Jamie from H.R. (Part 2)

Y’know…I still don’t get what so many people here in Portland have against these K-cups. It’s coffee, right? Coffee is…coffee. It all tastes like this.

Maybe it’s some sort of because-too-many-rainy-days thing? I dunno.

Well, anyway, I feel like this has been a good discussion, coach. I think we’ve got some good ideas to move ahead with the players we already talked about. But let’s go on to talk about the players who are…

Contributing…but with some real issues

In this group are what we in HR see as players who are getting significant minutes but so far seem to have underperformed in one or more ways. They include a midfielder – Jessie Fleming – and two forwards; Morgan Weaver, and Christine Sinclair.

Let’s go from front to back like we did earlier, starting with

Christine Sinclair

STATS:
Matches played – 10
Minutes played – 422
Goals – 2 (tied with Payton Linnehan and and Sam Coffey for third on the squad, tied with many in the upper third of the league table)
xG – 2.9 (second on the team behind Sophia Smith, tied with Elexa Bahr and Claire Emslie for 14th in the league)
Goal-creating actions per 90 minutes – 0.21 (ninth on the team behind Kelli Hubly (0.27), tied with Paige Monaghan 79th in the league)
Goals per game – 0.2
Shots – 14
Shots on target – 6
SOT per shot – 42.8%
Shot-creating actions per 90 minutes – 2.78 (second on the team behind Smith, 43rd in the league behind Reilyn Turner (2.85)
Assists – 1
Tackles – 6
Tackles won – 2
Tackle % – 33%
Challenges – 2
Challenges won – 0
Challenge % – 0%
Blocks – 2
Interceptions – 2

So far this season Sinc has
1) played a poor half in KC, “slow and static” (+3/-2)
2) come on late and put in a good half hour against Gotham (+7/-1)
3) finished out the last quarter-hour in the Racing draw (+4/-4)
4) done nothing of value over a short stint in Cary (no rating)
5) scored a poacher’s goal in a decent sort of hour against Washington (+6/-2)
6) put in another solid hour against Seattle (+5/-1)
7) come on in the final half hour to help close out Houston (+6/-2)
8) had a bad hour – including missing a sitter – in the loss in Orlando (+2/-4)

Okay, I get it! Sinc is “the GOAT”, the Queen of Rosaria – what the heck IS “Rosaria”, anyway, do you know, coach? Oh, you dunno either? Well, okay – and the Grand Old Lady of Thorndom.

She’s going to get minutes until she has to play them behind a walker.

That said…what’s that song about the old gray mare..?

Sinc’s got a hell of a soccer brain. Unfortunately so far as we can tell she has little or no soccer wheels. She’s left behind by…well, not just by pacey opponents but by most opponents. Look at those defensive numbers. Ugh. That’s brutal.

When she starts she’s gassed by the half hour and from there until she comes off we’re playing 10 on 11. And she can’t track back anymore, even fresh, when she comes in late.

You’ve found some good value in her so far, coach, from things she can still do, like flick-on headers from midfield or to be a warm body to close out games. But every match from here on will be piling more miles on her tired legs, and Orlando was a warning of what will happen when she’s forced to start against a dangerous opponent.

Sinclair Improvement Plan:

A time machine!

Sorry, sorry. I know. Not funny. But the bottom line here is small roster, aging player, limited utility. There’s only so many times Sinclair can come in to close out games or poach a goal.

I’m honestly kind of stumped here. I’d like to see Sinclair move to the coaching bench, but I’m not sure you or anyone can convince her to do that this season. I can see you are optimistic, but…(sigh)

Well. Let’s move on to…

Morgan Weaver

STATS:
Matches played – 7
Minutes played – 532
Goals – 1 (tied with Izzy D’Aquila and Hina Sugita at the bottom of the scorers on the squad, tied with many in the middle third of the league table)
xG – 1.5 (fifth on the team behind Olivia Moultrie (1.6), tied with four including Ji So-yun and Beatriz for 28th in the league)
Goal-creating actions per 90 minutes – 0.34 (tied with Sugits for fifth on the team, tied with three others for 27th in the league)
Goals per game – 0.14
Shots – 18
Shots on target – 7
SOT per shot – 38.9% (seventh on the team behind Moultrie (41.2%), tied with several for 22nd in the league)
Shot-creating actions per 90 minutes – 3.39 (third on the team behind Moultrie (3.81), 28th in the league tied with Savannah DeMelo)
Assists – 0

This year Weaver:
1) worked hard with little result in KC (+14/-6)
2) did much the same against Gotham (+17/-10)
3) pulled a goal back against Racing but from a crap-ton of “run fast/shoot hard” (+12/-8)
4) worked hard but wasn’t effective in Cary (+12/-8)
5) got stretchered off after a half hour at Bay FC (+2/-0)

…and is now on the 45-day DL with a knee problem.

