Into the New Year: an ask to the readership

We’re days away from 2024 and a new Thorns season.

I’ve got some pieces planned between now and the mid-March season opener. There’ll be a “drafts and deals” post after the NCAA draft in a couple of weeks, and a “final grades” series in February once we have a better idea what the roster will look like.

(And a reminder for the nervous; remember we’re still dealing with Peregrine, the Great American Desert of public relations. The fact we haven’t heard of any contract moves since Sugita-senshu was re-signed doesn’t mean there haven’t been any contract moves. There might not have been! But the signings may have happened and we won’t hear anything; that’s been a constant since I started following this club in 2013. The Thorns lost their director of communications to Bay City in December! So…patience. We’ll find out at some point.)

Beyond that…

Is there anything you the readership would like to discuss?

This little cartoon is by Yaoyao Ma Van As; I love her style, more of which you can see here:

I’ve been tooling with the idea of doing some sort of dive into throw-ins similar to the continuing discussion we’ve been having about corner kicks. The trouble is trying to figure out how to frame that.

One option I was thinking was looking at the endmembers of the throw-in stats I compiled for 2023. Two matches in August; against Carolina here on the 20th and then Washington away a week later. The Carolina game was the best Thorns performance of the season – 66% “positive” throws against Carolina’s 16% – and Washington was the worst (26% positive versus 64% for the Spirit). Both were close games (Carolina a 2-1 win, Washington a 1-1 draw), both featured the same fullback pairing (Kling and Kuikka).

My thought was to screen both matches and look for differences. What made the Thorns throw-ins work so well against Carolina and so poorly against Washington? Was it the Thorns doing better regardless of the opponent? Or did the Thorns do the same thing and instead Carolina defended throw-ins much worse than Washington?

Anyway…still thinking that one.

Other than that, though…I’m looking for ideas. If you’ve got one or two, lay them on me in comments!

I hope all here are enjoying a peaceful and happy holiday/new year season.

And I look forward to seeing you in 2024; c’mon, you Thorns!

Update, New Year’s Eve: Ummm…hello? Is this thing on? Hello?

I’m starting to wonder if I’m talking to myself here. My little “pageview” widget says these posts are getting clicks. But there’s been little (let’s be honest – virtually no) comments for months now. It’s getting kinda lonely.

I like doing this. But I don’t see a point of doing it if no one ELSE likes me doing this enough to engage in a discussion. That’s a big part of the fun, talking back and forth about this with others who enjoy it. That’s a huge part of why I do it (and why I miss our pod – that was always fun).

It’d be useful to know if the lack of comments is actually a lack of interest, or issues with the comment app – I’ve heard that WordPress can be picky that way. So if you’ve tried to or want to comment and have found issues with the platform, drop me a line at I’ll see if I can make things easier around here.

If I still get radio silence..?

Well, I’ve got some choices to make.

