The way forward..?

Thorns pre-season camp opens in a week tomorrow! and the first kickoff of the regular season is less that two months away. Where does the Thorns roster stand right now, so far as we know?

Forwards: Pretty much set. Everyone from last year is re-signed, plus Linnehan from the 2024 draft.

Midfield: I think Taylor Porter is still not signed. Sinclair isn’t, either, but unless she retires (snort!) she’ll be here. Everyone else is back plus the draftee.

Backline: No current right back. Sauerbrunn is not re-signed (or the club hasn’t announced it), and neither is McGrady. Everyone else back plus a draftee and a trade.

Keepers: Bixby on maternity leave, the other three are signed.

I won’t kid you; I’m concerned about Sauerbrunn.

I’ve been over this before and I haven’t changed my opinion. ‘Brunn is a damn good player. She’s also old, and now has a history of injury, and I’m not all-in on how without ‘Brunn the backline is doomed. I’d like to see her here in 2024. But if LeBlanc suddenly goes supernova and signs Wendie Renard instead?


But KK needs to sign someone at CB. Right now we’ve got Reyes, Hubly, Obaze (relatively young, unproven in this league), Kaufusi (same-same only younger and less-proven at the pro level), and Nally. That’s not a solid backline in NWSL 2.0, and if ‘Brunn isn’t going to sign there needs to be a plan for that.

If, instead, KK’s going to do shit at centerback the way she let her starting right back walk without a plan to replace her? Or, better yet, upgrade from her? That’s incompetence of the rankest variety.

And we don’t know what the plan is or even if there is a plan, because no one from the club is talking and no one outside the club is asking.

I’m concerned less about individual signings (tho I am concerned, obviously, since I just wrote about them…) as about the roster-building as a whole.

What is this club going to look like in March? How will it play?

It’s now missing too many pieces from 2023 to play like it did then…unless some of the newcomers can be shoe-horned into the spots Dunn or Kuikka used to hold down. Plus there’s people hanging around we just didn’t see enough of to have any real clue what they’ll do, people like Beckie and McGrady. And the draftees, because rookies, who knows? Could be peaches…

And right now there’s going to be very little to help us figure out what’s going to happen on the pitch before March. No preseason games here. Only one match at this “Coachella” away combine in February, and as of now there’s no scheduled broadcast or even any hint whether it will be broadcast.

So I’m not sure what the way forward from the disappointing 2023 season will be. Or if there even is a way forward; are we going to see another season of Smith-heroism-fullbacks-up-4-3-3 Norrisball?

I dunno, because right now I’m not even sure we have a starting XI.

Update 1/21: I replied to Thornando in the comments, and I thought part of the reply distilled my angst about this so perfectly that I should repeat it here. I said:

“…my increasing worry is that I’m not seeing a vision here. The FO seems to be picking up bits and pieces where they can to try and fill holes faster than the leaks open up. There’s a kind of “bash to fit, file to hide, paint to cover” feel about this offseason.”

That’s it; it’s the random magpie letting go, grabbing up, and moving around pieces that seems so unnerving.

Letting your international RB go and…moving your winger to RB? Picking up a squad player to play RB? Moving the international you brought in to bolster the centerback corps you picked apart dealing away a long-term veteran to RB?

I hope I’m just not seeing the forest for the trees. Hoping there IS a plan, and the FO is working to accomplish it.

The players report tomorrow, so it’s time to start turning plans into actions.

So…what’s next?

Well, my plan is to hope we get re-signing news this coming week. Once we get the roster at least semi-set I’ll run up a series of “Final Grades” posts discussing the returning players (and probably the newcomers, given their numbers).

After that, if I have the time before the season starts, work up the “S-2 Briefing” series discussing our opponents.

Then it’s Opening Day and we’re back in business.

So…until next week…

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

6 thoughts on “The way forward..?

  1. The bones of a good team are there, but something needs to be done with the back line and depth before we can have an intelligent discussion on the team.

    I do think the front is going to come down to the last starter being between Rodriguez, Beckie, or Sinclair. Personally believe that Rodriguez is the best player at this stage

    1. As I said over at Stumptown; the roster holes are worrisome…but my bigger worry is not the body but the brain. I don’t see how this roster does better than it did last season playing Norrisball v.2023, regardless of who ends up playing where. It’s the how of the play that needs an upgrade.

      I’m not sure I see how that happens.

      As I also mentioned over at the other site…the arrangement with Lowdon is really tricky; if he makes an obvious error the suspicion will be that he somehow missed her cue or made some boneheaded solo move, or that they’re not on the same page. He’s still the head coach, and the buck stops with him…

      Bottom line? I think we’ll have to hope that 1) there’s a vision we’re just no seeing yet, and 2) Norris and LeBlanc can assemble the squad to make that vision work.

      Fingers crossed.

  2. I’m worried that Karina is going to encourage Norris to play Obaze at RB. Obaze was until fairly recently a RB. And, this is what Parsons did with Kuikka too – she came here to play CB, which is her natural position, and was converted to RB. At Chicago, Kuikka will return to CB. As for Obaze, I’m worried that a young international player we just signed for 3 years with an option for a 4th might not have a lot of leverage to resist an effort to push her into the RB slot. That’s my concern, anyway.

    1. Well, we need a RB! If they slot her in there, she can play there, and play well? Great!

      Mind you, that then kind of strip-mines centerback depth…

      As I replied above; my increasing worry is that I’m not seeing a vision here. The FO seems to be picking up bits and pieces where they can to try and fill holes faster than the leaks open up. There’s a kind of “bash to fit, file to hide, paint to cover” feel about this offseason.

      I hope I’m wrong. But at the moment it’s hard to see this club playing like Brazil…

  3. It couldn’t just have been me thinking we were going to intentionally blow up the defense this off-season right? We gave up the 9th most goals in a 12 team league so I kinda assumed Kuikka, Kling, Menges, and Bixby were all possibly gone. I love bringing Kling back for her leadership but I’m hoping Reyes gets starts at LB. I don’t hate a Reyes, Sauerbrunn (fingers crossed), Obaze line if we also land a RB with experience. Hubly and Obaze can duke it out for the CB spot while also letting Brunn rest when needed.

    I think there is still a lot of upside for this team if a few things click. Like you I’m hoping there is some plan here that just hasn’t been communicated to fans yet. With a new owner you’d think Karina would be trying to GM for her job this offseason. It would be extremely strange to take the one thing the team really needed to fix and just let it fall apart. Fingers crossed we have a few more impactful signings incoming soon.

    1. I do think the FO wanted to make some changes/upgrades to the backline. You’re right, the defending was pretty suspect last season (tho I think Norrisball had as much of more to do with that then player issues…)

      The news today does make it sound like Brunn has re-signed, so good…

      And like I keep saying; there’s a LOT of quality in this roster still (more now with Fleming) but we had lots of quality in 2023…but between tactics and individual issues it was “semifinal loss”-level quality. It kinda reminds me of the whole “good team will beat a team of good players” thing. Can Norris assemble that “good team” I sure hope so!

      But we’re gonna have to see how he does it…


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