I know the coaching staff – I suspect you are, too, coach – have been working with Weaver this year. After she looked poised for a breakout at the end of 2023 she’s reverted to her form of earlier seasons, spending her boundless energy in runs that are ending in heavy touches and poor shots.

Now she’s going to be trying to come back from her first serious professional injury.

Weaver Improvement Plan:

I’m hoping you will continue to be the lead on this, coach. We need Weaver to reconnect with her 2023 form. We need her to work together with Smith, and connect with the attacking midfielders like Moultrie and Sugita to present opposing defenses with multiple options to prevent them swarming Smith. We need her to mix guile and craft with her amazing speed and strength.

We hope that you, and she, can make that happen once she’s healthy.

That brings us to the last of the “good to decent players with high minutes who need something more”,

Jessie Fleming

STATS:
Matches played – 10
Minutes played – 593
Goals – 0
xG – 0.5
Goal-creating actions per 90 minutes – 0.30 (fifth on the team behind Morgan Weaver and Hina Sugita (0.34), tied with four about 80th in the league)
Goals per game – 0
Shots – 7
Shots on target – 2
SOT per shot – 28.6% (11th on the team, bottom half of the league)
Shot-creating actions per 90 minutes – 2.43 (14th on the team behind Marie Muller, 68th in the league)
Assists – 1
Tackles – 26 (fourth on the team behind Sugita (30), eighth in the league)
Tackles won – 17 (fourth on the team (Sugita, 18), 12th in the league tied with thirteen)
Tackle % – 65.3% (second on the team behind Muller (69.5%), top ten in the league
Challenges – 27 (second on the team behind Muller (33), fourth in the league)
Challenges won – 12 (second on the team (Muller, 17), seventh in the league tied with ten
Challenge % – 44.4% (fifth on the team, bottom half of the league)
Blocks – 13 (fourth on the team, 12th in the league tied with six)
Interceptions – 4 (tenth on the team, bottom half of the league)

Fleming’s 2024 season has included:
1) a hard-working day in Kansas City (+10/-5)
2) almost 80 minutes against Gotham; good shift but not in synch (+10/-3)
3) big improvement in the second half against Racing (+15/-8)
4) a half hour in Cary without much to show for it (+3/-1)
5) a solid hour against Washington (+6/-0)
6) a surprisingly terrible hour (+1/-4) in the Seattle romp
7) twenty minutes as a late sub in Houston (+4/-2)
8) a very mediocre first half in Orlando (+2/-2)

I have to admit I’m a bit baffled by Fleming. Or, well, really more by the disconnect between what the front office people who were here before the sale seem to think they got in her compared to what our eye test says we got.

The metrics and her performance so far suggest Fleming is a decent replacement-grade reserve and spot-starter. Not bad, not great, just here. That tracks with her club record; outside of a very good 2021-22 season she looks like something of a fringe player for Chelsea; useful but not really essential.

But my understanding is that the General Manager has been courting her for years, looking at her as filling the huge sort of playmaker/creator role she plays for her national team.

We…don’t see it.

Fleming Improvement Program:

I dunno, coach. Draft the whole CWNT? Got anything for me here?

My guess is that some players don’t do as well for their clubs as they do for their country. Works the opposite way, too…but this? I’m kind of baffled. Not sure how you fix this because it’s not her. It’s where she fits.

Fleming’s not a bad player. But she just doesn’t seem to fit with the club. Just too slow, a little out of position, just barely failing to anticipate a pass or provide one to the right space…right now she’s behind almost everyone on the midfield depth chart except…well, Sinclair should be behind her but isn’t and as we both know that’s one of the issues, right?

I sure hope you have some ideas. Because we’re spending a lot for Fleming.

And speaking of ideas, that brings us to…

The Reclamation Projects

There’s two players that need – or needed – some real work to turn their season around. They’re Kelli Hubly, and the starting goalkeeper, Shelby Hogan.

Kelli Hubly

STATS:
Matches played – 8
Minutes played – 662
Goals – 0
Assists – 1
Tackles – 13 (seventh on the team behind Moultrie (17), top third in the league)
Tackles won – 9 (seventh on the team behind Moultrie (10), top third in the league)
Tackle % – 69.2% (second on the team behind Muller (69.5%), top ten in the league)
Challenges – 10 (seventh on the team, mid-table in the league)
Challenges won – 5 (sixth on the team, mid-table in the league)
Challenge % – 50% (seventh on the team tied with five, top third of the league)
Blocks – 13 (sixth on the team, top third in the league)
Interceptions – 15 (third on the team tied with Coffey, ninth in the league)

This season Hubly has
1) made the most critical of the defensive errors that shipped Gotham’s goal (+9/-3)
2) almost single-handedly lost the Racing match through another individual error (+8/-6)
3) played the last half hour in Cary without impact (+0/-2)
4) had an overall poor match at Bay FC (+4/-8)
5) been pulled for Obaze against Washington at halftime
6) returned to the XI against Seattle. Made a huge goal-line clearance (+2/-2)
7) played decently in Houston (+5/-3)
8) collapsed in Orlando (+6/-10)

When I asked about her what people who’d been here longer than I have told me was for that her first couple of years Hubly was a stuck as a reserve because she’d play fine for most of the game then do something awful. Like, match-losing awful.

