Thorns FC: Brutal

If the hour-and-a-half-long scoreless draw in Seattle was like watching paint dry, the hour-and-a-half-long scoreless draw in Utah was like watching paint dry while getting poked in the kidney with a sharp stick and being hit over the head with a wet sock full of ball bearings.

After the hour I felt like the poor Utah ball kid being accosted by Ally Sentnor:

The Thorns played the worst team in the league and looked worse that their opponent. The Thorns played a team that has scored less than half a goal a game – 7 in 15 matches – and…

were out-shot 25 to 16 including 15 to 12 on frame. Henderson’s post-shot xG tells it all; the Thorns generated less than a quarter of an actual chance of a goal all night.

Oh. And, having been schooled along the touchlines by Kansas City just a week earlier, the Thorns’ coaching staff looked at that and concluded that…

…the problem was that the Portland defense wasn’t fucking narrow enough.

I don’t really even know where to start with this fucking disaster. Wait, yes I do; it’s where I started in the match recap thread over at Stumptown:

“Losing to better sides is one thing. But a result like this to a tomato can like Utah? That’s a whole level of dysfunction worse. That was a real distress beacon, from front to back, that the quality is not here. The glaring issue is coaching, but the roster construction issues are hard to ignore.”

I mean, we could dive into tactics and individual performance (and we will in the comments) but that’s the bottom line. In the Happy Time of the Ken Era we might have been no better than maybe third or fourth or fifth, but we could at least whip up on the tomato cans and steal their lunch money.


Christ, we can’t get out of our own way long enough to string together enough decent soccer to beat these poor schmoes. They played us off the pitch, and what was the reward their head coach got for that?

Amy Rodriguez got canned. That’s what.

You got anything to say about that, Ken? Bhathals? Le Blanc? Anyone?

I do.

But before I do, let’s go into the match stats, because what the hell, I had to watch this turd twice and I’ll be damned if I just walk away without rubbing your noses in it, too.

Short Passes

Just like against Kansas City, Portland out-passed Utah by over 20%, 313 to 257, and just like against the Current completed more, 84% to Utah’s 80%.

Just like against Kansas City the Thorns wasted all that knocking the ball harmlessly back and forth, missing open teammates, turning the ball over, and playing Route One (poorly).

Here’s our “vaudevillian cane” blogger andre carlisle:

What it is (outside soccer malpractice) is Ken overloading the left side trying to find Smith and failing.


That’s actual soccer, and to think that the coach that put that out on the pitch got the sack instead of the one who came up with that goat rodeo up above it.

Turnover and over.

Here’s how things are going

Opponent (Result) – 2024Turnovers
Kansas City (L)43
Gotham (L)30
Louisville (D)54
Carolina (L)34
Houston (W)No data
Chicago (W)No data
Bay FC (W)41
Washington (W)26
Seattle (W)20
Houston (W)21
Orlando (L)28
North Carolina (W)27
Seattle (D)26
Kansas City (L)35
Utah (D)35

Eighteen in the first half, 17 in the second. Like Kansas City (getting a pattern here..?) some were horrifically dangerous; a couple of Sam Coffey passes including a backpass in the 12th minute that Becky Sauerbrunn couldn’t control and set off a dangerous scramble as Sentnor chased it. Hina Sugita whiffed in the 45+1 minute that set up another dangerous Utah attack

Multiple players had multiple giveaways; Smith was the Biggest Loser with an appalling eight (three tackles-for-loss, two heavy touches, two poor passes, and a failure to move to the ball), Coffey and Kelli Hubly turned over five times each (though most of Hubly’s were long boots to nobody, so irking but not immediately dangerous), Payton Linnehan lost four, Nicole Payne and Ana Dias coughed up three each.

Corner Kicks

OPTA says nine, but I can only find eight. Two first half, six second.

1′FlemingLongInto the center of the scrum, and headed away.
19′CoffeyLongHeaded out for a Portland throw.
63′CoffeyLongTo Sauerbrunn, who crossed in but nobody was there and Utah cleared out.
74′FlemingLongHeaded away for another corner.
74′CoffeyLongOnto Janine Beckie’s head, but the header was soft and Haught collected it easily.
86′Wade-KatoaLongCleared, recycled to Smith; her shot was blocked out for another corner.
87′FlemingLongCleared out, recycled, Smith shot again and was blocked again.
88′Wade-KatoaShort…to Fleming, whose cross was easily cleared.

Like the rest of this turkey, there was lots of running around and doing stuff, none of which was particularly effective.


Thirteenth full match tracking Portland throw-ins in 2024 (minus the lost data from Houston and in Chicago).

The two sides took 30 throws between them; Portland with 20, eight in the first half, 12 in the second. Utah took only 10, five in each half.

Of Portland’s throws 13 (65.5%) resulted in an improvement in Portland’s tactical position. Six (30%) was poorly taken and went against Portland. One throw was “neutral”; pinged around until it went out for another throw-in.

Utah gained from five (50%) and lost on five (50%). No neutral or missed throws there.

