Thorns FC: Drafts and Deals, Part 1

It all felt so close. So near to being a thing, like the first lightening in the sky before the dawn. We could almost see it, hear it, feel it, touch it.

The cries of the wheeling players. The thudding of boots on the pitch. The coaches’ shouted instructions. The silver shrill of the whistles.

The new season.

Image by Thorns FC on Facebook in public domain

And then, suddenly…it wasn’t.

I won’t mourn for the loss of sport in the Plague Year. The teams, the league, and the country are doing what the need to do in the shadow of a pandemic.

But…still. That’s difficult for those of us who love the game, and love this team. Because – in the hopeful assumption that this is not The Plague Year and the season will eventually happen – this hopefully-still-coming season is going to be critical for Thorns FC. We know it. Our opponents know it. And, crucially, our coach and the Front Office know it and are moving to do something about it.

In the club press release from March 6 the disappointing 2019 season is compared to the worst season the club has ever had:

“Now Parsons is part of another overhaul, one that’s cast 2019’s third-place finish in the same light as the worse one of 2015.”

~ Richard Farley

That’s huge, because, as I said; 2015 wasn’t just “the worse one” but “the WORST one”; the only season in their history that the Thorns lost more games than they won, the only season the team finished out of the playoffs, the season that cost Paul Riley his job. To equate the two is to put a heavier boot to last year than even I was willing to do.

Normally I might take this for mere words, an attempt to placate fans upset with the early exit in 2019.

But this year, in the off-season, there are actions that suggest that the coach and the team aren’t just talking.

This year players are packing their bags. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about here, as we want and hope for the first kickoff of the 2020 preseason, let’s begin with some deals from the end of 2019;

Foord, Crnogorcevic, Andressina, Brynjarsdottir

DealS (TRADED/RELEASED): Foord, Andressinha, Crnogorcevic, Brynjarsdottir

On October 20, 2019 Chicago booted Portland out of the playoffs.

On November 4, Ana-maria Crnogorcevic was waived.

On November 18, financial issues forced Dagny Brynjarsdottir to ask for, and the club to agree to, termination of her contract.

On January 8, 2020, Andressinha was informed that the club no longer needed her services, and the same day Caitlin Foord’s rights were traded to Orlando.

We’ll talk about Foord in a bit, when we get to the draft, but I think the other three players were released with a mixture of relief and regret.

I believe that Dagny Brynjarsdottir was the regret that was clouded by the lingering confusion of her tenure here. Who was she? Was she an attacking, or a defensive, midfielder? Both? Neither? A goal-scorer, or a creator? I’m not sure that in her time she ever really defined her role, and I’m not sure the coaching staff defined it, either on the pitch or in their minds.

From 2016, over three seasons – with a break in 2018 – Dagny played over 3,300 minutes in 53 games, scoring 6 goals and providing 2 assists. She was often used as a midfield distributor but never broke 65% pass completion. She was also often used as a midfield stopper, but her defensive numbers declined sharply from her 60% highs for duels and tackles in her first season to the low-fifties in 2017 and 2019 . She was never a liability…but she was never outstanding enough to lock down a regular starting job, either.

I’m honestly not sure what might have happened to her this season had she been able to make things work out. The roster overhaul might have left her without a role…or it might have found her one.

As things stand, we will never know.

Releasing the two other players was nowhere near as troubling.

Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic was a panic hire in 2018, the temp-agency replacement for Caitlin Foord when Foord pulled up lame. AMC had a decent 2018 – 5 goals and 3 assists in about 1,500 minutes over 22 games – but in 2019 kind of fell off a cliff; 1 goal in 760 minutes over 12 games. Her conversion rate dropped from a meager 14% to an unacceptable 10%.

When the Thorns signed AMC I was skeptical of their advertising. She was touted as a striker – her role was to be Foord until Foord was healthy enough to be Foord – but only her international career suggested she could do that. Her club numbers looked like her typical strike rate was only about 0.2 goals/game.

Her strike rate here? 0.17 goals/game.

So…nope.

What the Thorns FO got was what she was, what she’d been in Europe – a secondary striker and provider – instead of what they wanted her to be, a true #9. I’m pretty sure the club was surprised when she was who she was, and I’m pretty sure they were displeased. That must have chafed both parties and soured her tenure here, so I suspect that everyone was pleased to see the back of each other.

I hope she thrives at Barcelona.

Andressinha was yet another player that the coach and FO seemed to have truly, madly, deeply misunderstand.

She was acquired from Houston – I think – as part of the Allie Long deal in 2018. It’s my suspicion that the FO knew that Long had a whopping attitude and wasn’t ever going to play for Portland again, so the Thorns swapped Savannah Jordan to Houston and got Andressinha, who was billed as a playmaker and a hybrid 6-8, a sort of utility midfielder – i.e. Allie Long.

Once here, though, the team discovered that not only was she not Long but that they couldn’t find a good use for her. She was too fragile to mix it up in the trenches of the defensive end of midfield, and wasn’t a load in attack; she couldn’t seem to make the kind of incisive runs or passes, or consistently score on strikes from distance and setpieces that, for instance, her Brazilian teammate Debinha regularly does for the Damned Courage and Long did for Tacoma that season.

I’m not sure what Coach Parsons and the FO thought they were getting in Andressinha. I’m sure they didn’t know what to do with the Andressinha they got. The release was merciful for both sides, and I hope she does well back in Brazil.

