Thorns FC: Preseason..?


SOMEthing happened in Indio today.

It is supposed to have been a soccer match between the Portland Thorns and the San Diego Wave, and theoretically it was streamed by something called the “Women’s Sports Network”.

Not having LG Channel TV or Roku or fubo I gladly accepted the hospitality of the nice people at The Sports Bra down on NE Broadway to sit at the bar and watch the stream.

Mostly what I saw was this:

If you squint real hard you can see tiny little soccer people in the little window in the lower left hand corner, somewhere below the waistline of Soccer Bro #1.

That was it. Mostly. For about seventy minutes of regulation time (because that was 90 minutes of broadcast time and soccer runs 90 minutes, amirite?) when this band of clueless fucks cut the stream to go to some goddamn prerecorded surfing show.

This was, hands down, the worst parody of a soccer match telecast I’ve ever seen, and even the worst NWSL broadcast I can remember, and remember I’ve seen the Protect the Precious match during the Yahoo! Era and can even remember the interminable buffering YouTube stream from Rochester back in the early Teens. It’s a low goddamn bar, but WSN couldn’t clear it.

Seriously. There’s no reason to ever let the “Women’s Sports Network” within sniffing distance of the aroma of the Zenner hotdog stand in the North Concourse to desecrate soccer broadcasting with this unmitigated crap. It was an embarrassment to the supposed-network, the Coachella Valley organization, the clubs, and the league. Utterly unprofessional? Hell, it would have embarrassed a junior high school video club.

That said, here’s my notes. From what I could tell whoever was running the Thorns out (Lowdon? Norris had a cold…) set out a…

4-3-3 formation.

Shelby Hogan in goal

From right to left across the back; Meaghan Nally – Kelli Hubly – Kelsey Kaufusi – Marie Müller

The midfield had Katie Duong-Meghan Klingenberg-Olivia Wade-Katoa with Kling at the six and the rookies as what looked like eights.

Izzy D’Aguila-Christine Sinclair-Morgan Weaver across the front.


Hard to tell. It looked to me like San Diego’s press was doing a good job disrupting the Thorns attempts to possess, but Portland still got some joy up the touchlines and on the counter.

Fair amount of Norrisball – pushing the fullbacks up, and we’ll get to that when we get to player comments – but the Wave piled on the pressure, pinned the Thorns back, and won a crap-ton of corners in the first half-hour or so.

The passing was sort of come-and-go, which you’d expect in preseason. Overall I don’t really have a sense this match tells us anything about how the Thorns will look in three weeks.

Player Comments

Keep in mind how difficult it was to get any real grip on how the tiny soccer people were doing, but here’s what I came away with, starting from front to back:


Izzy D’Aquila was very 2023 D’Aquila-esque; lots of good activity early (in the 2nd minute she had a run to the byline and a cross that took a weird deflection that nearly beat Lauren Brzykcy (??) I didn’t catch the SDW keeper’s name other than it wasn’t Sheridan). Had a good crack at 45+2′ that Brzykcy had to leap to turn over the bar.

But no luck in front of goal (also in 2023 Izzy-fashion) until the 50th minute when she latched onto a looping Weaver cross-like-pass. Izzy’s defender fell on her ass and D’Aquila used the free space to turn nicely and ring up a pretty poacher’s goal.


Christine Sinclair was in early season form, sliding several pretty through-balls to Weaver or D’Aquila. She was also looking out of breath by the half hour, though, when she arrived far too late and stranded a D’Aquila run to be tackled for loss.

Morgan Weaver was her usual energetic self, and also her usual ready-fire-aim self, too. Fired sitters into the Coachella Mountains in the 3rd minute and again in the 9th, and blasted right at keeper in the 52nd.


Hard to say anything because the midfield was a bit chaotic. Kling was no Sam Coffey, and SDW passed through the middle pretty easily until Kling came off for Tayler Aylmer.

I thought Katie Duong looked decent; active and making good decisions. The hero of the midfield, though was Wade-Katoa, who took a Weaver assist (her second of the day…) and hit a banger from the top of the 18 for the matchwinner.