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

16 thoughts on “Into the New Year: an ask to the readership

  1. I sure hope you don’t stop John because I enjoy this page so much. I read this, STF, Equalizer and The Athletic; all for different reasons. Yours for the terrific writing, funny ways that you put things and sharp analyses. From STF, I like the stories but the comments I find really intriguing and full of information that is way more sophisticated than my knowledge. The Equalizer is all things NWSL. I don’t get the comments anymore and I am kind of glad about that because some of the people posting made me feel uneasy, even queasy, a lot were just haters. The Athletic has done some fabulous pieces and even though there isn’t much Thorns content it is worth it.
    I don’t post a lot because I feel if I don’t have anything useful or positive, then I just read and like if I am impressed. I get as annoyed and grumpy as everyone else, but I let others say it better.
    What do I enjoy? Well the stats (I am a data man, but I don’t know where they are all coming from). I like to compare my subjective opinions to the harsh and sometimes misleading objective data (so many times the team that dominated the stats loses the game).
    I really enjoyed your piece on Mana Shim and your comments on Hayley Raso, both were crowd favorites and I absolutely loved their play.
    I would look forward to a piece on Natu because she is another mystery as well as a fun player to watch. She can be good to great, but when she is bad, Whoa!
    I am really looking forward to you grading the players this year. You have a much more jaundiced eye than I have and I don’t mind being brought down to earth.
    Also a critique of the Coach. STF is very critical of Norris, I get that. I understand that his use of Hina is beyond comprehension. She is OK on the wing, but she is great in the midfield. At the WC when she was playing wing she just seemed ordinary and when Endo would replace her it was a world of difference. Most of her brilliant things with the Thorns have been when she has been in the midfield. But I like Norris, he seems to be a good guy and the players like him. I hope he stays as an assistant coach.
    Sinclair is another player I just can’t say anything bad about her because she is a legend, but ones eye doesn’t lie and about 90% of the time that Thorns are better when she is on the bench. Even Marta is taking a secondary role on Orlando and the Selecao. I want Sinc to stay involved with the Thorns.
    What characteristics do you want to see from the players we take in college draft. Need of course; I think speed is huge (look at Nighswonger for example), technical skills of course, but aggression I think is handy too. That is what set Raso apart from many fast wingers, she was like a little Tasmania Devil. That was a thing that made me like Betfort so much. Is there anything else you like in a player profile.
    So don’t give up please. I think many of us are fed up with waiting for something to happen, something to talk about.

    1. I really like your idea of a “pre-draft needs” post. Hopefully we’ll get signing announcements before draft day (only ten days away, so good luck with that…) so I’ll have an idea of what we HAVE.

      Sadly, what I know we have is…unsettling. I’m glad you – as a representative of “fans” – like our gaffer and the GOAT and all; you seem to have a sunnier and better attitude than I do! My view is a bit more frustrated. Unless the last season brought wisdom to him I’m unconfident in Mike Norris as a manager; he seems to lack vision, and the bizarre form of the club last season – bouncing from terrific to terrible over a week or less – seems to suggest that he was unable to impart any sort of unit strength to the squad.

      The departures since the semi make me wonder whether he wasn’t able to pull the locker room. Menges wanting out after a decade? Dunn saying she “wasn’t valued”? WTF?

      And Sinc…sigh. I love her memories, and treasure what she’s done, but she needs to hang ’em up or accept her diminished role. Stay on as an assistant? Sure! But as a player she’s hurting her team.

      Thanks for the shoutout, too. It really helps to get some feedback; otherwise it’s too easy to slip into feeling like I’m talking to an empty room.

  2. Hah! It works! I’ve been unable to comment here for a long time – a year or more? – because I couldn’t get my WordPress login to work. But now it seems to be okay again. I did comment on Riveting! posts over at Stumptown Footy for a while, but that just felt wacky and I eventually stopped.

    I certainly read every Riveting! post, and I thank you very much for them John. You’re my favorite Thorns writer by a good margin: your soccer smarts and intuition are good, you use data to back them up, and you write well, by which I mean both clearly and and entertainingly.