Here’s how that’s going:

OpponentAdvantage gainedAdvantage lostOpponent gainOpponent loss
Kansas City62.5%8.3%59.2%40.1%
Bay FC64.2%28.5%71.4%28.5%
Kansas City70.7%29.3%72.7%27.3%

Utah, like a bad team would be, is bad at throw-ins. It didn’t really matter; Portland couldn’t take any sort of advantage from that.

Player Ratings and Comments

Smith (+10/-6 : +4/-0 : +14/-6) The problem with having one weapon is that, no matter how deadly the weapon, a clever opponent will figure out a counter to it, and a lucky one stands a much better chance of dodging the strike because there’s only the one to dodge.

Dias (76′ – +3/-3 : +1/-1 : +4/-4) Had a terrific chance in the 39th minute when Smith slid her a perfect pass; Dias shanked the shot wide right.

Like so many of the other Portland forwards not named Smith, Dias works hard but there’s just something not there. She lacks the sacred fire, the lightning in a bottle that truly brilliant strikers unleash.

Sinclair (14′ – no rating) I hardly noticed she was playing, which makes me want to weep and drink heavily.

Linnehan (62′ – +5/-4 : +3/-0 : +8/4) Linnehan’s shank wide came in the 31st minute not the 39th and went left, not right, but same problem Dias had. Also missed high in the 2nd minute. After some promising outings I’m not sure if she’s not regressing to her mean. I hope not.

Beckie (28′ – +6/-0) Like her fellow Canadian Fleming, Beckie plays well, has good individual games, but somehow the sum of the Thorns parts she plays in are less than her individual efforts. That implies the failure is at a level above the individual, so…

Fleming (+3/-1 : +2/-3 : +5/-4) Another quintessential Fleming-for-Portland outing; not awful, not great, just kind of meh. If she wasn’t an expensive international it wouldn’t really be an issue, but…

Sugita (+3/-4 : +2/-0 : +5/-4) When you’re tactical “plan” is getting these kinds of numbers out of Sugita-senshu, you’re fucking doing it fucking wrong.

Coffey (76′ – +1/-2 : +1/-2 : +2/-4) What I said for Sugita? Well…

Wade-Katoa (14′ – no rating) What’s criminal when Sinclair does it is just sort of “well, okay, she’s a true rookie” when OWK does it.

Reyes (+2/-2 : ++2/-3 : +4/-5) Got nailed repeatedly by the combination of Brecken Mozingo, Paige Monaghan, and Sentnor running wild down the touchlines, suggesting that for some reason her manager directed her to play that narrow. I have no idea why.

Sauerbrunn (+1/-2 : +0/-0 : +1/-2) Made some goofy mistakes in the first half that her club was lucky Utah was too poor to finish, then settled down. Still, she’s supposed to be “veteran leadership” and most of the time her backline looked like a disassembled jigsaw puzzle against a goddamn tomato can.

Hubly (+3/-1 : +4-3 : +7/-4) It’s hard to make major mistakes when your opponent is making them instead, but Hubly has a gift that way, so good on her for not derping. Unless you count the yellow card suspension for San Diego this Friday, but, frankly if it means Obaze starts instead I’m fine with that…

Payne (62′ – +2/-1 : +0/-2 : +2/-3) Same problems Reyes had wide, so the same suspect.

Muller (28′ – no rating) Hard to see what this sub was supposed to bring.

Hogan (+2/-1 : +1/-1 : +3/-2) Some “pluses” should be double- or triple-pluses, but Hogan’s kick-save off Ifeoma Onumonu in the 88th minute is something like a quintuple-plus. Hogan simply saved the match and the point, period, and if this dog deserved a Woman of the Match that would have won it.

Bailed out by her post in the 9th minute, mind, so not perfect, but pretty damn near.

Coach Gale: So if that was bad enough to get ARod fired what the hell should we do with you?

I got nothing.

Except that it’s time for the new owners to quit farkling around. We’ve had a string of never-were gaffers over this and the past two seasons. We’ve got a learning-on-the-job-trainee general manager. We’ve got a tactical stew and a roster that somehow manages to be simultaneously thin and riddle with holes.

I’m not usually a “midseason course correction” guy, but to beat some sort of shape into this rolling clusterfuck is gonna take a long damn time, so starting now is less troubling than waiting until autumn.

C’mon. It’s time to fix the problems this club has been looking past since before Mark Parsons left.

Coach Ken is a nice guy. Fuck, I’M a nice guy and I have no more business coaching a professional soccer club with championship ambitions that he does.

Mike Norris is a nice guy. Rhian Wilkinson is a nice gal.

What the hell does that have to do with running a championship team?

Let’s accept that this was a cry for help and get down to fixing things.

It’s either that or just sit there like a traumatized ball kid hoping the scary lady goes away.

John Lawes
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2 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Brutal

  1. Best case, the coaching search is in it’s final stages and a new coach will be announced over the Olympic break. Allowing this team to flounder for the rest of the season would send a bad message for new ownership to send it’s fanbase and players.

  2. So sorry you had to watch that one twice. Must have been a loooong 90+ minutes.

    I’m really questioning our ability to beat a sucking SD team later today. In good times I’d be pretty confident, but now not so much. Since we’re so bad at playing in the heat, the 95°+ conditions don’t fill me with hope either. Hopefully SD is equally bad at playing in heat.


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