Thorns FC: Wild Card

In the old movie this is where the editor runs into the newsroom shouting “STOP THE PRESSES!!!”

To me this is intriguing on a number of levels:

First, because without Macario I don’t see the #1 pick on this draft being worth all that much. Certainly not worth a subsidized player. Certainly not worth a really GOOD subsidized player.

Second, because of the mention of “national team players”. Who would that be?

Well, Orlando has Alex Morgan, Marta, Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, and Shelina Zadorsky.

Portland has Andressinha, AD Franch, Emily Sonnett, Elli Carpenter, Midge Purce, Christine Sinclair, Tobin Heath, Hayley Raso, and Lindsey Horan.

If I was Mark Parsons I wouldn’t swap Harris for Franch. Hell, I wouldn’t swap Harris for anybody. She’s not better than either of our current keepers.

Krieger and Marta are on the downside of their careers; nobody here in Portland outside Sinclair is in the terminal stage, and I can’t see the point of swapping any of those three.

Zadorsky is just mediocre.

So assuming this is a thing it would seem to be a Portland-international-for-pick-plus-some-ash-and-trash swap.

But even assuming that’s it…that is still mysterious. We talked about this draft to death last week. Would Courtney Peterson be worth Midge Purce? I don’t see that.

The only national-team pieces I’d be willing to part with at this stage are Sonnett and Andressinha. Heath, maybe, but only for the world and all the riches in it; she’s still a hell of a great player, I’m just not sure she’s working out well here.

And Orlando is a mess. There’s nothing in their non-subsidized players I’d want. So this would HAVE to be a trade for the #1 pick…and, again, I just don’t see that being worth, say, Heath plus our #7 and the second round picks.

So…what IS this? We’ll just have to wait and see…and I’ll update later today when it happens.

Update 1/7: Well, this is the part where one of the redshirts turns to the other and says “It’s pretty quiet…” and their companion replies “Yeah…too quiet.”

Lots of speculation, not much actual things happening.

The Equalizer has a long-form piece discussing the draft that posits what I’d consider the weirdest possible scenario; that Portland trades up to #1 and takes…Jessie Fleming.

Leave out that Fleming has shown little interest in the NWSL so far (Portland is a whole different venue than The Shame…) what strikes me as peculiar about this is that Fleming effectively duplicates Lindsey Horan’s skillset. So the implication of that is that 1) Portland would have to trade Horan to get the pick, or 2) Portland would trade someone else and then install Fleming as a sort of double-pivot similar to the way Parsons tried Allie Long and Horan in 2017, or 3) maybe Fleming becomes the #8 and Horan pushes up to the #9.

Hmmm.

Something called “Whatsvibe” has a piece today that speculates that Portland is targeting France F/MF Kadidiatou Diani.

That could be a good signing – Diani has been doing well for Paris St. Germain – but the numbers seem out of reach; the piece cites another reference that pegs Diani’s paycheck around $445K. Even with the Duffybux the best Portland could offer is $350K or so, and the transfer fee would have to come out of that, too. Sounds pretty iffy to me.

Bottom line; no news so far today. My guess is that Portland and Orlando are having a difficult time finding a deal both can live with, including a commitment from whatever undeclared player Portland wants to take with the #1 pick (and I repeat my conviction that if it’s not Macario that it’s a bad deal for Portland; there’s no value in trading, say Sonnett and Purce for Sophia Smith…).

Stay tuned – we’ll see if anything breaks later today.

Update 1/8: Well, nothing broke until today, when the Peregrine FO went kinda wild. Emily Sonnet and two 2020 picks (the #7 and #14 picks) and the rights to Caitlin Foord to Orlando for the 2020 #1 overall pick. Then Midge Purce and the 2021 overall #1 pick to Sky Blue for Raquel Rodriguez.

My thoughts at the moment:

Sonnett/Foord to Orlando for #1 overall? Brilliant IF Macario declares and signs a notarized contract in blood to commit to Portland. Sorta-kinda good if it’s Sophia Smith – same deal, though, she’s gotta be a lock, none of this Mal Pugh bullshit. Anybody else? Too much to pay. So we’ll see if Macario or Smith declare later today or tomorrow.

Purce and our 2021 first-round pick to SBFC for Rocky Rodriguez…WTF? Seriously? Only way I see this is (trying to channel FO’s thought process) “Well…Raso and Purce kinda overlap, we need a playmaking midfielder to allow Horan to push further up, and we’ll get Macario this year so who cares about 2021…”

Which is fine if 1) Purce and Raso really do overlap – I disagree, but won’t argue that there isn’t some case to be made, 2) Rodriguez is better than she really is, which is sorta meh, but I’m willing to be convinced, and 3) Macario goes this year and not in the 2021 draft OR we don’t tank in 2020 and end up with the #1 overall.

