Thorns FC: Near-Death Experience

I guess if you’re desperate for good news you could look at the Thorns grabbing a point at the as-close-to-the-death-as-possible from the visiting Racing Louisville last Saturday.

Or that the Thorns’ aggregate six goals-for/eight goals-against (GD -2) is a single goal better than Angel City (3GF/6GA, GD -3) so they’re on bottom, not us.

That’s pretty cold comfort after last weekend.

Because after a solid effort against Gotham the previous match the Thorns came out against Louisville and regressed to the formless chaos of Kansas City, unable to string together three attacking passes without turning the ball over, making rec-league defensive errors, and generally looking like eleven people who had met in a Hobby Lobby parking lot that morning.

It wouldn’t be exaggerating much to say that the first half of Matchday 3 might have been the worst Thorns soccer I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen the Damned Courage whip this club like a borrowed mule.

Four Thorns had positive net PMRs above +1 after 45 minutes; Reyna Reyes (+5/-3), Jessie Fleming (+6/-4), Marie Muller (+6/-4), and the First Half MVP, Sam Coffey (+9/-1).

As you can tell, Reyes, Fleming, and Muller weren’t exactly killing it, either.

I’m not sure where to even start.

Okay. How about here; Thorns in possession, 17th minute.

Kelli Hubly has dribbled up from the backline – let’s remember that the Thorns are already down two goals! They’re chasing the game and have no time to waste faffing around! – but runs smack into Carson Pickett.

Hubly can’t get past Pickett, so she just slams the ball off her. Luckily for Portland the ball runs to Janine Beckie, who’s got Fleming wide for the easy square pass.

You can see what’s in Beckie’s mind; lay off to her CWNT-teammate and make the run for Fleming to feed her with a 1-2. Or Fleming can send a diagonal pass in to Morgan Weaver who’s open at the top of midfield to attack or to play wide back to Beckie.

So Beckie lays off the pass…

…which Fleming utterly misreads. It’s as if she’s never seen Beckie before, or has any clue what the winger is going to do.


…Fleming stands there as the ball rolls into touch and Beckie pulls up her run to get back to defend the Racing throw to come.

Want more? Sure! Here we are in the 40th minute. Sam Coffey in possession this time, eyeing Beckie for the long pass up the gut. Note Fleming, again, just off the shoulder of her defender.

Coffey hits the pass.

(And as usual, we saw a LOT of these long direct passes that are a primary symptom of NorrisBall. The team CAN play little triangles, but that takes coordination and communication and Sam Coffey can only do so much. The change in play that accompanied Sugita’s arrival was remarkable)

Beckie drops to meet it. Taylor Flint – who’s been marking Fleming – goes to tackle Beckie.

Beckie has to get rid of the ball or be tackled for loss, so she boots it wide for the now-unmarked Fleming to run onto.

But Fleming misses her cue again; she doesn’t anticipate her teammate – a teammate she plays with on two different squads, mind! – and gets caught short as the ball rolls by.

Luckily for Portland Reyna Reyes is steaming forward and takes possession.

Reyes dribbles forward as the Louisville defense converges (and the lavender hill mob defended decently for much of the match, so no shame there).

Sophia Smith has to drop back so Reyes can side-foot her the ball and continue her run.

As you can see, though; Smith has Flint and Jaelin Howell in front and scorer Uchenna Kanu collapsing from behind. Beckie and Weaver are iffy, but who’s open for the square pass?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Yep. Smith squares towards Fleming, who…

…is off-tempo. Again.

The ball rolls past gaily into the wheelhouse of Kayla Fisher, and…

…Portland’s attack is over.

I don’t mean to pick on Fleming. She had a horrific first half, but as her PMR shows she didn’t have the worst first half.

That would be…

Kelli Hubly, here compounding her 3rd minute giveaway-to-Kanu-fuckup with a completely different fuckup, doing the very thing my U-14 coach used to hammer on defenders for doing; stabbing at the ball rather than staying on their toes, upright, and tackling the player.

Unsurprisingly Kanu skinned Hubly and tucked the ball into the far corner, 0-1 Louisville.