Deal/Draft: Foord’s rights Plus Sonnett plus Picks for Orlando #1 Pick (Smith)

As mentioned above; about a week before the 2020 NWSL draft Portland traded Caitlin Foord’s rights to Orlando for the #1 overall pick that turned into striker Sophia Smith.

That deal also included Portland’s low first round pick (#7 overall), a second round (#14 overall) pick, and…centerback Emily Sonnett.

Caitlin Foord‘s two seasons in Portland were a complete disappointment. Touted as a goalscorer, she produced three goals and two assists in 1,300 minutes over 20 games. She was never a consistent threat, and never found a productive partnership with the Thorns other attacking players. She worked hard and put herself into dangerous situations, but never seemed to get any benefit from it. Her 2019 conversion rate – 18% – was respectable, but seems to be more the product of taking fewer shots rather than scoring more goals. Since then she’s bypassed Orlando and signed with Arsenal in the FAWSL.

Another played I can’t slag off on – she worked hard and gave it her best – but not successful here, and clearly considered excess lumber that the FO wanted out of the shed as part of the 2020 rebuild,

Emily Sonnett might well be one of the most beloved players that every pulled on Thorns red. She’s a wild woman, a sort of goofy and loveable maenad (can that even be a thing, “loveable maenad”..?), a day-in-day-out Happy Warrior who always seems to find a smile or a joke lying around and picks it up to crack up her teammates.

Her photobombs during her teammates’ interviews were fucking epic.

That said…as I discussed in the defenders’ piece last fall; “(Her) PMRs show the immediate effects of the continuing random brainfarts (those minuses that are still running 4 to 5 a game) as well as the big drop in scoring from the championship season that lost a lot of pluses. All of this suggests that we’re sort of stuck in the same place we were three years ago.”

I think the coaching staff saw that, too. I think they were looking for a harder, tougher, more focused centerback. I think they got one, too – as we’ll discuss – but that meant that it was time for Sonnett to move on.

I’ll miss Sonnett as a person and a character. She’s just fun, and in the often-cruel business of sport fun can be hard to come by.

But here’s my secret thought; Sonnett the player might well have been hampered by that same loveable goofy sense of fun. She never took herself too seriously, and that’s wonderful. But she might just not have taken her craft as seriously as she could. And that’s not. Perhaps what’s holding her back is that at critical moments her game is as silly and goofy and lighthearted as she is.

I hope she never loses that sense of fun.

Except on the pitch. Well, okay; except on the pitch when she’s playing against Portland.

As soon as she declared for the draft Sophia Smith was the consensus #1 prospect in 2020. Here’s her senior year metrics (from a 20 game sample) in Chris Henderson’s draft report:

16 goals on approximately 14 xG
38% conversion rate
2.1 chances created per 90’
73% pass completion (19 passes per 90’)
1.3 key passes completed per 90’ (49% completion)
29% cross completion
43% aerial duels won
7 dribbles per 90’ (54% success)
3.2/12 – ball recovery-turnover ratio per 90’

Smith was simply the best striker in the NCAA outside her teammate Catarina Macario. She fills the huge hole at #9 that Portland’s roster has had since the loss of Nadia Nadim.

Smith a capable at both outside forward and center-forward, though she was primarily used as an outside forward at Standford. She’s had some injury struggles, and is young – she was an academic sophomore when she declared and will be only 20 this coming August.

As with any young player, there are lots of unknowns. Smith seems to hold a lot of promise, and now it’s up to the coaches and trainers and her teammates here in Portland to ensure that promise is fulfilled.

Deal (Trade): Purce for Rodriguez

The same day (January 8) the Foord-Sonnett-Smith deal was done the Thorns traded Midge Purce to Sky Blue FC for Raquel Rodriguez.

Let me get this out here first; I’m a straight-up, unapologetic Midge Purce fanboi.

I think she’s got a hellacious toolkit; speed, craft, strength, the striker’s instinct for goal. I like that she saw her biggest weakness – her lack of a left foot – and worked on it during the 2018-2019 offseason to return in 2019 as a more two-sided attacker.

I liked her connection with Simone Charley and looked forward to seeing if the two – considering how well Charley has been doing in Australia this winter – could duplicate it this coming season.

That said…I don’t see her everyday, and Coach Parsons and the FO gang do. There was obviously something they saw there that didn’t impress them as much as it did me; she faded out of the XI at the end of 2019, and was obviously considered superfluous to requirements to the point where she was swapped to Sky Blue in this deal.

The loss of Raso – which we’ll discuss in a bit – complicates this deal, but obviously Sky Blue is more with me than with them.

It’ll be interesting to see who was right about her.

Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez appears to be a versatile attacker, able to both create and score – to a point. She passes the “eye test” as a quality player. I am hopeful that the FO wanted her because they have a specific vision for what her role will be this season and a specific plan on how to implement that vision.

I have concerns, however, that won’t be allayed until we see how she does here.

Specifically, remember this chart? We looked at it when we looked at AMC at the end of last season:

All NWSL players with three goals, 2019 season

See the yellow cells in the red box? THOSE are what concern me. Those are my problem.

As a goalscorer in 2019 Rodriguez was shockingly inefficient. We dumped Foord because she couldn’t score, but Rocky is worse than she is. Her minutes per goal are particularly appalling. She didn’t shoot a lot, and she didn’t score when she did.

BUT – and it is a huge “but” – there’s a problem with my problem, because the real problem is Sky Blue.

