Central to the discussion of the Timbers and Thorns offseasons-so-far between Chris Rifer and Ryan Clarke on the “Soccer Made In Portland” podcast was…nothing.

“Nothing” being their assessment of what both clubs had done up to this point in the offseason.

Oh, sure, the guys mentioned re-signing Hina Sugita for the Thorns, as well as a mention of the (increasingly-irrelevant) MLS “Super”Draft and some other minor Timbers moves.

But the general sense of what Ned Grabavoy was doing for the Timbers, and Karina LeBlanc for the Thorns was, as Rifer put it; “bupkis”.;Jack and shit, and Jack had left town.

That’s fair enough.

In Grabavoy’s defense – not that I am defending him, mind – there hasn’t been a lot of dealing from much of the rest of MLS other than the league trying to weasel out of the Open Cup…

(…and as an aside, perhaps some of the most memorable moments in my Timbers-fandom have come in Open Cup games. Note I say “memorable”, not “best” or “favorite”; I will never forget turning to the friend I was sitting with at the Cal FC match and telling her to remember this, because she would forever be able to hold her own at Timbers-fan “Where were you when…” brag sessions because of it.

The Red Card Wedding? Epic! The Cup is fun. The Cup is weird. The Cup is a nice break from watching MLS-style “parity”. So fuck you, MLS. Suck it up and play a Cup tie against the Kitsap Pumas at Starfire, y’big babies.)

…but there’s no such excuse for LeBlanc. The NWSL has been a busy place this offseason – other than here. Gotham’s been buying every free agent in the game, the expansion clubs are dealing, even sad-ass Chicago signed the manager of the overperforming Jamaican WNT to try and pull the Red Stars collective asses out of the mire.


Ummm…hey, did I mention we re-signed Hina-san?

While I have to agree with Rifer on the inexcusable inactivity at Thorns FC, I wanted to pick out two other points he and Ryan hit on the pod.

First, the question of “panic”.

Rifer observed that Thorns fans were “…reasonable to be borderline panicking…” about this lack of signings (including the silence on re-signing Sophia Smith).

I thought that was…not UNreasonable…while at the same time being sort of borderline unhelpful.

Simply because there’s nothing that we as fans can do to change what the Thorns FO is doing. Our panic, or our resignation, or our outrage or grief…none of those will pressure LeBlanc into putting the pen in Smith’s hand, or to pressure Paulson into handing her a blank check to pursue Tierna Davidson.

So telling us we should be borderline-panicking? How is that helping?

We’re supporters. That’s our part; to support the team. Doesn’t mean we have to support LeBlanc, or Paulson. But it means that next season as we sing and cheer in return we may get a feeling for what Cloud Nine in Jersey had to suffer until this season, or whatever the fuck the Houston Dash supporters group calls itself has always had a full measure of for, like, forever.

That’ll suck.

We can hope that the Bhathals have the vision and the energy to change things.

But panic? I’m not sure how that helps us find a way to support this club next year if nothing changes between now and then.

Which brings up the other point the guys made; they contrasted this Timbers offseason with the last time the guys were utter crap – the winter of 2012-13.

Remember that time? Ooooh, it was ugly.

The Boys had just gone two seasons being shit; 11-14-9 (6th of 9 in the West, 12th or 19 overall) in 2011, then 8-16-10 (8th of 9, 17th of 19) the following season. John Spencer of the funny airline commercial got canned, and…Gavin Wilkinson and new head coach Caleb Porter got to work in the waning of 2012.

By December GW had traded cash for Mike Harrington and Will Johnson, and traded Joe Bendik for Ryan Johnson. By February he’d picked up Mikael Silvestre, and was working the loan with Club Lanus to bring on El Troesma, Diego Valeri.

The rebuild that year was important because it wasn’t just a build-out; the GM and the gaffer had a plan, a vision of the team they wanted to put on the field, who they wanted to play and where. Then they went out and executed that plan.

That vision, that plan, came within a game of the Shield the following season, and won the Timbers their only MLS Cup three years later.

My problem with where we Thorns fans are now is not just that there’s bupkis but that if there even is a plan that I don’t think that KK or Mike Norris has anything other than the mess of position musical-chairs and primitive tactics we saw here last season.

And that has me more nervous than the whole “panic-because-of-bupkis” thing.

I get it, mind.

The Thorns are stuck.

Paulson doesn’t give a shit; he’s on his way out and he’s not going to buy a new couch for the apartment he’s leaving.

The Bhathals can’t do anything until their name is on the lease and the key is in their hands.

So even assuming that KK has a plan – and I don’t see any reason to believe she does – right now she’s lackin’ the backin’ to do anything but keep the lights on and the copier paper tray filled until whenever this goat rodeo ropes its final goat.

And then..?

There won’t be a way for the Thorns to re-tool before the season opens in March. We’re gonna kick off with – overwhelmingly likely – KK in the C-Suite and Mike Norris in the technical box. And pretty much the same cast on the sideline (less Menges, Betfort and Dunn – at least- plus whoever gets picked up in the draft).

Am I as a fan ready for 2023 Part Deux?

Ugh. Ask me again in March.

So I’m not saying panic; I don’t see how that does anything but raises our collective blood pressure.

But I’m saying that, panic or no, we might end up taking one in the shorts next year, and if we’re not summer soldiers and sunshine Thorns fans we will have to keep singing even while cursing under our breaths.

Update 12/24: Well, the transfer window has closed until 2024 with no news out of the FO. That’s got a fair number of fans over at Stumptown (as well as Rifer on Xhitter) depressed because the roster news looks grim; only 14 players known to be under contract. As you’d expect, that club is being swung against LeBlanc.

Okay. I know as little as y’all do. For all we know that IS grim, and all those players are potentially headed out the locker room door.


As I keep saying; the one consistent thing about the Peregrine organization’s public relations staff is a nearly complete lack of actual public relations.

This organization almost never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to communicate with the fanbase. Signings, match schedules, any and all news is as often unspoken as it is released. When you’re dealing with this outfit the absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence.

These contracts may have actually been signed and we won’t know until the players turn up in Bend for the preseason get-together. Or not.

All’s I’m saying is that just because this FO hasn’t told us doesn’t mean stuff hasn’t happened.

That’s dumb, mind, and if I have a wish for the Bhathals it’s that they’ll change that on Day One.

But for now? That’s kinda all we got.

So I hope you and yours are enjoying a happy holiday time and looking forward to a good 2024, and I’ll see you then.

And since I respect all Internet Traditions, here’s a Christmas picture of a cat:

John Lawes
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