Three minutes later Reilyn Turner dimed Kanu, who jumped over Hubly like a ginormous lavender Easter Bunny to head in Racing’s second.

At the other end Portland was doing this:

Less than half a goal xG and no goals over 45 minutes. In a way it’s kind impressive to be losing by two goals to a team who could barely create half a goddamn goal themselves in the same time. This was NOT a good opponent; Louisville outplayed Portland for a total of six minutes. This was Portland doing fuck-all for an entire half.

I counted two Portland “attacks” during that period; that is, buildups that actually produced a shot:

20′ – Weaver forced a corner. Moultrie’s corner kick dimed Sauerbrunn who headed way over.
30′ – Moultrie with a shot from distance that sailed a trifle higher than ‘Brunn’s
45+2′ – Weaver’s cute backheel ran to Muller. Her cross was cleared by no further than Moultrie, who shot ever further over.

That was it. That was all.


After that shitshow Mike Norris did the only thing he could to save his job – what he should have from the opening whistle – put Hina Sugita on in place of Olivia Moultrie. Hina-san sparked a second half rally, aided by Louisville making a handful of defensive errors.

Morgan Weaver pulled a fine goal back in the 51st minute, but even with ten minutes of added time…

…the clock was running out.

But here’s something to know.

There is no quit in Sam Coffey. None. Not a fucking bit.

In the 99th minute she did this.


In one sense this is one of those “draws that felt like wins”. Until you realize that last Saturday was the second time in three games that this squad came out looking like they hadn’t the slightest goddamn idea how to play this game, or have met each other more than once. By the time the club found their feet they were in a hole too deep to dig themselves out of.

That’s not individual form or individual errors.

Those five points were lost on the training ground.

This club has a coach problem, and the question is; what is it going to do about that?

Short Passes

Despite the turnovers (we’ll get to that) Portland was generally solid with 81% completion. Louisville was very Louisville; 70%.

Becky Sauerbrunn was the sniper; 91% (52 of 57). Several players (Coffey, Sugita, Reyes) were in the high 80’s; that included Fleming (89%, 34 of 38), in case you still think I was picking on her.

Weaver and Beckie were the drag-ends; 67% (29 of 43) and 59% (13 of 22), respectively

Here’s the SofaScore position diagram for the two clubs; starters on the left, with subs on the right:

I really miss Arielle Dror’s passing charts; these plots are hard to infer player connections from. The Gotham plot surely shows how Racing played increasingly narrow and congested in back, trying to bunker up.

All that did was give Portland chance after chance, and gave away two points. But that’s Racing all over.

Turnover and over.

Here’s how things are going

Opponent (Result) – 2024Turnovers
Kansas City (L)43
Gotham (L)30
Louisville (D)54

A new high and a draw, but you wouldn’t have shocked me if you’d told me this one was another loss. Sam Coffey and a hell of a match from Hina-san changed that, but barely.

Weaver was the queen of giveaways – seven and a half (if two players – passer and receiver, say – were involved I gave each on half a turnover…) Hubly and Moultrie both lost six, Muller and Coffey five, nobody else turned over more than three times.

Louisville were coughing up hairballs even faster, mind you, which helps explain the scoreline a lot, too.

Corner Kicks

Five. All long, one first half, four second.

20′MoultrieLongTo Brunn’s head but the header went into the MAC Club deck.
51′FlemingLongInto the near side of the pack and cleared, recycled, Muller to Fleming to Sugita; Hina-san’s touch failed her but the Racing defender booted back to Lund. Coffey was crashing and Lund’s panic clearance banged off her up in the air to Smith. Smith fed Weaver, who scored.
61′MullerLongInto the crowd; someone wearing Doritos was offside.
90+7′CoffeyLongTo the far side of the pack, headed clear for another corner.
90+7′CoffeyLongInto the scrum, cleared to Smith who was tackled and forced back.

The 51st minute goal came after a pretty long stretch of run-of-play, so it kind of doesn’t count. So call it one for five, counting the Beckie header.


Third full match tracking Portland throw-ins in 2024.

I had the Thorns taking a total of 32 throw-ins; 18 in the first half, 14 in the second. Racing had only 16 total; 9 first half, 7 second.