If most, or none of those are true? This is a pretty goddamn boneheaded deal. Here’s a reminder that Rodriguez had the worst conversion ratio, SOG/goals ratio, and minutes-played-to-goals rate of any player with three goals last season:

Mind you, she was better than Tobin Fucking Heath…which begs the question; why did we trade Midge Purce for her, when Purce was a better attacker than both of them?

Gah.

One element of the Sky Blue trade that seems elusive is that I keep hearing rumors that the rights to Hailie Mace – the former UCLA defender that SBFC drafted in the first round last season who gave the Joisey Goils the finger and scampered off to play in Europe – went to Portland as part of this deal.

If so, that’d make it better. Mace is quality, and with Sonnett leaving she’d be a terrific piece to replace her. “The Great Wall of Hailie And Emily” doesn’t quite have that ring, but, then, it doesn’t have half of the wall having a brainfart once a game, either.

So a lot of this hinges on stuff like Mace and who declares for the 2020 draft, and so we’ll have to hang on and see.

Interesting day, though.

Update 1/9: The final move the club made yesterday was to release Andressinha, the most-least-unexpected move since my kid announced that Cap’n Crunch abrades the roof of your mouth.

The unfortunate part – at least, the part that depressed me a bit – is that the club had to outright her. Either they couldn’t find an interested party here, or the player herself didn’t want one. With that the Savannah-Jordan-for-Andressinha story ends in disappointment for all parties; Jordan retired at age 24 having played all of 10 matches for Houston, Andressinha trudging back to Brazil, and neither team the better for having made this swap.

One last comment – since these are probably the last moves for a bit (unless the Hailie Mace deal develops…) – is that I want to really emphasize that Raquel Rodriguez is sort of my canary for the club management next season.

I’m neither particularly warm not cold towards the deal. I think Purce has a lot of upside, but also a lot of risks; her Brief Reign may well turn out to be a one-off. Rodriguez, OTOH, is perhaps the definition of “journeywomen”, and the best hope is that she suffered by being in the tire fire that is Sky Blue and will contribute a lot of positives surrounded by a better organization and teammates here.

But…it’s also possible that the Thorns could make the same mistake with her they did with Foord, or AMC, or, yes, Andressinha. Rodriguez is what she is, and the Thorns need to find a way to play her that plays to her strengths. The other three players weren’t used that way, and that’s worrisome.

So now we have a player that, it would seem, if used well can do well.

Will we use her well?

That’s an important question, and the answer may well determine our fortunes in this new year.

I’ll see you in a week when we’ve seen who we’ve drafted.

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15 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Wild Card

  1. I agree with you John that this probably will not involve Macario. For one, if she were willing to skip her last year at Standford, why would she not want to play with the GOAT Marta, even if she is aiming for the USWNT, playing with Marta would be a dream.
    I wonder if Alex Morgan is now getting antsy to be closer to Severndo as her due date approaches, Someone suggested this scenario Sonnett and Purse to Orlando, Morgan to Utah and Press to Portland. Utah would come out a slight loser on that one. Portland would still have some midfield issues, but would have a great striker and Orlando would improve in front and in back but still have a weak midfield. Utah would have Morgan to team again with ARod, but I am not sure that would develop immediately and Morgan, while a great national player, is only a great team player when everything is going well. Utah is not in a great place right now.
    I hate trades but the 2016 trade worked out great for the Thorns.

    1. I’m hearing that Macario and Fleming are unlikely to declare, but that might change if Portland trades up to #1. Sophia Smith is supposedly interested, but she seems very young to trade two established pros like Sonnett and Purce for.

      Sonnet/Purce/Morgan/Press? I’d actually say that Utah comes out pretty poorly there, given that Morgan is supposed to be due around April and so is unlikely to be fully fit again until midsummer; Press is a lot to give up for a half-season of Morgan, especially given her apparent lack of interest in her club teams. It’s an intriguing idea…but I’m not sure that anyone outside of Orlando would go for it.