Was Rodriguez’ issue Rodriguez? Or was Rodriguez issue that she was playing for one of the league’s biggest tire fires? It’s hard to pick Rocky’s flame from the burning dumpster she was trapped in. That will have to wait until she rolls out here.

And, of course, the other big unknown is “what will she do when she rolls out here?”

Is she a goalscorer? We have quite a few of those on the roster now, at least on paper. Is she a “midfield general”, a string-puller and creator? At least in theory that’s what Sinclair and Horan do. Given Sinc’s age…is she the next Sinclair? And, if so, how? We have no idea at this point where she fits into the squad.

Here’s what I hope; I hope that Rodriguez was just locked into a bad place in Jersey. I hope that new teammates, a new coach, a new tactical setup, sparks a renaissance in her game.

Whether that happens…well, we’ll have to see. This deal has a potential to cut both ways.

Foord and Sonnett for Smith? I’m all-in. This deal? I think we’ll have to wait and watch to see how we judge its worth.

DEAL/DRAFT: Picks/Duffybux for Chicago #2 Pick (Weaver)

Now we’ve come to Draft Day, January 16 2020.

Having taken Smith with the #1 overall, the Thorns FO packaged two second-round picks (#15 and 16 overall), and $70,000 in allocation money – “duffybux” – to swap for Chicago’s #2 overall pick. With this they selected forward Morgan Weaver out of Washington State University.

We’ll see this as a trend; the Thorns FO clearly sees the allocation money as more of a trade tool than a straight-up “go overseas and hunt down players” kind of tool.

Henderson helpfully provides senior season stats for Weaver:

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’

Weaver had an absolute monster of a College Cup campaign, and she’s clearly a quality forward at the NCAA level.

She’s also tall and strong, suggesting that she, instead of Smith, might be the better target inside the box. But there’s that pesky aerial dual problem; for a player her size Weaver has not been strong in the air.

She also has some other somewhat troubling metrics, including her goal/xG ratio, and her passing – although in his assessment of the draft Henderson suggested this might be more an artifact of WSU’s playing style than Weaver herself.

To me Weaver looks more like a solid second option than a line-leading goalscorer; she has a nose for key passes, and converts well enough to draw defensive attention. I think the only question is whether she’ll be worth what we paid for her; for a team in need of defensive depth we missed several good second round opportunities to trade up for her.

Given her skillset, I think she will…but I’m not as sure of her as I am of Smith. We’ll see.

Image by Georgetown University on Facebook

DRAFT: Third round pick (#25) – Meaghan Nally

With no second round picks, the Thorns’ next draft pick was the seventh in the third round and they selected Nally, a defender out of Georgetown.

Nally is a versatile defender who has played both left and right fullback and centerback, and has decent numbers for a deep third-round player (again courtesy of Henderson):

66% pass completion (21 passes per 90’)
69% defensive challenges won (7 per 90’)
61% aerial duels won
81% tackles won
0.8 dribbles per 90’ (92% success)
10/5 – ball recovery/turnover ratio per 90’
8 interceptions per 90’
0.75 major mistakes per 90’

She has also, as you’d expect from a player this far down the draft board, some issues with consistency, in particular her passing (Henderson reports she had some senior year games where her completion rate was below 50%).

She’s depth, she’s young, and she’s cheap. There’s not much more you can ask from a third round pick.

Image by NWSL.com. Licensed under Fair Use.

Deal/Draft: Fourth Round Pick (#34) to Reign FC for Westphal

Westphal was a first-round Boston pick in the 2016 draft and played 1,709 minutes over 26 games. In 2017 she went out of Matchday 13 with a serious nerve injury to her right foot, and at the end of the season went to Reign FC in the Boston dispersal draft.

Her first season in Seattle appears to have been affected by her injury; she played only 694 minutes in 12 matches, and by 2019 either through injury or just overall form she had been largely relegated to the bench, appearing for 138 minutes over four games with only a single start.

At this point Westphal seems unlikely to do more than provide a handful of late-game minutes as a substitute for Klingenberg. I’m not quite sure what to make of this deal, frankly. With Amanda Visco still in the board the FO swapped the third-from-the-last-pick to Tacoma for this journeywoman defender. This is where I just have to hope that the FO is smarter than me.

Original image by Hayley Raso on Twitter

Deal (Transfer): Raso to Everton

The next deal in our discussion was a shocker to the fanbase; on January 22, the week after the draft, the Thorns announced that Hayley Raso had signed a six-month deal with struggling northwest England club Everton.

To me the big question about this is whether the club had a clue that Raso was searching for a European gig when they traded Purce. Purce’s and Raso’s skillsets overlap in many aspects, but the connection with Carpenter through the Matildas makes Raso the more natural right forward/right wing choice and Purce more expendable.

So if the club had no clue? The Purce deal makes smack-down sense on both sides; Portland gets a quality midfielder after a season where the midfield had some issues and moves a spare right winger to Sky Blue.

But if the club had suspicions that Raso was looking for a new gig? Than the move looks a lot more risky; success depends on turning up a reliable replacement at right wing.

Smith has played wide right at Stanford, but seems more valuable as a true center-forward. Weaver has been slotted out as a winger, as well, but is reported to have been notably less productive there than playing more centrally, as well. Regardless, someone is going to have to slot in where Purce and Raso were, and – I’m beginning to sound like a broken record – we’re going to have to wait and see who that is.