Of Portland’s throws 27 (84.3%) resulted in an improvement in Portland’s tactical position. 5 (15.7%) were poorly taken and went against Portland. None I could see were neutral – that is, kept possession but produced nothing going forward – or I was unable to see.

The Current got an advantage from 7 of 16 (43.7%) and lost 8 (50%); one wasn’t observed.

Here’s how that’s going:

OpponentAdvantage gainedAdvantage lostOpponent gainOpponent loss
Kansas City62.5%8.3%59.2%40.1%

Still looks like either the squad has been working on throws or that Muller is making a big difference.

The “found out” stage of Racing’s defense fucking around

Player Ratings and Comments

Smith (+4/-5 : +10/-3 : +14/-8) Proof, if you need it, that even Sophia Smith plays better if she gets help from her teammates and isn’t thrown at defenses like a one-woman wrecking ball.

Tough match; Yanez, like every Thorns opponent, knows that failing to smother Smith is to pray for death, so she sent her troops out to slay and burn, as usual. It’s a tribute to Smith that she had as good a match as she did.

Weaver (+3/-3 : +9/-5 : +12/-8) Morgan Weaver has reverted to a lot of the “run fast, shoot hard” form we saw in her first season. I think it may have to do with the desperation feel I get off these games. Weaver knows the tactics – such as they are – aren’t working. So she has to run faster and shoot harder to try and make things work.

It doesn’t, and I hope she figures out how to regain some of her finesse. She’s got the tools if she chooses to use them.

Beckie (65′ – +3/-5 : +4/-3 : +7/-8) Still not the force she was in Kansas City, and instead looks to be reverting to her pre-injury mean here. Works hard, but just not in synch with Smith, Weaver, or the AMs, which is obviously a coaching issue; she’s international quality as an individual. Not sure yet whether Kansas City was the exception, but it’s looking increasingly like it.

D’Aquila (25′ – +4/-4) Izzy D’Aquila works her tail off, and I respect that.


Supposedly when he was offered up the name of a prospective officer, the Emperor Napoleon had only one question: “Est-il heureux?”, meaning (more or less) “Is he lucky?”

It’s not that the Little Corporal really believed that battles were won with luck. But he knew that beyond drive and skill there is an intangible that elevates the fundamental drudgery of study and the essential grind of will into victory. That’s the “luck” he spoke of. That’s why some talented people just thrash about futilely; they have the skills and the will…but not the “luck”, not the intangible quality to lift their work.

Some people just have it, some just don’t.

D’Aquila – at least as of this writing – does not.

Fleming (78′ – +6/-4 : +9/-4 : +15/-8) In case you still think I was picking on Fleming, look at what happened to her PMR when Sugita came on.

I’m not as high on Fleming as a lot of Thorns fans. I haven’t seen her play in Europe, or much for the CWNT. So far she’s looked very average here, which is my only standard. Obviously, though, a good deal of that is that she and her teammates are missing something crucial in training. Well-drilled teams and international-quality players don’t do the sort of stuff we saw in the screenshots above.

Sinclair (12′ – +4/-4) Did fine within her limits, and given the bench Sinc was pretty much the limits of what Norris had.

The real question is whether given those limits is she worth suiting up when there are younger prospects on the roster?

Moultrie (45′ – +7/-7) My guess is that a lot of the reasons Olivia Moultrie is struggling are organizational and managerial. But she’s also lost whatever shot she had from distance and lacks the physical gifts Sugita possesses in abundance, so she gets tackled or coughs up the ball.

She’s young, and can still learn. But there’s absolutely no reason to start her over Sugita until she does.

Sugita (45′ – +13/-1) Mike Norris, are you seeing this? WTF, man? FUCKING START SUGITA!!! Am I making myself clear enough?

Coffey (+9/-1 : +14/-0 : +25/-1) Woman of the Match.

For many years I wore Emily Menges’ number 4 because, to me, she symbolized much that I loved about the best of this team; tough professionalism, relentless drive, unfailing hardiness and spirit.

Now I need a #17 kit.