Then a couple seasons back she stopped doing that. Played her way into the starting eleven by being…well, what you want from a centerback; solid, reliable, consistent.

This season it’s like the Bad Old Hubly is back. Even when she’s played well for damn near the whole game, like she did against Gotham and Racing, she’s made the big mistakes.

Hubly Improvement Plan:

You and I both know what Step One is; cut out the big mistakes.

But…can she? Hubly must know better, she’s been better. That suggests she either doesn’t understand, or can’t control, why and what she’s doing wrong.

We talked about this with Sauerbrunn; Becky should be able to help with Hubly’s consistency. Can she? But if so…why isn’t she already, coach?

Frankly, if Hubly, or ‘Brunn, or them and you and Vytas, can’t solve this problem?

Maybe this is just me, but my opinion is that we’ll need Isabella Obaze to get healthy ASAP.

The other player in this bucket is…

Shelby Hogan

Matches: 11
Minutes: 990
Goals Against: 16 (second highest in the league behind Haught and Campbell (18)
Post-shot xG Against: 13.6 (fourth highest in the league)
Post-shot xGa minus GA per 90 minutes: -0.22 (third worst in the league ahead of Franch (-0.25) and Proulx (-0.37)
Distribution completion: 31.8% (second lowest in the league ahead of Rowland (11%)
Crosses taken: 3.7% (third lowest in the league ahead of Franch (3.5%) and Murphy (2.5%)

So far this season Hogan
1) was worst in the league in Kansas City (+1/-4)
2) looked shaky against Gotham (+0/-4)
3) improved to “decent” against Racing (+2/-2)
4) had kind of the same outing in Cary (+0/-1)
5) worked her tail off at Bay FC but was let down by her backline (+7/-1)
6) stoned Washington and should have picked up a clean sheet (+4/-0)
7) did keep the sheet against Seattle (+2/-0)
8) repeated that performance in Houston (+3/-1)
9) took a “tough loss” with two unlucky concessions in Orlando (+1/-4)

That doesn’t take in the clean sheet in Chicago, either.

When you look not at the raw data but the progress, Hogan’s season looks much better. She was a hot mess for the first two matches, then moved up to “okay” for the next three, then has looked solid in her last six.

Frankly, coach, I have to wonder about all the superlatives I keep hearing about the former keeper coach. I mean…that coach seems like she had a great run back in the day. But two of her last couple of players…I mean, look at the metrics for Franch and Hogan this year. I don’t want to speak ill of former colleagues, but…yike.

Still. Unlike Hubly, Hogan seems to be solving her own problems.

Hogan Improvement Plan:

So I think this comes down to “keep doing what you’re doing” and work on fixing the backline issues, amiright?

Well, coach? I think those are the main players we want to address next week, the core of the starters we see as critical to leading the playoff run.

Let me run quickly through the spot-starters and reserves, though, before we go:

The Front of the Bench

The way we see it, there’s five players who are indispensable as subs and occasional – or sometimes more than occasional – starters. Sitting on the front of the bench, so to speak. They include:

Payton Linnehan (Matches: 7 Starts: 1 Minutes: 225 Goals: 2 xG: 0.7 Assists: 1)
We’ve been thrilled with Payton; she’s our personal Rookie of the Year and, yes, yes, I know, Bethune, okay, fine. But let’s gush a little; Linnehan has been lit, jumping over D’Aquila as our preferred striker off the bench. We love what she’s bringing right now!

Reyna Reyes (Matches: 11 Starts: 8 Minutes: 665 Goals: 0 xG: 0.4 Assists: 0) I thought a lot about dumping Reyes in here. She’s started more than subbed in, and has been excellent against Gotham (+11/-4), decent in her first half against Racing (+5/-3), put up a valiant fight against long overloaded odds in Cary (+7/-5), was the best of a bad backline at Bay FC (+6/-7), was solid in Houston (+6/-0), and again in the first half in Orlando (+6/-3).

My main reason for putting her in here is that you’ve been using her and Nicola Payne as a sort of platoon lately, coach. Reyes subbed in late against Washington and Seattle, and came out at the half in Orlando; that’s only three halves and one full 90 in the last four games.