Deal (Trade): Ball and Duffybux to Utah for Sauerbrunn

The most recent deal was a big one; the Thorns packaged allocation money – $100,000 straight up, with an additional $50,000 if the player they took is playing here in 2021 – and defender Elizabeth Ball for Utah defender Becky Sauerbrunn.

Liz Ball played about 1,200 minutes over 23 games for Portland; she was an important piece of the backline in 2019, getting 14 starts. However, the arc of her 2019 is more revealing than just the raw numbers.

Her first appearance as a starter was in New Jersey on Matchday 6, and she was a monster. Her PMRs that day – +19/-7/+12 – equal the best anyone on the Thorns backline posted over the season; only Emily Menges had similar numbers and that only once.

After that she started continuously through Matchday 17 (the weird no-goal win over the Damned Courage here). She was good, but never as good as that first start, and had a poor match against the Courage.

Then she disappeared. Over the final nine matches she appeared only four times, twice as a substitute, and was yanked at the halftime of the semifinal after an ineffective first half.

Ball is young, and has shown bright promise…but is also clearly viewed as no more than depth, and as such was fungible in return for a Sonnett-upgrade.

Becky Sauerbrunn is unlikely to need an introduction to any reader here. She has been a regular with the USWNT at centerback since 2008, and has over 170 caps.

She’s also knocked around club soccer, going all the way back to 2005, for an outfit called the “Boston Renegades” of the W-League. She played in the WPS for Washington (and the infamous MagicJack), and in the NWSL for FC Kansas City.

‘Brunn is, obviously, a vastly experienced and talented central defender. She is sort of the anti-Sonnett; stern instead of funny, dependable instead of mercurial, older veteran instead of young professional.

She is also, in field player terms, practically an antique; at 34 she is at the end of her long career. She made no effort to hide that she wanted to make this move to finish her club career in what she considers her hometown. More than perhaps any other of these moves this trade suggests strongly that the Peregrine organization intends to make 2020 the “last big push” for a title before the end of the Sinclair Era and the need for a bottom-up rebuild.

Sauerbrunn will bring a tremendous well of experience to the Thorns’ backline. She will also slow a centerback pairing that was already hampered by Menges’ leg injuries. The questions now are whether ‘Brunn’s experience will permit her to offset her lack of pace and whether Menges will be fully fit to start this season. If so, the two should have no major issues.

If not…hmmm.

So. Where do all these drafts and deals leave us?

Let’s start by summing them up:

Forwards – gained Smith and Weaver, lost AMC, Foord, and Raso.

AMC and Foord were clearly not working out here. Smith and Weaver both have the potential to be terrific attackers.

The loss of Raso, though, makes this a little more fraught, because she held down a slot – veteran right-flank attacker – that we don’t have an obvious like-for-like replacement, and the two rookies are just that; rookies, with lots of upside and no way to be sure that they will fulfill their potential.

Overall?

Net gain?…Yes, provided that the draftees 1) develop as hoped, and 2) can fill Raso’s position as well or better than Ribbons. Given the players involved, I’m pretty hopeful.

Midfielders – gained Rodriguez, lost Purce, Andressinha, and Brynjarsdottir

Despite the numerical imbalance these moves are fairly balanced in terms of quality; Rodriguez looks like good stuff; at least on paper an upgrade to Brynjarsdottir, Purce had some huge moments in 2019 but faded late to the point of being clearly not what the FO saw as a way forward, and Andressinha was just a mistake and a dead loss.

The value of these moves is hugely dependent on two things we just don’t know and won’t know until the players take the field: is Rodriguez better than her Sky Blue metrics, and is Purce no better than the Thorns think she is or can be?

Net gainMaybe, if the answers to both questions are “yes”, then this is a solid gain for Portland. If “no”? Then we may be regretting the Purce-Rodriguez trade and our inability (or unwillingness..?) to front the Brynjarsdottir family a little extra jack.

Defenders – gained Sauerbrunn, lost Ball and Sonnett

While she’s on the descending branch of her career Sauerbrunn still has the potential to anchor the backline here. Sonnett was stuck in a less-than-ideal point in her development, while Ball was useful but not an essential piece of the team. The value of replacing Sonnett with Sauerbrunn makes the loss of Ball acceptable.

Net gainYes. Sauerbrunn should shore up a backline that has been sliding since 2017. My only concern is her age; older players are injury magnets, and if ‘Brunn is hurt we have a pretty thin bench to fill in.

Conclusion?

I think the FO has done well this offseason.

As well as the bonanza year of 2015-2016? That remains to be seen; if Smith and Weaver develop as well as they promise? If Rodriguez is the beast she looks capable of being and not what she looked like in Jersey? If Sauerbrunn stays healthy and continues to play at her current level or above?

Then, absolutely.

Here’s the thing, though.

The rumor is flying that the off-season deals aren’t done. Parsons hinted that the club is still in conversations with one or possibly two other significant signings, which is why I’ve called this “Part 1”.

So now we’re waiting and watching for a number of things. Will the season start in April? And, if so, will there be yet another deal or two?

I’ll be back before then.

Until then…let’s discuss!

Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

42 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Drafts and Deals, Part 1

  1. Should they be “BairdBux” now? Regardless, we still have $130k left, which means we could splash almost $200k total on one player, or $130k each on two. Defenders are not highly paid in Europe (except Renard) so we might be able to find a good left back with our remaining resources. Does Parsons still have good connections at Chelsea? Could we get Ericksson away from them?