Muller (79′ – +6/-4 : +5/-2 : +11/-6) On a day that the backline wasn’t winning any awards Muller had another solid shift both going forward and tracking back.

Payne (11′ – no rating) Nothing against her, but Muller was going well, and Payne brought nothing new or improved. Why make the change, then? It’s stuff like this that makes me throw my hands up with Norris.

Hubly (+3/-5 : +4/-1 : +8/-6) Unfortunately there’s only so many minuses I can give for poor plays, because Hubs damn near single-handedly lost two games, Gotham and this one.

She’s become a defensive boat anchor. If she can’t improve by North Carolina away at that point Obaze will be worth the risk.

Sauerbrunn (+2/-1 : +6/-0 : +8/-1) See the Muller comment above. Good work amid a defensive rat-scramble. Needs to tighten up her counterpart Hubly’s shot group or see her to the bench, tho. She’s supposed to be here for veteran leadership. That means her unit’s failings reflect on her, too.

Reyes (45′ – +5/-3) Got skinned on the first Racing goal but decent shift in all. Not sure if I’d have pulled her rather than Hubly, but…

Klingenberg (45′ – +8/-3) …Kling was a nice attacking piece and, since Racing was incompetent or absent going forward, wasn’t a defensive risk.

Hogan (+1/-0 : +1/-2 : +2/-2) Not really at fault on the concessions, which were 99.9% on her backline. Did have a scarily clumsy moment in the 77th minute when she flapped at a looping cross and managed only to knock it down to the Racing forward on her doorstep (DiGrande, I think) but her shot was blocked and Hogan fell on it.

Still needs a bit more confidence and swagger. Keeping is 90% head, and I’m not sure where Hogan’s head is right now,

Coach Norris: I don’t usually listen to the post-match pressers. So Norris’ interview after this one shocked me; the man sounded utterly adrift. Lost. Defeated. Like he had no idea what had happened, or why, other than his team had been losing then wasn’t.

I’ve tried to give the man the benefit of the doubt. The uptick against Gotham was promising. Then…this mess.

It’s time to try someone new. Lowdon? Fine. Call her “interim”, start headhunting, open the cashbox to nick someone from Wolfsburg or Barca or Verdy…but find someone with a vision beyond this gormless cluster.

The sorts of talents we have here; Smith, Weaver, Sugita, Coffey…these people shouldn’t have to throw themselves against the wall every fucking week because their gaffer can’t find the door with both hands and a flashlight.

It’s not fair to them, and, honestly, not fair to him. Norris is supposed to be a nice man well-liked by the players. He was apparently a good enough keeper coach; he did that work a long time. He’s just over his head in the top seat and it’s getting painful to watch.

Time to try someone else.

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

26 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Near-Death Experience

  1. I think the assessment of Jessie was right. I doubt she would say you were unfair. I’ve watched the first half of the replay, and it appears to me she is just floating around because there’s no structure here. She might very well be asking herself, “where in the hell am I suppose to be”

    As far as Norris, gotta go. And it should have been yesterday. Though I really don’t want Parsons, I’d take him. Desperation prevails.

  2. Its been a difficult start to the Portland Soccer season. Doubly so for the Thorns, because they are a collection of really good players. Its really damning that it takes Norris over a year to recognize that Sugita should be a regular starter in the midfield. I get that its crowded with Coffey, Fleming and Moutre also there, but Sugita needs to see the pitch. The Head Coach is supposed to make difficult choices, especially when it comes to good players. If he won’t (or can’t?) make those decisions than he becomes an anchor to the success of the team.
    Neither Moultre nor Fleming are playing well right now. Taking a break and watching the game from the sideline can help players get a different view of what is happening. This midfield is supposed to be the strength of the team, and it gets lost for long stretches of the games. Norris has two weeks to figure some things out, and I’m not convinced he will.
    I will credit him with bringing on Kling in the second half. That she hasn’t seen the field this year isn’t a good look for him. She may not have 60 minute legs anymore, she is a veteren presence who can help to settle things down.

    1. The thing is that Moultrie had a spell of excellent play last season, and Fleming is a mainstay for the CWNT. On paper it’s not unreasonable to expect good work from either or both of them.