      And as I said in the Management piece – I think we have to look at the 2015-16 offseason as a true outlier, an absolute one-off. All the pieces of that one worked in ways that no off-season other than 2013 has ever worked. Would I like another off-season like that? Hell, yes. But I think we need to start thinking of 15-16 as the exception rather than the standard…

  2. Your first paragraph, I agree, this could workout being a big mistake like Savannah Jordan, who I thought would be excellent. But if Dianni comes in not much will be expected of Smith for awhile and during the Olympic break she may get some valuable experience.
    I feel sorry for Midge going to Sky Blue, but she really deserves a marquee role and would not get that here. Rodriquez is a great get. I am curious as to how you see her role for the Thorns. I see her more as a six than a 10 or 9. She would beef our midfield up a lot. That would mean when Gabby comes back she would be a centerback.
    Haile Mace I don’t know, based on her callups to the USWNT, people that know more than I do, she must be good.
    So this has been a huge draft and if Morgan Weaver is available in one of our lower picks it could be even better than 2016. What an optimist??!!

    1. Huge, definite NO on Rodriguez as a #6. Not because she can’t defend – her stats suggest that she’s at least decent tracking back – but because she’d be wasted there. She’s an AM, and you can hitch a racehorse to a wagon when you’re desperate, we’ve seen more than enough of the FO trying to make players (Foord, AMC, Andressinha) into something they’re not. She’s an #8, or possibly a #10…but if we’ve dealt for her as a CDM, well…I think that’s a huge mistake.

      Mace is a hell of a player, and typically a CB, so she’d slot right in beside Menges to fill Sonnett’s slot.

      I doubt Weaver will be on the board by #14 or whatever we have left in the second round. Smith, to me, is less of a lock in the NWSL than Macario; she’s smaller and relies more on quickness and anticipation, which are tougher to make work in a physical league. But she’s a good player, and might work out well. We’ll just have to see what happens.

  3. WAIT! NOOOOO! I didn’t know about giving up Purse AND #1 draft pick! In what world is that a good trade for us? I felt Sky Blue robbed us blind w/o the pick- Purse is much more valuable than Rocky- plus Seiler will be back and she can free up Horan). Argh! Sonnett, Purse, Marcario (via #1 draft pick in ‘21) for Rocky Rod and a newbie like Smith? Hopefully there’s more to this like Mace because it this is crazy talk. Press deserves to be here- maybe there’s something in that? Because Rocky for Purse and #1 pick is heartbreaking

    1. Sorry, sorry! I was wrong on the #1 overall; the pick is the 2021 first rounder. Unless we tank horribly in 2020 it’s unlikely to be #1 overall – probably more like 5-10, so we wouldn’t have a shot at Macario even then.

      That said, I won’t pretend I’m in love with this deal. Rocky isn’t bad, but to me she’s very “meh”; hard to tell if her indifferent numbers are on her or on Sky Blue. She does pass well and has looked good on-and-off. She’s not as productive as Purce was last season, but we’ve yet to see if that was the oddity of the WC year or whether Purce can sustain that level of production. I think that was the FO’s worry (plus the fact that Purce and Raso have a lot of similar qualities – I don’t think the overlap exactly, but they do tend to rub up against each other…).

      And I do hope that we’re working on Mace. With Sonnett gone we need a solid CB pairing, and I’m not as confident that Menges can sturdy-up a practice cone enough to not want some quality beside her. Kat Reynolds and Liz Ball seem like possibles, but Mace is a level better, and I’d love to see her here.

  4. The Damned just traded Zerboni to Sky Blue for the rights to Mace. That really sucks. And I am still very cool on the idea of getting Diani. But that Zerboni/Mace trade I think keeps the Courage at the top of the heap. They gave up a good player for someone much younger that could be great. What did Sky Blue get? Well a good player who is willing to play for them. For Sky Blue that is a moral victory. I am really bummed.

  5. Oh man! I was hoping we’d get Mace. Nuts.

    Your analysis puts the idea that Horan was “broken” by the world cup. In general, however, I don’t buy the basic premise that’s been tossed around that Horan was benched for Mewis. Horan played in twice as many world cup games than Mewis and she played in the semifinal. How does that add up to her being rejected for Mewis – particularly to the extent that she would be demoralized?

    Something did happen to her. What about the per-world cup injury she got?

  6. Couple of things.

    First, I’m hearing that Portland tried to get Mace in the Purce-Rodriguez deal and either 1) felt that SBFC wanted too much, or – worse, IMO, 2) couldn’t get assurance that Mace wanted to come here rather than Cary. That’s troubling in the extent to which it suggests that the Damned have become the center of gravity in the NWSL.

    Four years ago we got Amandine Henry to sign because when wanted to play in the most competitive league in the world Portland was the biggest name in that league. Now it sounds as if Mace may have made a similar decision…but picking Cary over us.