    Re the questions at hand–
    * Player acquisition needs, both now and in the long run, would be a great topic.
    * I’d love to see year-long grades for Thorns players, or at least those returning (or possibly returning, since we still don’t know for a lot of them). I suspect I’m not alone in having recency bias and remembering what players did in their last few games rather than over the whole season, and the wider perspective from year-long grades is really useful. It’s also a good way to get a handle on things like the slow changes in players’ abilities over the years (e.g. Sinc and maybe Menges on the down side, possibly Coffey on the upside [though maybe she was good from the get-go], and Hubly would have some of both).
    * Throw-ins are only somewhat interesting to me, in that I consider a throw-in successful if it merely results in us retaining possession. The dink back to the thrower is perfectly fine with me if we then keep the ball. Of course it’s great if we can launch a surprise attack from a throw-in, but this is such a rare thing that you can’t really get meaningful statistics from it. Maybe if we did long throw-ins there could be more benefit from them, but we don’t, so I’m fine with just keeping the ball. (Also, I’m sure there must be goals that result from long throw-ins – there HAVE to be if a team puts the ball in a dangerous spot a lot, no? – but I sure can’t remember any by other teams. Are there?) But if you look at the throw-in data, or put the throw-ins up for the old eye test, and find something that’s working for us, I’d be really happy to find it out.
    * It would be interesting to see positional comparisons when possible. Several STF folks have been clamoring for Sugita to play in the middle, and she did that at least a bit; how did she, and the team, do there compared to when she was out wide? Also, our fullbacks sometimes switched sides; how well did it work? These things happen pretty rarely though, and I suspect there isn’t enough data to answer these questions since it would probably take >5 games (450 min) of playing time to get valid PMRs or other statistics. Too many other things are changing on the field (opponent, tiredness, what teammates are playing, game state, and on and on) for any short-duration evaluation to work. In lieu of statistics, the eye test / intuition might be a better way to go, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    1. Welcome back! I apologize for WordPress; it’s kind of a PITA. It’s a good platform in the tech sense, but it’s also kind of picky and fussy. I use Blogger for my personal blog just because it’s more easygoing. Vulnerable to attack because of that, yes, so that’s not good. But a lot less irritating.

      As far as topics:
      1) Roster holes is coming next week before the draft.
      2) I’m definitely planning a series of “final grades” posts. It’ll be after the draft, so late January/early February. I’ve got everyone’s PMRs set up in a spreadsheet (as well as the squad net average per game and the season) and we’ll use that as a basis for discussion.
      3) I’d love to try and compare Hina-san as RW versus CAM, but I’d need to look back at the dataset first to see if Norris used her as a #10 often enough to generate a significant N. Off the top of my head I suspect that he might not have – he loved to shove her our on the wing (WTF, marra?) too much.
      4) I’ll consider the throw-in piece. The problem is that I don’t have a good metric to use for throws; it’d be a sort of purely visual/spatial review of tape. Were the successful throws quicker? Did they have a pattern in receiving player movement, or defending team positioning?
      The other thing is that I’m not sure how critical throw-ins are. The outliers are long throws into the box a la Jess McDonald, but I’m not sure how much of an impact the “typical” throw-in has on the game.
      One thing I’m always surprised to see is teams failing to take advantage of the gimmick that nullifies the offside rule on throws. In this interview ( with someone named Thomas Gronnemark makes that point:
      “…the longer throw, the greater throw area you can have. The fast throw-in is about taking the throw-in fast or doing as a counter-attack because it can’t be offside in throw-in. Then we have the clever throw-in, which is keeping possession when you have throw-in under pressure. Most teams lose the ball in more than 50% of occasions when they have throw-in under pressure, it is very important to keep the ball because you can, otherwise you can give a great chance for the opposition.”

      So I’m still interested in this, but might save it for an international break or something…

      Hope the comment mojo holds up for you!

      1. Re the lack of offside on throw-ins–
        Most defenders do a pretty good job of tracking this, tailing any attacker that adventures past the back line. But occasionally they slip up and it’s definitely worth it for attackers to mind whether the defenders are awake anytime there’s a throw-in relatively far upfield. The thing is, it can only work once a game – if an attacker tries to take advantage and strays forward, the defenders aren’t going to let it happen again. So it’s something an attacker needs to keep in her pocket until the right opportunity appears.

        1. Apparently – looking at the study I linked to – that’s the case; throw-ins that go in laterally or back to the throwers’ goal are more likely to be retained. And your point is solid; obs. the players defending the throw will be more alert to the danger of an “attacking” throw as opposed to a “neutral” or “defensive” one.