      But a look at them here THIS season and it’s clear they’re not working well in this system, so it makes sense to start Sugita over one or the other. But that, too, makes me throw my hands up with this guy; he seems unable to see a barn in daylight.

      Kling…mmm…I gotta be honest; I’m concerned that she’s finally losing her wheels. She got skinned more last season than I’d seen her since her down year in 2018. With Reyes doing well moving her to the bench seemed like a good idea.

      And it’s worth noting that Louisville didn’t have jack shit going forward so, as I mentioned, Kling wasn’t a potential defensive liability as she might have been with Castellanos or Esther or Debinha running at her. So while I agree it was a good move for this one, I hope he doesn’t think it means that Kling is ready to start regularly again…

  3. “START FUCKING SUGITA!!!” Maybe you could word this a little differently? You don’t really want Norris to do that, not at all. Made me smile and wonder how you say “Are you crazy, GTFO!” in Japanese.

  4. So much here to digest, so I’ve gotta take some more time with the data, but I just wanted to say that if you have twitter, you can follow: for his newsletter he puts out weekly after the weekend games that has a better passing map for all games, so you can see passing patterns.

    An example here for the latest set of games he did in his newsletter:

    He’s a Washington Spirit fan, so the bias is there, but he is mostly fair with his thoughts, and of course data is data, so you can skip his recaps and just scroll to the Thorns game for each week to snag the pass map picture. He’ll post them on his twitter a day after the weekend so he’s pretty quick.

  5. Ooppps, I did the thing where I posted links in my comment, so you have a comment of mine “awaiting moderation” somewhere wherever that exists. 🙂

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  7. Thanks John your player ratings and my eyes matched up well on this one, particularly in the second half. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the first half again, but I wound up watching it to see if I could figure out why it was such a shit show, but there were some glimmers; Sam played as well as she could given the fact her teammates were appearing so confused; Müller was active, and after the first six minutes Reyes was a beast, she really worked hard.
    I also wanted to see why the second half was so good. Yes, Sugita was her marvelous self and Sam was beasting it up, but Kling made a big difference too and Sauerbrunn taking the ball deep in the attacking half I thought was great. I noticed both center backs were carrying the ball deeper and when they did I noted that Müller stayed back and covered. Marie is good, smart and she plays well on either side. I loved Natu, but IMHO Müller may be a better player.
    Yes, Izzy worked hard and found herself in dangerous spots, but was unlucky. I wasn’t glad to see her come in, but she wasn’t invisible this time.
    Now I want to see Obaze, she might be the future. I would like to see what Linnehan and OW Katoa have. I want Hina to replace Moultrie. I am not sure what is wrong with Liv’s game, but it doesn’t look good right now.
    As for the coach, well if he is going to be sacked, they should replace him with Lowden as an interim and then do a thorough search for a decent coach. As for Parsons: been there, done that, let’s move on.

    1. Not invisible, but not effective, either. She just lacks the sacred fire. Sad.

      At this point I don’t want to see Obaze as much as I’m pretty done with Hubs until she gets her headspace aligned. She’s an active menace (and that’s despite, as Timber Dave correctly mentions, playing pretty well the other 88 minutes. The saying “one awshit cancels a thousand attaboys” is key.

      Sadly, my guess is that Coffey saved Norris job, at least for the short term. If this run of form continues? That might change.

  8. OK it didn’t like the name Obaze, Linnehan, beasting and Hina. So now I know to add words to the dictionary words that the editor doesn’t like. That is useful.

  9. I always thought Hubly did better with Menges by her side, so when we traded Menges we lost two players. Sauerbrunn doesn’t seem to have the same effect on K-Hubs. OTOH Hubly had lost something last year even with Menges there, so maybe I’m imagining it all. In any case something seems to be missing for her, and it’s something mental – she just doesn’t seem to last 90′ without going to sleep here and there. Sure hope she can pick it back up, or that Obaze is good enough to take her spot, because defense is a primary problem for this team.

    Also, Beckie has become like Bad Weaver, the “run fast shoot hard straight at the keeper” version. Beckie had an open look from an angle on the right in this game and I thought, “She’s going to shoot hard right at that keeper.” Yep. Go Janine, we know you can do better!

