The Thorns have parted ways with fullback Natalia Kuikka:
I’m kind of two minds on this.
Kuikka the player has struggled the past couple of seasons. Not awful! But she’s had some low lows (Angel City had her number this past season; both matches were awful. Louisville away was horrific) and those kinds of matches stick in the mind when the run of “just fine” games don’t.
I get that if she was asking for the earth and sky – she’s an NWSL “restricted free agent” – that the club might not be excited to match that.
On the other hand…
She’s the only veteran starting right back on the roster.
If we had no Front Office priors I’d normally just sort of shrug this off. Kuikka is a sorta personal favorite just because she’s Finnish, and I have a lot of general affection for the motti-masters. But as noted above, as a player she’s been replaceable and I’d expect to see a signing announcement soon replacing her.
However, we DO have priors, and they make me unable to trust this FO. I’m not sure there IS a plan or, if there is, it’s a workable one. I’m not sure whether the FO foresaw this or has come up with a way to replace her.
Remember the position chart we started with before the draft? Well…
That…kinda worries me.
Update 1/18: So here’s something more worrying.
I’m normally not a fan of hearsay and rumor. But there’s something floating around about this that is 1) really infuriating and 2) very damning about the current Thorns FO if it’s accurate.
So right after the news of Portland parting with her broke came the news that Kuikka has signed with the Chicago Red Stars.
Got that? Because it’s important that she signed with another NWSL club. Kuikka was a restricted free agent, meaning that Portland had “right of first refusal” on her – if they matched or bettered another NWSL club’s offer they could effectively “bind” Kuikka here. Europe? No. But Houston or Carolina or Chicago? Yes.
So if she was an RFA, signing with Chicago means the club didn’t or couldn’t match the offer.
If the club didn’t see her as the starting RB of 2024? That’s their call; their circus.
The rumor is that:
- Kuikka wanted to stay and the club thought she would.
- LeBlanc – who has been reported as being unimpressed with Kuikka – didn’t make a formal offer (that is, filed with the league) by 12/31/23.
- If she didn’t, then that made Kuikka an unrestricted free agent, so
- She was free to take Chicago’s offer when KK either didn’t offer or offered something insultingly low.
- LeBlanc preferred to play games with the contract, fucked up by not filing in time, and found out when Kuikka refused her no- or low-bid and walked.
Now, again, this is hearsay. But if that IS the case?
If it had been Gavin Wilkinson? I flat-out wouldn’t believe it. Wilkinson might have been a shit, but he knew his league contract and financial rules like I know the geology of Portland. GW was a butthead but he wouldn’t fuck something like that up.
But Le Blanc? She’s fucked up enough elsewhere that I can readily believe that somehow she just forgot the rule, figured she could play reindeer games with the Finn (the Soviets might have had a word about that…) all the way into January, and then found out she’d fucked up, ending up with no right back and no plan to replace the right back.
And that just pisses me the hell off.
What’s even more frustrating is that 1) the club is saying nothing, which is how this club has always operated, and 2) there’s no Thorns beat writer to chase down this rumor and ask LeBlanc about it. The club won’t talk and there’s no journalist to make them talk.
So here we are, some random fans on a blog talking about what, if it’s true, is a degree of managerial incompetence so abysmal that after LeBlanc got fired for it she should be re-hired so the Bhathals could fire her again.
Sometimes I swear…I don’t know with this club.