Thorns FC: In the Dead Time

Back when I was a broth of a boy – in the Eighties, for those of you who can’t imagine such a thing – I whiled away the time at soldiering. Or, at least, what we imagined was soldiering; the notion that you could spend a career commuting between CONUS and various unpaved portions of Southwest and Central Asia seemed utterly alien.

Back in those halcyon days the soldering year – which ran from October to October, along with the federal fiscal year – had one very odd feature.

From New Year’s Day to the week of Christmas we worked a regular sort of soldiers’ schedule, a workweek in garrison sprinkled with adventures to various wooded or meadowy places where we practiced shooting at one another.

But, between the third week of December and the first week of January, we had what was called a “half-day schedule”. This involved waking up early and doing our exercises (what we called “physical training”, or “PT”), getting dressed in our tree-colored clothing, and then typically doing housekeeping chores; taking (or teaching) required classes, inventorying, cleaning, and maintaining equipment, or, frankly, just sort of loafing around until midday. Then the married people would go home, and the singletons would kick back in barracks, watch television, read, goof off…

It was a ridiculously idle week or so that we called the “Dead Time”, a sort of no-time/no-place between the end of the old calendar year and the beginning of the new one.

The guys and HQ-52 ambulance hanging out at Venado drop zone in the Republic of Panama, December, 1985

We’re sort of in the NWSL Dead Time now.

The draft is over, the past season a distant memory. The 2020 training camp is probably a month or so away. The news from the league, and the Thorns front office, is reduced to a trickle of random bits and pieces seemingly disconnected with each other.

Is there anything to talk about?

Oh, say, can you see..?

One most interesting newsy bits was reported by Dan Lauletta last Friday, that the league is in the final stages of negotiating with the either NBC or CBS broadcast networks to air next season’s games.

No details of this potential deal are reported. Some speculation in the comments that this will mean a weekend match on NBC or CBS proper and the remainder of the games either on NBCSN, or the NBC Gold or “CBS All Access” streaming services. Apparently this means it’ll coast you about ten bucks a month if you want to catch the matches not on the broadcast feed. I haven’t researched the NBC or CBS streaming services enough to know whether it’s possible to buy in for one-time events only.

Caitlin Murry reports one piece of good news to go with this; whether or not the nets get the deal the league solidly nixed a deal with BeIN Sports. Nothing against BeIN, but I have the big Comcast/xfinity cable package and it doesn’t carry BeIN. The notion of relegating the league to some no-name “sports network” is unacceptable.

I’d like for the network deal to happen, if only for the better exposure for the league. It’s time to get away from rinky-dink little cable channels and into genuine sports networks. A professional league needs to look professional, and that means a big-name broadcast affiliate. If that’s CBS, or NBC, or ESPN (Murray’s thread linked above suggests that ESPN is out, too, unfortunately), whatever.

But hooking up with No-name Network?

Unh-uh. That’s a no-go.

Allez le..?

One solid piece of no-news is the Thorns’ reputed pursuit of Kadidiatou Diani. If you recall, this was massively speculated on during the draft period, and Stumptown’s Tyler Nguyen was still hypothesizing about it in early January.

Image by the FFF on gophy.com

That speculation has gone stone-cold. It’s worth noting that Diani’s still tweeting and talking enthusiastically about her current team PSG. Obviously she or her agent could still be conferencing with Peregrine Sports while she’s “Joueuse au Paris Saint-Germain”…but I’m not getting a sense from anywhere that this is about to be a thing

Does that mean that it won’t happen? Hell, no. Never say never with this club; the pursuit of Amandine Henry went on for a ridiculously extended time, and was stuffed with on-again-off-again reporting.

But there WAS reporting about it, and with Diani, there’s just nothing anymore.

My guess is that the price wasn’t right. Supposedly Diani is making something like $400K with PSG. Since Portland traded $70K of it’s $300K Duffybox away it has substantially less than that to work with, and don’t forget that PSG is unlikely to part with her without a transfer fee.

At this point I’d be surprised to see her here in March.

So…if not Diani, then..?

The Thorns picked up two forwards and a defender in the draft, and traded for an attacking midfielder (who, by the way, just put three past her CONCACAF opponents in two Olympic qualifying matches, so, you get some, Rocky…).

The Thorns also traded away a centerback and a right-wing/forward, lost a right wing/forward, dumped a bunch of international deadwood, and have both their 2019 DMs rehabbing ACL tears.

I think between them Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver – along with a returning Lussi and Heath, and a hopefully-reinvigorated Horan – will go a long ways towards helping with the attacking drought that killed the 2019 season in Black Autumn.

Now my questions are directed at the defensive midfield and backline.

There’s not a lot of depth there, Klingenberg will be another year older, and there’s a real question at starting centerback. Menges is coming off a couple of sub-par seasons, and will need a steady partner to help her return to her Great Wall level of play.