Reyes and Payne are sort of two sides of a coin. Reyes is a bit tougher tracking back and tackling (63.6% wins to Payne’s 55.5%), Payne has more pace going forward, so I get it.

Between them they give you some good options.

Nicola Payne (Matches: 5 Starts: 3 Minutes: 305 Goals: 0 xG: 0.1 Assists: 0) So kind of what we said about Reyes; a little more attack when you need it. Great option off the bench if you need pace.

Isabella Obaze (Matches: 6 Starts: 5 Minutes: 447 Goals: 0 xG: 0.1 Assists: 2) After getting pitched into the fire in Kansas City Obaze grew into the backline until injured. Will we see her back soon, coach? She still isn’t on the injury report, so..?

No hint? Sigh. I guess I just need to talk to the physios, then.

Anyway, as we discussed about Hubly; we really do need Obaze healthy and soon.

Meghan Klingenberg (Matches: 7 Starts: 1 Minutes: 142 Goals: 0 xG: 0.1 Assists: 1) This looks like the season Klingenberg finally moves out of the starting XI. She’s still the heart and soul of the club, and that hasn’t changed. It’s kinda nice to see a veteran adjust her minutes to suit her form. Not that I’m pointing fingers at someone or anything.

Okay, well…who’s left on…

The Back of the Bench

We’re left with four players who have some minutes this season. They are;

Ana Dias (Matches: 7 Starts: 1 Minutes: 131 Goals: 1 xG: 1.9 Assists: 0) Yes, I know that Dias’ numbers are virtually identical to Klingenberg’s and she has a goal. But…Kling is in front of the bench not because of her role on the pitch, and that’s where Dias suffers; she doesn’t have that off-field role.

When Smith and Weaver are healthy, with Beckie on the roster, and with Linnehan playing like she as been, there’s just no obvious place up front for Dias, and we feel like she hasn’t done enough to put space between herself, D’Aquila, and even Sheva. She’s kind of the “second off the bench” option at this point. Not a problem, but also kinda not someone where there’s a game state that grabs you and makes you think “We really need Dias in there”.

Izzy D’Aquila (Matches: 3 Starts: 0 Minutes: 71 Goals: 1 xG: 1.4 Assists: 0) The Tragedy of Izzy is that though she has been here as a professional for over a year a 2024 draftee has jumped right over her on the forwards’ depth chart.

She did score a nice goal in Orlando, yes. We’re not sure what that means or if it even means anything, given that for the year before that she looked utterly adrift in front of the goal. We want to think she still has promise. Her problem is that she’s running out of chances to show that.

Marisa Sheva (Matches: 3 Starts: 0 Minutes: 17 Goals: 0 xG: 0 Assists: 1) Sheva is a sort of utility player, and her ability to fill in midfield helps her dodge D’Aquila’s trap. But so far she’s been deep depth, no more, and while we know that everyone needs squad players unless you feel strongly otherwise, coach, we don’t see her moving up anytime soon. She’s doing fine where she is for now.

Olivia Wade-Katoa (Matches: 2 Starts: 0 Minutes: 17 Goals: 0 xG: 0 Assists: 0) Everyone says she’s just a perfect cinnamon roll!

Well, that’s it. That’s our 2024 performance review. Let’s get some more coffee and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

3 thoughts on “Jamie from H.R. (Part 2)

  1. Good evaluations all around. The Jessie situation is the puzzler. She had her breakout tournament when the Canadians won gold. Definitely a watershed moment for Canada leading to, I suspect, too much hype for just how good she is. I watched a couple of their friendlys after and she just didn’t have much impact. Kind of invisible. Jessie is a skilled player, but why she can’t fit in, is puzzling to me. Now, LeBlanc has a role in this. I will stop now.

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    1. LeBlanc has a huge role in the Fleming singing; she has been upfront about trying to get Fleming for years. And if she was doing here more of what she does for her country it’d be a payoff…but her club form looks more applicable, and that’s “no better than Moultrie”-level good. She’s not a bad player individually, but something isn’t working for her with this squad, and I wish I knew why.

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      1. I’m hopeful that Fleming needs time to develop chemistry with a team. Unfortunately recent history doesn’t support that premise, but I’m still hopeful. From all accounts, Fleming is supposed to be very talented and that is where I hang my hopes. I do believe that there is a rush to judgement for athletes, and that some players just need time to figure out how they fit in with a team. We saw that with Sophia Smith with the Thorns early in her career, and are seeing it with her on the National Team. For Fleming, she never really had training camp with the Thorns once she was signed, and was kinda thrown into the mix with the expectation she would simply fit in.
        I think she played her best game of the season against NC, and hopefully she is getting more comfortable with the team. It would be a huge boost if she were to step up her game soon, especially with Coffey likely being out next week.

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