    1. if the season starts again, my guess is that an international like Diani may not want to come over. There were rumors we were close to sign a couple of players before the Coronavirus coming to play. If it’s Diani, then Smith is at the 9 and Rodriguez is at the 6.

      If we don’t sign someone of significance with that international slot up front, I want to see Weaver and Sinclair split the 9 role with Smith and Heath on the wings. This opens up the 8 or 10 for Rodriguez with Seiler at the 6.

      1. It’s looking more and more like this is global, and the travel restrictions are going to be in place for a while. So while I’m not sure who the club was targeting, my guess is that we won’t see them here for some time, period. But not so much, I think, because of fear of conditions here. It’s going to be bad here…but it’s already bad in parts of the EU and will get worse. It’s just going to be bad; we’re in The Plague Year.

        I’d hope – if we can land Diani – that the result might be Smith at #9, Rocky at #10, Horan at #8, and Seiler at #6 (or perhaps the “other” player we’re trying to tempt with Blairbux is someone like Kumagai or Hayley Ladd…). I’m not sure that I really want to see Sinc go another year trying to push up the pitch unless she becomes a target forward/poacher. She’s just struggling with pace too much, and it hurts her effectiveness in other parts of her game, like passing and defending…

      2. Covid-19 is messing up everything. I agree that this means that whatever the club was planning re: the mystery pair is probably not going to happen.

        My interest in Ericksson is specific to Klingenberg’s age and our need for outside pace. I think she is the best non-American left back out there. Her on the left and Carpenter on the right is gonna scare any NWSL defense.

        If 2020 doesn’t happen, then it will become even more urgent next winter, since 2021 may be Heath’s swan song. And possibly the postponed ones for Sinclair and Sauerbrunn and Klingenberg, if they stick it out.

        1. At least not this year, in all likelihood. If the club has someone(s) in mind for the long-term, perhaps the negotiations will continue into 2021.

          And, yes…I think if the 2020 season ends up being wiped out by this epidemic it will be time to consider a bottom-up rebuild. Simply too many of the veterans will be pushing their physical limits. Heath, Sinc, ‘Brunn, and Kling will have real issues keeping up with the kids. Ericksson would be a good move this year to begin phasing in as Kling heads into retirement…

          1. Isn’t she in a relationship with Pernille Harder? Ericksson seems like one of the biggest long shots you could bring up. I pretty much view her, I’d be surprised if we can acquire a top 100 player, but will be pleasantly surprised if we do

    2. I have to think that Bairdbux are part, and maybe a big part, of the rumored negotiation with these mysterious two (?) players that we’re supposed to be doing. If he DOES still have some ties with Chelsea, Parsons could certainly find that cash useful. The Blues have a crap-ton of Scandinavian players, including Maria Thorsdottir (Norway) and Jonna Andersson, alongside Ericksson…

  2. I’m distressed that the Equalizer and others seem to assume that Rodriguez will play as the 6. I certainly hope that’s not the case (I’ve had enough of playing players where we need someone regardless of where they belong.) but until there’s news of one or more defensive acquisitions, I guess that may be the situation we’re in. And the information black hole may be extended for a long time.

    And I, of course, hope for at least a truncated NWSL season this year. Even more important, though, is staying in hiatus until it’s actually prudent to return to play. Could be a tricky decision. I hope we’ll have adequate testing for an informed decision. In the section where I sit, 120, there are a lot of STHs who appear old enough to be at increased risk. I assume the crowd as a whole skews younger than that, but still it’s important to make a good call.

    1. I’m a bit baffled by the whole Rodriguez-as-DM thing, too. AFAIK that’s never been her position, either from club or country, and while she is a talented player and probably CAN work there, -her defensive stats are decent…but they’re kind of all over the place. Here’s her stats lines, in order of tackles/duels/aerial duels (percent success):
      2016 – 80%/58%36%
      2017 – 68%/55%/60%
      2018 – 78%/40%/39%
      2019 – 66%/50%/36%
      Her tackling is decent, she wins about half her duels, and outside of 2017 she hasn’t been very good in the air. Again…that’s not bad. But we’ve got two decent DMs in Seiler and Salem. I’m not sure what with Horan coming off a very down year and Sinclair getting older and slower we’d want to take someone with Rocky’s attacking chops and park her in the back unless we’re REALLY sure that there’s no alternative.

    2. I think the equalizer is assuming we sign Diani. If that’s the case, then I think their assumption is Sinclair at the 10 and Horan at the 8.

      Lots of assumptions there. I’m really skeptical if Diani would come to the states for a 2 year, $330k contract. If she would, then the equalizers position probably makes sense. If not, I could see us trying to acquire a top defender and a solid wing backup for the internationals

      1. I’m honestly not sure that Sinc can still be effective over a full season at #10. I’d like to think so, but she really struggled last season after the WC, and she’s another year older.

        And I agree that a Diani signing presumes a lot of facts not in evidence, including the two-year time frame (if she did sign I’d bet she’d go one-and-one to be able to escape if it didn’t work out). My guess is that it’s not her.

        That said…I think that the team IS targeting someone(s). But I honestly have no idea, simply because I’m so not sure what Parsons’ vision for the squad looks like. That’s why the cancellation is so frustrating; I really need to see the team on the pitch to get a hint of his plan to torpedo the Damned Courage…

        1. To be fair, Sinclair scored 9 goals last year which tied for third in the league. I realize the drop at the end of the season was a massive issue and there are some definitive gaps compared to what she used to be … but she still produces.