Thing is, there were a lot of good players left behind after the draft:

Amanda Visco – D (CB)
Ricci Walkling – MF (DMC, MC) – signed with SV Werder Bremen
Uchenna Kanu – F (LF, CF) – signed with Sevilla FC
Paula Germino-Watnick – F (LF), MF (AMC)
Stasia Mallin – D (RB, CB)
Natalie Winters – MF (DMC)
Meghan McCool – F (CF, LF)
Andrea Hauksdottir – MF (DMC)
Alli Klug – D (CB)

Walkling and Kanu have already signed in Europe, but several promising players remain that could be invited to the Thorns combine this spring. I’d love to see either Visco and Klug or both, and it would be interesting to see if Winters or Hauksdottir got a look (the latter requiring an international slot, of course…).

Recall that something like 200 players declared for the draft and only 36 were taken.

Of course, there’s the draft-week reports that the FO was pursuing an “international centerback”, but my suspicion is that this may have the same issues as the Diani deal; any truly big name would be pretty spendy, and anyone less spendy wouldn’t be that much better than a good NCAA free agent.

One thing to always keep in mind with this FO; it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. And it is a supermassive black hole for information. It will not tell us anything until that thing is a thing, and until then will hint absolutely nothing.

The Trump Administration probably wishes it’s internal security was as good as Peregrine’s.

Faster, higher, stronger…

Although we don’t have league play, some of our players are busy qualifying their nations for this summer’s Olympic Games.

Christine Sinclair has led Canada to a berth in the semifinals and in so doing banged in the goal that put her on top of the all-time international goal-scorers list with 185 and counting.

The faint “whatabout”-ism I hear is people talking about how Abby Wambach took fewer games – Wambach put up about 0.7 goals per game to Sinclair’s 0.6 – to get to her 184.

Which elides the fact that Wambach played for vastly better teams than Sinclair ever has. The CWNT has always been assembled to break it’s greatest players hearts. It broke Charmaine Hooper’s back in the Seventies and Eighties, and will never reward Sinclair with the WC or Olympic crowns she has done everything to try and drag them towards.

The level of quality Sinclair has had to sustain to accomplish this is difficult to praise highly enough. We’re talking twenty years at the highest level of international play.

That’s…well, the greatest of all time.

The only way this could have been better would have been for this goal to have been the winning goal in the World Cup Final instead of just a day at the office against a CONCACAF tomato can. But those goals were in there, too; I’ll never forget her heroics in the 2012 OG semifinal against the USWNT, or her lifting the 2003 and 2005 College Cups.

I’m going to use this forum to publicly challenge the City of Portland and the club; build that statue.

Sinc deserves to be immortalized at the corner of 18th and Morrison for all time.

Lindsey Horan had quite the night against Panama last week, bagging three goals on the way to an 8-nil beatdown.

I hope that means that she’s shaking off the funk she was in in 2019.

That said…Panama. Want to ship a crap-ton of crap goals? Play a ridiculously high line against the USWNT and then ensure that your backline couldn’t mark a sleeping housecat and could be timed with a sundial.

I’m glad to see Horan bust goals. But I’ll wait to see if Horan can continue this form against someone who can defend worth a lick before declaring her slump over.

Image by Nicholas Kamm for Ticotimes.net

Raquel Rodriguez nicked three goals for Costa Rica in two games, one against Panama, two against the Haitians (who are better than Panama by some distance…)

What’s interesting is that all three were different; the Panama goal was a PK, the first Haiti goal was a powerful header off a free kick, and the second was a pretty finish off a long diagonal cross that found Rodriguez open at the top of the box.

I doubt Rodriguez will displace Sinclair as the Thorns’ designated penalty taker. But if she can be dangerous in the air she will certainly help the frontline with scoring. Again, however, it’ll be worth waiting to see how she does against better opposition – like Monday night against the USWNT…

That’s all the news that fits, but I’ll be back later in February – assuming there’s a deal or deals to report on – with the annual “Drafts and Deals” post.

See ya then.

6 thoughts on “Thorns FC: In the Dead Time

  1. John Thanks for something good to read in the “Dead Time.”
    Actually I am not excited about Dianni, I would rather see a good midfielder signed. It is the price and position that have me feeling cool toward getting Dianni, an obviously good player. I agree with you that a great midfielder would be expensive too and a merely good one might not be as good as what we could find here in the US.
    I have had a chance to watch more of Smith, Weaver and Rocky. I knew Rocky was good and as you have noted, the question isn’t whether she is good, but is she a six (which is a glaring need)?
    Morgan Weaver has been compared to Alex Morgan, but she is not as crafty with the ball at her feet as AM, but wow is she ever strong ; and tall, and looks so fast compared to college players.
    I would say comparing S^2 with AM is more appropriate. Both are really crafty, fast, but somewhat slight to look at. Alex Morgan according to her one of her coaches is stronger than she looks because she evidently has dense muscles. Sofia seems to have a strength that belies her appearance too. OTH, Sofia could be a Press type forward. Press is deceptively strong, but unlike Morgan she doesn’t seem get fouled as much, she goes around rather than through.
    I watched the highlights of Horan’s game yesterday, my gosh she could have had six goals. Being in the right place at the right time is one of the things that distinguishes her game. I am hoping for 2018 type season from Lindsey, but you are right, let see what happens against Costa Rica and Canada.