    1. Yeah, I think it’s something that’s gotten into many or most of the defenders’ heads. They just don’t have confidence, in themselves or in each other, and frankly I don’t blame them; their play isn’t confidence-inducing.

      I haven’t seen anything sustained from either Canadian that makes me sit up. Beckie has had one monster half. Fleming has been sort of “replacement-level” from the get-go. Not awful, not terrific, just kind of there.

      But the whole squad is kind of like that. That’s why I think it’s coaching. This many players who have shown MUCH better look all to pieces as a unit. I can’t believe that the form of a huge portion of the team has suddenly collapsed, which is the only other explanation.

      1. Yes to that. If it were one or two players who were underperforming, then I’d blame them. But when nearly the whole team is, it has to be coaching. It’s like a classroom: if one or two students don’t do well, it’s likely on them, but if a whole class does, you look at the teacher.

  10. I’m not even willing to call Fleming “replacement level” so far. To this point, she’s actually made our midfield and team worse. Here’s why:

    We traded away Rocky to make room and free up cash for bringing in Fleming.

    Moultrie is getting a look from the Nats as they begin their youth movement; she and Fleming don’t mesh so far and Moultrie is going to the bench because Sugita helps Fleming. Moultrie’s patience has got to be getting thin, especially with the reality that she could start or have a more substantial role for any number of NWSL or European clubs. But as of now there’s no reason to think Moultrie will be a starter or have a substantial role here as long as Fleming is here.

    Hayes had Fleming for two full seasons and half of two others. She had clearly moved on from Fleming, not because Fleming couldn’t get it done but because she wasn’t getting it done. When Hayes says, after most of 3 seasons, that Fleming has had difficulty adjusting to the “physicality” of the WSL, I wonder what the hell we thought would be different about her playing in the NWSL?

    Fleming should be in her prime right now – 128 caps for the CWNT over the past decade, 75 games in 4 years at UCLA, and 68 club matches at Chelsea and Portland. She’s already played in 3 WWC, won Olympic gold, made it to the NCAA quarterfinals 3 times, and was NCAA runner-up once. She took over the captain’s armband from the national legend, and she was a 2-time Mac Hermann finalist. For club and/or country, she’s played the 6, 8, and 10.

    So, to my mind, there’s no room for play like she displayed in the 1st half against Louisville, play that youth coaches call “switching off” rather than not having chemistry and versatility/flexibility with your teammates.

    It’s her job to fit in, unlock others, make them better… not the other way around. And so far, not only is she not showing it; her addition has actually made the midfield worse and the team is underperforming.

    I’d love to pin all of this on Norris, but players gotta play. She has far too much experience and far too much ability to be this ineffective and even outright bad.

    You kinda have to wonder if maybe Hayes knows something we don’t.

    1. My perspective is skewed by my limited familiarity with Fleming’s body of work but, yes, Hayes’ lack of enthusiasm for her does suggest that, much like long-departed AMC, her international rep is inflated compared to her club form.

      My difference is that I’ve never been as high on Moultrie as a lot of other fans. Perfectly serviceable nice squad player, but I’m not heartburning that she’s sitting for Sugita. If she really does develop into a player of Hina-san’s quality? That’s a whole ‘nother story. But she’s not there now.

      1. 100% on Hina-san.

        As for Moultrie and Fleming…

        Fleming is 26 with 128 appearances for country, 68 for club, and 75 for D1 powerhouse — 271 appearances of high to very-high to highest-level ball. She’s not going to add any more strength and size. Moultrie is 18 with 45 appearances for club and 4 for country. She’s also just coming into her size and strength and learning how to use these tools more effectively. I don’t know what she can become, but I do believe someone is going to come looking for her if we’re gonna continue to keep her behind others. I mean, hello, Jermaine O’Neal, having sat in Portland for 4 years!

        Adjustments take time, I know. Even with a good coach (e.g., Erik Spoelstra), a legendary executive backing the coach (e.g., Pat Riley), and a willingness to get creative offfensively (Spo talked with Chip Kelly), the Heatles didn’t click for half a season. NOBODY said the solution was to send Bosh, let alone Wade, to the bench. The solution was getting 25-year-old LeBron, 26-year-old Bosh, and Wade to change how each played so they played together to benefit the team.