  3. Well, I did say about two years ago I would start to post directly instead of emailing you like some Luddite.

    Holes in the roster piece sounds good!
    Grades…. I generally read these with curiosity, both to see whether they concur with my nebulous recollections, and to puzzle over how they fit into the ever-elusive “Big Picture.”
    Throw-ins… maybe collect another season of data? My sense is the Thorns were not particularly good at them last season, and that other clubs found the Thorns easy to pressure, trap, and neutralize after a throw-in. And that grew frustrating to watch. Whether that created significant advantages for opponents? Dunno. As you note, you’ve many variables to sort through there, and pondering another season of data might clarify how much throw-in’s affect games. Or… you might end up with a larger spreadsheet and a scratchier noggin.

    Maybe start a pool as to the date the sale actually goes through? We could all chip in from our life savings to buy the person with the closest guess an over-priced beverage of her or his choice at a game to be named later.

    1. Just really glad it’s done. And hopeful we see some fast moving on stuff like roster builds and better community relations soon…

  4. Hi John! I apologize myself for the quiet over the last couple months. Work picks up for me a ton in the fall (busiest of the year for universities!) and I’ve also been on a huge hiring committee that has required so much extra work, and, computer work at that, so when I get the chance to close the laptop I have been. Also, multiple birthdays and holidays during Nov/Dec in my family and it’s all I can do to get the dog walked daily lol. Add in the lack of enthusiasm the past many months have been on top of the last two years for this club and I think the passion has cooled, however unfortunate that might be. And on TOP of all of that, my partner got covid just after Christmas and so kindly shared it so my household has been in the trenches for two weeks now haha and I’ve not been great at keeping up on STF either. I thought the Thorns sale news was a fever dream….

    But, excuses aside, I REALLY love your stats dives throughout the season. It’s the first thing I look forward to after matches during the season. And post-season, well, they haven’t given us a whole lot to play with huh? I did see someone mention our pre-draft needs and I wanna echo the +1 for me there. I also really enjoyed your player grades last season and look forward to reading those if you decide to do all of those again.

    Your work is greatly enjoyed and appreciated, even if I gotta go back and catch up on your posts weeks later the last few months! I really wish you could merge this content into STF. Is there a way you could continue to do this stuff and we can all comment on it in one place (and a bit less clunky than wordpress?) They could really use your analysis over there, there’s not much interesting Thorns pieces being posted…generally just news or fluffy pieces about this or that where I generally half-agree. Maybe something to think about? You’d definitely get more eyeballs…! Honestly, yours is the only content I think is deserving of being paid for. Regardless, I will continue reading so long as you wanna continue doing it! And, thank you!

    1. I’m sorry to hear you’re so slammed. That sucks; for me, too, because your comments are always among the most thoughful and thought-provoking here. We miss you when you’re absent because of that.

      I hope you enjoyed the draft piece; I’ll be updating it as the players continue to register all the way up until draft day.

      What’s funny is that I did what I do here over at Stumptown for one season (2018). The then-editor poached me and C.I. DeMann away from Kevin Alexander’s Slide Rule Pass the previous year. C.I. was thrilled at the bigger platform…I was dubious; I told Zach (the editor) that I did what I liked, and that if he read my column he knew what that was. I wasn’t going to dumb things down or sweeten them up to get access to the club or make nice to get advertisers. If I pissed people off – and I did! Hayley Raso “unfollowed” STF on Twitter because I said harsh things about some players – that was how it would be. He agreed that he understood what he was getting and he wanted that. So I wrote for STF for the next season

      Well…it turned out that he didn’t want what he got. After 2018 I got canned and moved over here.

      So…I’m not sure STF would welcome me. I’d be fine writing over there…but the history isn’t promising.

      Thanks for the props; I’m really glad you enjoy it here!

  5. Long-time reader, first-time commenter 🙂 Just wanted to say that I love reading the Riveting post-match breakdowns and appreciate the thoughtful blend of stats with personal observation and opinion!


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