    1. The problem is that we traded Purce assuming we’d have Carpenter-Raso tearing up the right touchline…and then lost Raso. Diani would give us that right-side threat to go with Heath on the left. I agree that the cost is prohibitive, but if the FO could talk her down to something a little less spendy she’d be a good piece.

      Rodriguez is NOT a six. I keep hearing people say this (it came up a bunch on the thread over at Stumptown) and when I do I’m all like “DIE HARD was declared a Christmas movie by the Council of Trent in 1548 and I CAN’T BELIEVE I still have to get angry about this!!!” We could MAKE her a six, but why? That would be hitching the racehorse to the milk wagon. No, we need a genuine six, whether that’s Seiler or someone else.

      Here’s Weaver’s 2019 NCAA stats:
      8 goals on approximately 12 xG
      32% conversion rate
      1.4 chances created per 90’
      56% pass completion (15 passes per 90’)
      1.3 key passes completed per 90’ (61% completion)
      30% cross completion
      37% aerial duels won
      3.3 dribbles per 90’ (55% success)
      1.7/12 – ball recovery-turnover ratio per 90’

      Her goal/xG numbers aren’t great, and her pass completions are truly horrible and for her height she’s not great in the air – she wins barely more than a third of her aerial duels.

      She seems to have a nose for the key pass and looks strong off the dribble. She was good for three-and-a-half seasons before going wild in Wazzu’s College Cup run, so I think she may be benefiting from a “recency” bump. I don’t think she’s going to be the star a lot of people are predicting. I think she’s a good piece and assuming she develops decently will be a useful “second striker”. We’ll have to see. She’s definitely not the quality the Smith promises to be.

      As for Horan…2018 was a monster season for her, and I’m not sure that she can repeat that regularly. I’ll be happy if she can return to her more-typical productivity, and the Panama game is a really, really poor signifier. As you note, she missed several sitters, and Panama is just an utter shitshow. I think tomorrow will be a better indication of how she – and Rodriguez – will look in the league this season.

  2. Alas Raquel Rodríguez didn’t play in the US-Costa Rica game, presumably to rest her ahead of the game that really matters, the semifinal. I too really wanted to see what Rocky looked like against good opposition, but I guess we’ll have to wait until that opposition is Canada (or possibly Mexico). I imagine that Costa Rica thought their chances of beating the US — a draw wouldn’t have helped — were slim, and their chances of making the Olympics were best served by focusing all effort on the semifinal game. In retrospect I have to agree.

    As for Weaver, it sounds like she took a huge step up in the last part of her senior season. The key question is whether that step can be sustained; if so, it sounds like she can be a starting-caliber NWSL forward. Mind you this is all hearsay; I haven’t seen anything more than highlight reels, which are a quite poor way of assessing the totality of someone’s play. We shall see.

    And I hope we can put our allocation money to good use acquiring a defender. Kadeisha Buchanan would be a dream. She hasn’t been starting for OL, coming on only as a sub for Mbock Bathy in recent games, and it might be possible to pry her away. News headlines say she’s on a “lucrative” contract until 2022 (https://www.sportsnet.ca/soccer/canadian-kadeisha-buchanan-signs-lucrative-extension-lyon/), but who knows what “lucrative” means in the world of female defenders. The transfer fee probably makes her prohibitively expensive, but one can dream.

    1. I’m going to be fascinated to see if CRC can do well against the Canadians. Normally I’d call qualification a lock for the CWNT, but they have a distressing history of coming up short at critical times. Should be more fun to watch than a demolition of the poor Las Tri…

      Weaver admitted that she got herself emotionally pumped for the College Cup last year. While that’s great, and bodes well for her ability to come up big in big games, I’m not sure how that will translate into a full season.

      Like I said; she was decent for three-and-a-half-years at Wazzu. Not great, not brilliant, but good. Then she went on an absolute tear through the end of 2019 and the College Cup fueled by her own admission on pure emotional want-to. That’s why I’m skeptical. She admits herself that it wasn’t so much a technical or tactical step up. It was pure playing-over-her-head powered by emotion.

      I certainly hope that can be translated into a genuine level-up. But I’m going to hold my judgement until we see her in preseason.

      I like Buchanan, and she’d thrive in the hard-knocks world of the NWSL; in D1F she’s a yellow card waiting to happen. Here? Not so much.

  3. I agree Kadesha would be great. She can be rough, hey she is Canadian, but I think she would be a great add. I read an interesting story on Sam Kerr and it noted she is having some problems adjusting to the WSL. She thought it would be similar to the NWSL, but she is finding that the tackling rougher. She is pretty strong, so what is Raso in for?

    1. I’m surprised that the WSL is more physical than our league – if so, that will NOT be a pleasant surprise for Ribbons. The word I’ve heard on the European leagues is about the pace – FAST, more so than our players are used to. Supposedly that was Horan’s discovery; that the players in D1F did the same things she’d seen in the US…but at full speed.

      Sadly, we probably won’t know if the FO is targeting Buchanan until she’s signed. Let’s hope…

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