        Some of that is system, some of that is feel, and some of that is on the players to step up to the task. Fleming’s not Wade here. I wish she were LeBron, but I’d be happy if she turned out to be Bosh.

        1. The Fleming evaluation seems very premature at this point. She’s been here for all of 3 games, and not much practice time with the team because of the Gold Cup and now SheBelieves. It usually takes players a while to adjust to a new team and league; Diego Valeri was quite an exception when he was great here immediately, and most players are much more like Sebastian Blanco, taking a year or more to gel with the team and start to look good. I’m not saying I think Fleming will take that long, or that I’d be happy if she did, but 3 games just isn’t enough to make a realistic judgement.

          1. I agree that it’s a miniscule sample size.

            I just think that if you’ve played 271 high level matches, you’re the replacement-to-the-legend as your national team’s captain, and you’ve played in lots of high-stakes games, you can’t come in and be a minus to the team. Beat on Norris all we want, because it’s all deserved, but some of this is on her too. She should be making others better, not depending on Hina in/Moultrie out to make her better.

            1. So…

              I do agree that I’d like to see better from Fleming. But PTFC Dave is right; she’s been almost perfectly banjaxed by the combination of 1) lack of preseason tune-up and practice time and 2) whatever the fuck Norris has them doing when they DO practice.

              So it’s kind of same-same with her as everyone else; she really needs to be better, but I’m not sure if we’re where we can evaluate her relative to the squad.

              Moultrie…well, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. What I’m seeing from her so far is “solid squad player”. I’m not sure she’ll stick with the Nats; this edition involves a lot of “try this try that” as the 2015-19 generation ages out.

              Obviously I hope she does become that international-grade player! That’d be great, both for her and the Thorns. She’s not there now – when you have better options you play them – so Moultrie has to sit, whether it ‘keeps her behind others” or not (she IS behind Sugita, so that’s just an actual thing…) or you have to make other changes (such as going to a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 or some other formation…).

              I agree that the risk is that Moultrie 1) gets a case of the ass and leaves and then 2) becomes that game-breaker.

              But without a reserve team to give players like her minutes the pressure on the coach is to win now with who you have. Frankly that means benching Moultrie for Sugita.

              1. So, I’ll put it this way.

                Surely some of it, maybe even a lot of it, is tactical — that’s on Norris.

                It’s definitely not technical — Fleming knows how to ball.

                But it’s is also clearly a case of a player who is up in her own head right now, and she’s got a history of that. Hayes commented on it publicly. That issue, more than anything, including the “physicality” of the WSL, prevented her from being integral at Chelsea.

                If she can get her head going in the right direction, all of this can work.

                But right now, the only way she’s comfortable out there is if Sugita is playing. We think. It worked for a half.

                Sugita being out there more is always what should have happened somehow, but not in this way.

                And what that means we’ve effectively traded Rocky (to clear room and get money for Fleming) and Moultrie (at least as seeing meaningful time and developing, possibly saying the Mormon equivalent of “FTS! Kiss my curvy ass goodbye!”) for Fleming’s comfort. That’s not a good trade.

                1. When you put it that way, no, it’s not, given Fleming’s current form.
                  1) Whether that IS her form, period, I’m not sure we know yet, and;
                  2) It depends on Moultrie a) getting the red ass to the point of demanding a trade (which we don’t really have a good read on unless she’s been saying things off the record and those she’s speaking to spill…) and b) having the ceiling we’d like her to have (solid international-grade player) rather than the “decent-club-grade squad player” level she’s at now (so being that valuable a piece to lose for Fleming).

                  I honestly don’t know which of any of that applies.

                  My sense is that the Fleming deal looks more like a lose than a win at this point. I just don’t have any real sense whether that can change because, as noted, I also don’t have any real sense for how good Fleming CAN be. Her club form suggests “not that great” compared to her international c.v. (as with AMC, that can happen!).

                  I think we’ll just have to be grumpy about it and see…


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