Given that the stream had cut away the linked phone camera video is the only record of it, but nicely taken (and props to Weaver for beasting it up as usual…).


Nally, Kafusi, and Hubly looked generally decent as individuals, though the unit failed to clear lines on a San Diego free kick that shipped a 56th minute goal to Marley Canales.

Marie Müller looked the better of the starting fullbacks, both defensively and passing forward.

But for me the best Thorns backline player of the match was Nicola Payne who came on in the mid-first-half for Nally. Payne was solid tracking back but was a caution going forward, pacey and clever; tricky runs and slide-rule passing in the 50th and 66th minutes. I like this player already!


Hogan was a rock, making a close-range stop in the 42′ minute after going up strong to box away a dangerous shoss moments before. Great positioning on a Savannah McCaskill open header in the 53rd minute. Not at fault on the concession; that was on her defense.

Supposedly Lauren Kozal mopped up the final quarter hour and kept a clean sheet, had anyone actually seen it.


This one’s really hard to say. It was the 4-3-3, which I’d expected, and the group looked decently set up and communicating, though with the usual Norris side issues playing out of a high press. Sinc played a long shift; she did the things she does well – passing – but, as we’ve seen repeatedly, ran out of gas fairly early.

Was this mostly Lowdon? Or was she just running a Norris plan?

What Next?

This will be all we see (unless you sneak up to the Merlo Field fence this coming Saturday – the squad scrimmages with University of Portland at 11am…) until Opening Day. I think there’s the core of a decent-or-better team here; several of the rookies and new signings were solid in Indio. But how much we can infer from this match, given the many starters absent, is very much at issue.

One thing that’s not, however, is the need to keep the “Women’s Sports Network” far, far away from at least this women’s sport.

We’ll see what we look like in Kansas City on March 16th.

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

5 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Preseason..?

  1. Your comments about Muller, Payne and Katoa make me feel like “”maybe these kids are going to be OK.” Muller I sort of expected would be a good player. Payne, you can’t teach speed, but it sounds like she has more going for her than speed. I watched her on her national team and the speed was evident, passing seemed good, but the defensive skills were not quite there. Madison Pogarch’s speed was stunning, but she will never be on any NWSL top elevens, however the speed is nice and fun to watch. For sure Reyes will have some competition from Muller and Payne.

    With D’Aqiula I think we were all a little disappointed last year so it is worth starting this year with more cautious optimism. But I am certainly hoping that she makes another big step.
    Now we need to see Linnehan and Obaze. I am not sure about Linnehan other than she will come in with some built in chemistry with Coffey. Obaze I think will be good enough player. Her being on the National team is not necessarily a sign of NWSL success, because Adrianna Leon seems to be a big producer on the CWNT, but not at the professional level.
    Off the topic of the Thorns, I have been watching Argentina, Columbia and Brazil play; and those players play rough and more like men in the complaining, falling down, time wasting, etc. I hope the National team players all come back to us healthy. And man; Horan is so fun to watch, truly The Great Horan.

    1. As I mentioned over at Stumptown; I think this season is more dependent on coaching than any in recent memory. The squad – including the newcomers – looks solid, and as individuals they look to have generally good tools.

      But so did the 2023 squad (other then Sinc and the depth), and they were often less than the sum of their parts.

      So Norris is going to have to do better this year, and with a LOT less time – he’s gonna have less than a week with the full squad before the opener.

      Will it work? We’ll see…

  2. I find it had to learn anything about a team from pre-season friendlies, or indeed any friendlies. Coaches are trying stuff out, evaluating players, building match fitness, etc.; sure everyone wants to win but that’s not the main point. Player evaluation is the main thing us fans can do, so thanks for your remarks John. It sounds like Wade-Katoa and Payne were the revelations (I expected Müller to be good), so it’s good they’re both signed now.

    Bring on the season openers!

    1. See my reply above, and, yes, individual skills (along with hints of formation and tactics) are all we’d have gotten if we’d HAD a preseason. And those can be, as D’Aquila’s 2023 preseason showed, fool’s gold.

      So, yeah…the first third of the season is going to be pretty crucial..!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.