    Second, Roses, about Horan…

    If you go back and look at my “Final Grades – Midfielders” piece my argument was that the accepted wisdom that somehow something happened to Horan in France was dubious. I thought she looked sketchy at the beginning of the NWSL season back in April, and nothing I saw in France changed that. I’m not sure what her issue(s) was/were…but I don’t think there was either a serious injury or some sort of mental block from getting sat for Mewis. Horan was visibly off-form, Mewis was tearing it up, and the US needed the strength in midfield; that was a pretty no-brainer coaching decision.

    The problem is that when she returned here the team was beginning the “controlled flight into terrain” (i.e. crashing and burning…) that characterized the end of last season. There were so MANY problems that it would be hard to figure out which of them resulted/contributed/caused Horan’s troubles.

    But at this point that’s prologue; now it’s up to Horan and the Portland staff to figure out how to get her groove back.

    1. We recorded a podcast Friday; should be up sometime this weekend or early next week.

      That said…I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the player moves this winter. I’ll have a “drafts and deals” piece up probably some time in late January or February (after the 2020 schedule comes out) where I’ll take all of this apart and look at the pieces.

    2. But here’s the tl:dr version:

      Smith: obviously the top attacker in the draft, and fills a huge need in the Thorns’ frontline. As with any young player, right now she’s 95% promise, and we need to be patient and realistic – sometimes that promise turns into 95% performance, sometimes it get to 50% and stalls out (see “Pugh, Mal”), sometimes it’s a bust.

      Weaver: Good forward, but I’m reading a LOT of gushing over a player who had three-and-a-half good years at Wazzu and one great College Cup. Great tools – big, fast, smart. Could be a game-breaker. Will she? As with Smith, we won’t know until we see how she fits into the team this year.

      That said, we gave up a lot of potential defensive depth for her (lots of good defenders went in the second round after we traded out). So, in that sense, she’d BETTER be good to justify her cost.

      Nally: Good third-rounder, and fills another big need (defensive depth). As discussed above – I kind of wish we’d have had a couple more picks for defenders, but it looks like there are some good defenders available as free agents, and the Thorns are going to hit the FA/transfer market to find a Sonnett replacement.

      But MUCH more in the pod, so stay tuned…

  7. Maybe this will be in the pod, but I was surprised that Sanchez went 5th (as was she if I’m reading her expression right). Why do you think we worked so hard for Weaver?She’s tall and we lost Dagny (hopefully Weaver can aim her headers), but she certainly wasn’t rated that highly before the draft. Are we getting Diani? If we are getting Diana how can we afford to give away allocation $? What other internationals are coming (per tweet about more changes)? WHAT’S GOING ON?!? Okay, probably in the podcast.

    1. I think the Weaver-over-Sanchez pick had to do with Smith. Henderson wrote:

      “I thought it was a little weird that Portland traded up to #2 to take Weaver at the time, but I suppose it makes a little more sense in gaming out the other options. Ashley Sanchez didn’t make sense from a fit perspective given the pick of Smith before. Kaleigh Riehl would have been a stretch value-wise at #2. And Taylor Kornieck made little sense given the glut of central midfielders already on the roster right now. I suspected Weaver wasn’t going to drop much further beyond the second pick, so Portland made the aggressive move to slide up and get their woman.”

      I’m not hopeful if we’re envisioning her as an aerial target; she only won about 37% of her aerial duels in the NCAA. She seems to have been more of a second striker/creator/distributor for most of her WSU career, only to get red-hot on the run-in to this past season’s College Cup. Hopfully this will NOT result in our mistaking her for a true #9 the way we did with AMC and Foord.

      Hard to say on Diani. Frankly, if we can’t get her for $230K we’re unlikely to have gotten her for $300K. My guess is we’re hoping to get a couple of lower-tier internationals for the leftover Duffybux, and the thing to remember about the NCAA draft is that only 36 players get picked out of over 100 who declare. There are several excellent college defenders still available that we can invite to the preseason camp as non-roster invitees (NRI).

      If I know this team we won’t KNOW what’s going on until well into March or so. Hell, we probably won’t know which of our current players who were tendered a contract offer re-signed – you’ll note that the Raso news came completely out of the blue without any rumblings from the FO that she was looking elsewhere. She’s a stand-up gal, so I’m guessing that she told the FO early on she was looking around, but everyone kept deathly silent until she’d signed with Everton.

      Poor Patrick is very ill, and he’s struggling to mix the podcast. I’ll check with him and if he can’t get something up by the weekend I may write something up myself.

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