          1. And her play really dropped off the table, too. Here’s her PMRs from the last six games:
            +13 -6 +7
            +5 -11 -6
            +11 -3 +8
            +5 -11 -6
            +6 -8 -2
            +9 -7 -2

            Her season net PMR dropped from +7.7 in 2018 to +3.8 in 2019. She REALLY struggled last season, especially when the team needed her most in August and September.

            She’s come back from this before, after the bad year she had in 2014. But she’s also six years older. Yes, she can still score. She’s a great player. But she’s visibly on the downslope of her long career, and the team has to or should be thinking of how to manage that.

        2. Just curious … what is your data source for PMR’s? I see it with the All White Kit stuff on a game by game basis, but haven’t seen a good one for the season.

          My perspective is the net for Sinclair is still pretty good, but not up to her “she’s one of the best players in the world” level.

          1. The “plus-minus rating” is something that my compa Richard Hamje developed, and I shamelessly stole. Here’s the long form explanation of how it works (https://www.rivetingpdx.com/2019/01/19/thorns-fc-what-the-heck-is-a-pmr/) but the tl:dr version is that it’s a subjective assessment of the individual player’s actions on the field. “Positive” actions – key passes, dangerous opportunities, critical tackles, big saves – are pluses. “Negative” actions like getting tackled for loss, wasting a good shot, ballwatching or getting skinned defensively – are minuses.

            Obviously there’s a lot of slop in there; one person’s “key pass” may be another’s “defensive positional error”. But frankly, having read the InStat tovarisches’ “explanation” for their Index? I’m not so sure that mine and Richard’s system isn’t pretty close to giving the same data.

            The real bottom line is not the exact numbers but the trends. In 2019 Sinc had a total of six games where she made more errors than good plays; four of them came in the last six matches including the semifinal. That’s a pretty good indicator of how gassed she was after the World Cup.

            And I agree; she’s still a fine player. She’s NOT at the level she was three or four years ago. Her goal production has held up – so far – but a lot of the other aspects of her game haven’t, and the only real question at this point is whether she glides down to retirement, or her performance suddenly craters. Given her dedication to conditioning and her approach to her sport I’d bet on the former. But the latter isn’t impossible; we all hit the wall sometime.

  3. I am struggling to understand the Purse/Rocky trade. We gave away a great player AND something valuable ($? First round pic? Can’t remember) for a player that we don’t have a big need for. I speculated as you did that maybe Sincy has signaled her intention of leaving after the Olympics and Rocky is a way to prepare? Also, there’s probably going to be significant turnover in the US team next year and given Purse’s call ups maybe FO assumes she’d be another allocated player? So they want to get something for her now instead of losing her to an expansion team? Anyway, I will miss Purse a lot and wish her the best. Also, I believe Foord scored in her first Arsenal game. What does THAT signify? What do you think our best lineup look like with our current roster?

    1. I failed to put that in there; yes, it was our 2021 first-rounder. Unless we tank the next season and finish last I’m not sure it will be huge, but it was part of the deal.

      Purce was brilliant for about four games last summer. I’m not sure what that says about her overall quality. As I said in the piece; I really like what she brings…but as I also said, I don’t see her nearly as much as Parsons & Co., and they didn’t see as much as I did.

      My guess is that we’re going to see Rodriguez as her natural position as ACM, where she can both attack and distribute. My question, as you point out, is Sinclair. With Rocky as the 10 and Horan the 8 and Smith and Weaver up top…where does that leave her? That plays into your last question, and I honestly don’t know. I am sorry we won’t have preseason, because I really wanted to see how the team shaped before Opening Day.

      And see my reply to Constant Weeder re: Foord’s goal.

      1. This upcoming draft is interesting.

        It has the best player in probably the last 20 years in Macario, but she’s going to an expansion team. I believe the depth is solid, but I struggle with whether there is a drastic difference between 7 and 14 unless underclassmen come out.

        My preference is they play Horan as the 10, Rodriguez as the 8, and Seiler as the 6 with Sinclair splitting time with Weaver at the 9.

  4. Midge Purce seems to be a lovely person, and a very good soccer player, but a work in progress. Rodriguez is also a lovely person and a work in progress, but I would agree with John that she has a higher ceiling. Was this a good deal for the Thorns? Who knows?
    Caitlin Foord did indeed score in her debut for Arsenal, against Lewes. I know nothing at all about Lewes, which may be all we need to know to put that in perspective. At the moment she’s quarantined, but we’ll eventually get to see whether she can score for everybody but us, or only against tomato cans.

    1. I saw a tape of that goal and it was a classic poachers’ goal; Foord was unmarked inside the six when the keeper spilled a hard shot and all she had to do was dink the thing into the open net. Not sure it really says anything about her ability to score in general, or her apparent inability to score here, either.

      And like I said; the Purce/Rocky deal is something we’ll have to hold our fire on until the two players have a chance to take the pitch. If by late summer Rocky has four goals and six assists and Purce is sitting on one and one, then we look brilliant. If it’s the other way around…

      1. I really respect Chris Henderson and Jon Lipsitz of the WoSo Soccer podcast / all white kit and both loved the deal for Rodriguez,

        I personally feel that Purce had a few good weeks and we parlayed that into much better young prospect. It made a lot more sense with Raso coming back, but I still take Rodriguez.

        At the time, I was thinking the deal was going to be for Hailie Mace to replace Sonnett and was stunned when Rodriguez was involved. I believe you are going to see Rocky develop into a damn good midfielder for us.

