Analysis

What, Me Worry?

(in which we ponder how the Thorns will do through the Olympics)

AEN

UPDATE: Amandine Henry was at the Timbers USOC match on June 29. It now appears that she will not be joining the French Olympics training camp this week and instead will play for the Thorns this weekend!

Opinions vary widely about the Thorns’ chance of surviving the coming two months without many of our star players. Some feel we’ll sail right through, others think we’ll lose them all. A deeper dive is needed.

TL;DR Mark Parsons has a really tough job ahead. He’s going to have a hard time putting a lineup card together. Any injuries will only make it worse. Based on past performances, we will have an unimpressive midfield and will struggle to score. But ultimately, even the worst case isn’t that bad and the favorable schedule gives us reason to hope for something better.

The various national teams have called up their players for preparation camp leading up to the Rio Olympics. The NWSL will take a hiatus for the actual Games in August, except for one match not involving us. But July will see every team playing with many of their star players gone.

Let’s look at who’s losing how much:

OG_losses
In the table, “Creative” means a midfielder or forward. Clearly the Thorns will take the biggest hit in the league. But we knew that already. What about our opponents?

We have four games in July. First up is Sky Blue FC, the team least impacted by call-ups. Then FCKC, taking a moderate hit. After that we go to Houston, who really get bitten badly. And we finish up with Seattle who are missing only Solo (who is well backed up by Kopmeyer) and Rapinoe (who hasn’t seen the pitch due to injury). So of our four games, half are against essentially full-strength teams.

But there is some good news also:

  • All four of our opponents in July are below mid-table in the standings
  • Three of the four are home games
  • We already drew with Seattle playing a shortened roster
  • The road game is against the worst team of the four and the one with the biggest roster hit
  • We are currently top of the table and eight points above the red line

Thorns Roster Situation

On top of the roster hit due to the Olympics, we have three players out with injuries. Meg Morris is gone for the season. Back on May 3, Kat Williamson went out for what was supposed to be six weeks. She could be back any day now. Kendall Johnson is having a tough time with concussion symptoms.

A few weeks ago, Mark Parsons mentioned in passing that he’s still looking at Sam Lofton, a left back formerly of the Boston Breakers and previously the Washington Spirit reserve team.

So our roster looks something like this:

OG_Roster
There’s not much depth there, especially in the back. Goalkeeper is the one bright spot. And that’s important because Betos and Franch are likely to get a workout. The best news we could get would be the return of Williamson this week.

Nadim and Dagny have both been lighting it up the past few games. But of course they depend on midfield service and that’s where we’re getting bitten the worst. It’s time for Mana Shim to step up.

A potential lineup might look like this:

Lineup Card

Given the versatility of several players such as Brynjarsdottir and Raso, the pieces could be shuffled about quite a bit. But assuming no Johnson, we only have one more midfielder/forward in Berryhill. Any injuries to these starters is going to be a huge problem.

We do have the option of bringing in unpaid interns. Last time, we brought in a local player, Maureen Ferguson, but she didn’t dress for the match.  She’s in my lineup above, in place of Williamson. The Thorns have also put Meg Morris on the season-ending injury list which means we can sign (and pay) a replacement. I imagine Gavin Wilkinson is scouring the globe as you read this.

So – it looks pretty ragged for the Thorns. What about the rest of the league?

The Other Teams

We already showed the list above of each team’s hit. Here’s the entire league schedule for the relevant period:

OG_League

Please, no more tables!
Please, no more tables!

By team, it looks like this:

OG_Schedule

 

This is sorted to show the teams playing the most games, and then the most road games. The Thorns have the most favorable schedule in the league during this period. Our two main contenders for the title, Washington and Chicago, have the toughest.

So while the Thorns are likely to drop points in the interregnum, it seems that we will have plenty of company. I predict that Houston and Orlando will come out of this battling Boston for the Wooden Spoon. Seattle and Sky Blue are the primary beneficiaries – I will not be surprised to find them near or above the red line at the end of August.

So here’s a chart you can use to make you own estimate of the various win-lose scenarios:

OG_Points

The first column is the current points total. Games Played Through the Olympic Games is the total each team will have played at the conclusion of the tournament, with the next column showing the point total each team could get if they win every game. The final two columns list the games remaining to be played after the Olympics and the possible end-of-season points total assuming all wins.

Obviously every team can’t win every game. But let’s suppose that Washington and the Flash did win them all. Also, assume their opponents won all their other matches, except drawing when they play each other. There is one pair of matches outside this group, a home-and-home between Orlando and Boston. Let Orlando win them both although it doesn’t really matter.

If all this were to happen, that would mean the Thorns lost all four matches. And the table would look like this on August 20th:

OG_Table

This is about the worst case scenario I could come up with, and guess what? We’re still in third place!

Expectations and Predictions

I expect all three home matches to be bunker-and-counter affairs similar to the Seattle match. With luck and effort, we might just win one. The road game in Houston may be the exception. The Dash are already struggling and it’s getting worse for them. It will be our third match with the new lineup, so we may have gelled. The Thorns have nothing to lose by going all out on the road against a weak foe.

My prediction is four five of the possible twelve points. Our 27 28 total points have us in second tied for first place when the stars return:

SBFC 2 : 0 Thorns

SBFC 0 : 0 Thorns (UPDATE: Yes, having Henry makes a big difference!)

FCKC 0 : 0 Thorns

Dash 0 : 2 Thorns

Reign 1 : 0 Thorns

May I be labelled an idiotic pessimist come the end of August!

By Richard Hamje

 

Richard Hamje

Hander-out of Riveters chant sheets, electric car enthusiast, fan of Thorns, Timbers, Chelsea and only lately, Leicester City.

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2 Comments

  1. fdchief218

    Initially I worried most about the Seattle match. I couldn’t believe that Laura Harvey wouldn’t figure out how to get more out of her midfield than she had. But it looks now like Little and Fishlock are really having off seasons, and Yanez just isn’t working. The arrival of Naho might give them a little kick, but I’m starting the think that we can grind out a draw against them. Meanwhile Houston is still a big ol’ mess going forward so a scoreless road draw looks VERY do-able

    But. The other two matches have me nervous. SBFC has suddenly found something. They’re looking quite perky and, as you note, are the least distressed by the international callups. FCKC, that looked like a dumpster fire in April and lost to the $#%!$ Breakers in May has run off a string of four loss-less matches since then.

    I agree that the first half of our season may have locked us down a playoff spot. But I’m hopeful that Parsons will come up with a plan as cunning as a cunning fox appointed Dean of Cunning at Cunning University that will keep us in the top two. I REALLY want a semifinal here before winning the Uglass Trophy in Houston.

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