

But the go-to morning coffee place in BC is “Tim Horton’s”, a sort of maple-leaf-branded Dunkin Donuts. And their coffee and donuts are, indeed, just fine.


They served some “breakfast sandwiches” which were, frankly, bizarre when you think that Mickey D’s serves up perfectly acceptable fast-food breakfast items. It’s hard to imagine someone failing to meet the culinary standards of Chez Ronald…but Tim Horton’s stuff was just that off. A friend sent me a link to this website, that mocks the Canadian chain’s menu:

“Some people have suggested we’re trying to ‘branch out’ from our staple coffee and donut items, but in reality we’re just bored executives locked in a long running bet about who can get Canadians to pay for the most disgusting ‘food’ imaginable,” said CEO of product development, Helen Childs.”

“Tim Hortons execs just trying to figure out what customers won’t eat at this point”

Pretty spot on, yep.

Well…I got some poutine on the hob, so I’ll be back in a bit with more random thoughts until the return of Real Soccer. Don’t be strangers, now, eh?

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

6 thoughts on “Tuesday Morning Maundering

  1. I am sad for the Canadians. My favorite teams have been Canada, Japan, Colombia, and Nigeria. I have no real hope for the US team as long as Vlatko is at the helm. I feel sad that he is marring Smith’s world cup debut, too. And running the legs off of her – he seems content to assume she and Rodman can make up for what he lacks as a coach. I don’t know what will be left when she comes back, and I’d rather see them home early than home late and injured. Someone on the internet somewhere asked if Vlatko was quiet quitting.

    I’m not looking forward to the Brazilians being back to start kicking our butts in games, too.

    1. In order…
      1) I think the CWNT was always a longshot. They got lucky last year and then stood pat, Fleming got hurt, and the federation is a mess. The Olympics turned out to be fools gold.
      2) It’s been fun to watch the Nadeshiko smash the CW “great technique, tactically sound, can’t score” all to hell and Miyazawa the current Golden Boot. Still…I thought that Spain looked more dangerous than the scoreline, we’re in the knockouts and all it takes is one off day for the strikers, so…
      3) Colombia? The side that had to strike three or four years ago because their federation wasn’t paying them? Whoodathunkit. OTOH, Caicedo is the real deal. Amazing kid.
      4) The Super Falcons have always been a) fun to watch, and b) brutal to play. This edition is no exception. They need to watch the fouling in the knockouts.

      Here’s what’s weird about the USWNT.

      I agree; the squad looks all to pieces tactically. I don’t get a sense that the squad knows what their shape is supposed to be, or how to execute it. And that’s a coaching issue.

      But Vlatko was one of the best coaches in the NWSL. Here’s the top five coaches in league history:
      Mark Parsons: 67-34-35 (6 seasons), winning percentage, 58.7% – 1 Shield, 1 Championship
      Paul Riley: 63-28-35 (6 seasons), 50% (but 61.9% with WNY/NCC) – 2 Shields, 3 Championships
      Vlatko Andonovski: 64-39-36 (7 seasons) 46.0% – 2 Championships
      Laura Harvey: 76-41-44 (7 seasons) 47.2% – 1 Shield
      Rory Dames: 54-45-39 (6 seasons) 39.1%

      We can cull Riley (spit!) and Dames for being shit people, so we’re left with Vlatko as the second-best HC in the league.

      Twice champions with FCKC. The guy could coach, both through a campaign and in knockouts.

      What happened?

      I’d have put money on him doing fine with the Nats, but his OG bronze was underwhelming, and I agree – it looks like long odds for the US to make it out of the next round. How did the guy who put together champions in fucking Kansas City come to this?

      I got nothin’…

  2. We have Richard Clarke news on the sale. Expected to be done by end of year.

    Multiple anonymous bids (another reporter is aware of 2 but unable to name either. Real positive about one of them.)

    Their Bank is doing the due diligence. The one known bid of Melanie Strong did not make to the advanced stages consideration. Quotes from an investor who was unhappy with the process, team says they just weren’t properly structured or capitalized to get league approval.

    Looking for an owner willing to partner with Timbers going forward, and willing and able to continue to invest in the team at a top level. No expectations of a Thorns Training facility until 2025.


    1. Saw that. Good news that this is supposed to get done this year. Not-so-good that we know less about the bidders than we did, and that was next to nothing. The Strong thing was weird, and as I said over at Stumptown, I can see Paulson getting all squirrelly if he took some sort of personal dislike to Strong or some of her partners. For someone who’s supposed to be running a business he gets into bizarre personal feuds with people in the soccer biz – remember him and Wynalda and the resulting Cal FC fiasco?

      There’s this; any Thorns owners will HAVE to “partner” with Peregrine, if for no other reason than they’re going to have to share the venue. There’s no way the two can be completely stand-alone entities. That sucks because the Thorns will become the de-facto “junior partner”. But that’s kinda baked in.

      And I’ll be shocked if a full-scale training compound can get completed before the 2025 season. Assuming the sale goes through before January 2024, that’s less than 18 months to kickoff 2025. That’s an insanely short span to get purchase, plans, permitting, construction, and punch-list through.

    2. Hi Daniel,

      I’m curious about this part of your comment:

      “Multiple anonymous bids (another reporter is aware of 2 but unable to name either. Real positive about one of them.)”

      Where did you see that another reporter is aware of 2 bids and are real positive about them? I’m curious who the other reporter is, and which other article you’re speaking of besides the one Ryan Clarke wrote for the Oregonian? Thanks in advance for sharing!


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