        I’m intrigued to see what they do with Sinclair.

        1. I agree with the All White Kit gang; this is a good deal. HOW good a deal depends on everything I’ve discussed. IF Rocky is better than her SBFC numbers and IF Purce’s base level is 2018 and the bulk of 2019 and not June? Then it’s a GREAT deal. IF one or the other it’s still a good deal. IF neither? Maybe not such a great deal. Looked at in isolation it’s always seductive to assume that a great player will improve a good team.

          Genoveva Añonma Nze is a great player. She wasn’t a good fit here. Foord is a damn good player. She wasn’t a good fit here, either. Vero is a good player; so far she hasn’t been a great fit in Utah. So…Rocky is a good player. How good she is here will depend on how well she fits. We won’t know that for some time. I want to see her tear it up! But that will be on her, her teammates, and the gaffer.

          And Sinc…yeah. How do you handle a legend that’s slowly heading into the sunset? The way the Timbers are handling Valeri is…suboptimal, IMO. I hope that Sinc and Parsons have a better relationship than Valeri and Gio, so they can deal with her diminishing role on the field and (I hope!) her transition to a coaching position. But that’s a tough, tough question, and I won’t pretend to have a definitive answer. Limit her minutes? Move her position? If so…where?

          The example I always use is Michelle Akers. Another big, strong forward Akers’ struggle with injury and CFIDS eventually moved her back to become a holding central midfielder, where she bossed the ’96 Olympics. That seems like a good move for Sinc…but would SHE be willing to make it?

          1. Depending on the caliber of the international player that we acquire up front, I see Weaver and Sinclair playing the 9. Weaver has the ability to overtake her, but it could be a masterclass training session for her.

          2. That would be an interesting pairing, in that I think of all the Thorns currently on the roster Weaver looks physically closest to Sinc; both big, tall, strong; Wever looks to have the pace Sinc had in her prime.

            One thing I do wonder about is, although I’ve mentioned this before, how Sinc would do as a coach and mentor. On the field she seems to lead more by example that by exhortation; it’s players like Klingenberg who seem to be the more verbal leaders, psyching their teammates up. A big part of coaching, though, is being able to explain to a player what you’re seeing in their game and how to do things better. I’d love to be able to sit in on Thorns’ training to see if, and if, how, Sinc can do that.

  5. Thanks for the analysis and I appreciate reading the comments. I am starting to get worn out from thinking about ifs and buts (if only they were candies and nuts). I would just like to see these new prospects on the field because we are all in some serious need for real objective data.
    I am very excited about the changes the Thorns have made. I will miss Sonnett and Raso a lot. This may be a great opportunity for Purse to play on a team that could be ascendant this year.
    After watching Spain play the USWNT tough, I am going to turn some of my overseas attention to Spain. England looked overwhelmed by our high press but Spain just seemed to be able to handle it despite the US’s advantage in terms of speed and talent. Well Spain is talented and Wow they can really pass the ball, classic tika taka Spanish play.
    Looking at John’s table above we still need defenders and a number six if Gabby is not ready in March or April. Sinclair as a six was an intriguing proposal, don’t know if she would want to, but I think she would be good.
    Very eager to see if Simone and Celeste have improved after W League and hope that Menges comes back healthy. She seemed to be a monster at the end of the season.

    1. Let’s not forget that we still have Celeste Boureille, Kat Reynolds, Kelli Hubly, Emily Ogle, Madison Pogarch, as well as our new signings. I think we’re going to be okay in the back. I would like to see someone come in as the next LB; Kling had a resurgent 2019, but it’s a when, not an “if”. And, yes, CelBee had a fine winter in Oz, as did Si-money.

      My big question is what this team will look like when all’s said and done. I think we may see a VERY different XI, with all that implies; different formation, different tactics. We’re just going to have to 1) wait, and 2) hope that we get the Plague Year under control soon.

      I think at some point soon the league will have to decide to either 1) play in closed stadiums, or 2) abandon the season. I don’t think this pandemic will abate by April, or May, or even June. Not to the point of allowing 20,000 people to mass together. I’ll be on tenterhooks until then to see which way the league jumps.

      1. I’ve viewed Celeste as a underrated midfielder, but also wonder if she’s good enough to protect next year as well. The all white kit guys were wondering why Orlando didn’t ask for her in the Smith deal. Depending on what we do with Sinclair, I could see Orlando offering Phoebe McLernan who could be an interesting right back option.

        1. If the AWK guys were asking about that I’d have to laugh; those guys are usually all over the whole “Orlando = total shitshow” gig, which is kind of my go-to explanation for why Orlando does or doesn’t do anything.

          I think CelBee is a solid reserve/spot-starter. Not sure I’d call her underrated; her showings over the past couple of years have been off the pace of her 2017, when she looked likely to step into a starting role. She hasn’t been awful, but, instead, she has been very inconsistent, following a good match with a poor one. So her rating – as a decent reserve that needs something more to become a starter – is pretty spot-on.

          What I hope is that her winter in Oz has helped her lift and stabilize her game, and we’ll see a better overall CelBee whenever we get back to playing…

          1. I’ve always viewed CelBee as a solid starter for a second tier team, so I don’t think we are that far off. I think she’d be very useful to an Orlando team that lacks midfielders.

            I like what I saw from Pogarch and Ogle though I am not sure either is a starter long term.

          2. I suspect that Boureille could start for Orlando…but, sadly, that says more about the state of the Pride than it does her quality.

            I agree on the two rooks – I don’t have a good sense of how well they might develop. OTOH, they’re cheap, so it doesn’t hurt to give them another look.

          3. They seem to hammer on Orlando. The irony is I think Taylor is going to be better than the #1 they gave up.

            If they selected Riehl with the #10 and then select Plummer at #14, I wonder how the all white kit guys would have reacted?

            I actually questioned Chicago’s strategy, though my bet is they give up a #1 to allow them to keep some of their players

      2. Yes I had forgot about those players while being so focused on the shiny new pennies. But yes Celeste Boureille, Kat Reynolds, Kelli Hubly, Emily Ogle, Madison Pogarch are all strong players and I would add Angela Salem when she gets healthy. I am not sure there is a Kling replacement but there is some talent in the group you mentioned that could step up in the future.
        Also, if there is a 2020 season it would be a great year for Tyler Lussi to ratchet up a notch. Sometimes she seems almost there and sometimes just not quite. I hope Marisa Everett is given another shot too.

    2. It’s interesting, but my belief now is that the season will be cancelled OR condensed after three months. I’m starting to wonder what measures can be done to make sure people stay healthy? Could we see scenarios with everyone wearing masks in public?

    1. I saw that. Given that the combined age of the Fishlock-Long-Cruz midfield is somewhere in the low three figures it suggests that they will have a hard time getting through a full season intact. Cruz is fine, but given the aging Reign midfield this one struck me as Benstiti being similar to Riley signing Ano back in 2015; he wanted what he wanted regardless of how valuable the thing (in this case Cruz) was to the team.

      If everyone stays healthy and performs well? Fine. But I see the chances of that NOT happening as pretty high. Plus they got Hedge in the first round – with all that age (Yanez is not exactly in the first blush of youth, either…) in midfield already, Fishlock coming off injury…why add Cruz when you have a decent young midfielder coming in?

      It may be Benstiti has a cunning plan. But if this is part of it…I don’t get it.

      1. It’s going to be interesting to watch how things develop. I really like how Smith, Weaver, Charley, and Lussi project long term. My perspective is if we sign an international, I would prefer a left back to replace Kling. That said, if we could get Diani … you have to go down that route,

        While I understand Sinclair’s speed isn’t close to what it was, I do think her at the 9 is making the most sense with the current roster. It allows Smith to roam outside and Rodriguez/Horan to play their natural positions. I also believe swapping and putting Weaver under Sinclair’s wing could do wonders for her development

        I hope that contracts have been signed with Weaver and Smith specifically … and just not announced

        1. Given the way the club works, I’m hoping we hear on who’s signed some time before the autumn. I won’t put money on it if the season is cancelled…

          If there’s one thing that’s been hammered home to me watching this game for twenty-odd years it’s that it’s damn deadly difficult to predict or project any individual player’s value beyond a sort of general “she should do well as a…” or “I think he could thrive in this system…”

          The problem I have with this group and the next season (whenever that will be) is that I don’t think we have any data to go on. The last truly successful season we had as 2017, and that squad is gone. The 2018 and 2019 seasons were characterized by experimentation forced by injuries and absences and much of that experimentation wasn’t successful.

          Are all these acquisitions promising? Absolutely! Will all…or some…or ANY of them fulfill that promise? There’s simply too many variables for even a stats geek like me to try and predict. I think we’ll have to just wait and see how the team rolls out (and hope that we WILL see a rollout some time this year…)

    1. That’s terrific. Both just as a clever riff and for how it plays on the sort of thing we’re used to hearing from the booth. Sounds kinda silly when it’s two dogs chasing around a park, don’t it..?

  6. Any concern that some teams may fold because of the lost revenue? I’ll be honest … part of me is looking at my season tickets as a sunk cost until an option is found.

    1. I’m looking at them as an investment in the club and the league; even if we have no season this year, I want the club to use my ST payment to pay the bills and keep the lights on. I hope others feel the same way; to me it’s the same thing as I’ve been doing with several of our local businesses – I go out of my way to order take-out Thai and pick up some local microbrews because I want to keep them hanging in there until we can resume our lives, no matter how long that takes…and I’m still employed, so I can. People who have lost their jobs..? Not so much.

      I do worry about the league, and, in particular, some of the shakier clubs. And that might mean clubs we don’t think of as “shaky”‘ that interview with Whisler of Chicago back at the end of last season suggested that the Red Stars are still losing money. I have to think that OL is pumping cash into Tacoma given their history and situation now. Unfortunately there’s only so much we can do, and we’ll just have to cross our fingers.

  7. I’m not very optimistic that we’ll see even part of a season this year, particularly if people are too quick to try to return to normal. I’m semi-okay with regarding my season tickets as an investment/donation, but I think the team would be wise not to ask STHs to absorb the entire loss. A partial refund or some credit on the cost of renewal, or both, would take away a lot of the sting. Obviously it’s too soon for that, when there’s still an outside chance of some games.

    I’m quite concerned about the rest of the league. I’d guess the Thorns and Reign are solid, and maybe Utah. The independently owned teams, even if they were close to breaking even, are probably very vulnerable to cash flow problems. Houston and Orlando – I have no clue; the Damned, maybe even less. And what happens with the Whiskey Chicks? I guess expansion overall will depend on how badly the economy is wounded and how quickly it seems likely to recover.

    So the action list is:
    Fingers crossed – check
    Wait and see – pending.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.