Drawing to an inside straight

So here’s the “group stage” draw for the Deodorant Cup in July:

Image from Chris Henderson on Twitter

So, first, I think this is kind of odd because of the utterly random nature it gives this “tournament”. Portland, to pick just us, plays only four of the potential eight opponents once. That means there’s no chance to make adjustments to do better playing that opponent again. It’s, in effect, a “one and done” group round; get your tactics or your matchups wrong and, boom, you got zero points.

Second, the way it’s scheduled means the turnaround for the first and last two matches is punitive; two matches with three days rest, then a week off, then two more short-rest matches. Why not space the games out more? With 17 days for the round four off-days between matches would have brought the round in at roughly the same length but given the players another full day’s rest.

I was chatting this news over with my compa Richard Hamje, who noted that The Red Stars have by far the easiest draw in this stage; the 4 worst teams of 2019, and the Damned Courage are next easiest with 3 of the 5 non-playoff teams from last season. Some people…

On the other hand, Richard noted, Orlando and Salt Lake have the hardest draws – 3 of the 4 playoff teams from last season.

And as for the results of the draw itself for the Thorns, well…I’m okay but not thrilled with it.

We know what we’re going to get with The Damned Courage, and if we can scrape a point out of that match I will be thrilled. Given the short run-up and Riley’s well-known fitness obsession I’ll be shocked if the Damned don’t come out smoking hot and run us off the pitch. If Parsons goes with a 4-1-4-1 and plays the bunker I’ll be fine with that one. Take the point, learn, adjust, and then smack them around in the knockouts.

Orlando’s still a shitshow – right now they have something like seven or eight internationals (depending on who’s got a green card – I think Plummer might have one but I’m too lazy to go look) and only four international slots.

They also got hosed in this draw: Chicago, us, Carolina, and Sky Blue? Ouch. Richard put it best in our discussion: All of man’s monuments will have fallen to sand before Orlando gets a break.

Tacoma is, frankly, an enigma. They’ve changed so much since they were the team that slapped us around last season; new owners, new coach, fairly massive roster churn…they could be dangerous, they could be disastrous, they could be anything in between. And Washington has always been roughly our equals and that match could go either way.

So let’s say we grind out a draw against the Damned on Matchday 1…pick up the three points that will drop out of Orlando’s pocket on Matchday 3…it’s going to come down to Matchdays 6 and 8 to decide where we go through.

Because we will go through – it’d take a meteorite strike to drop all 12 points, and Orlando could easily do that and bag the Wooden Deodorant Stick – but I’d rather go through matched up with someone we can play heads-up in the quarterfinal, like Utah or Washington, than the Damned or last-season’s Tacoma.

Couple more random thoughts before we go:

Sadly, I fear that the play is likely going to be crude; given the long layoff, the short run-up, and the “one-and-done” nature of all these games? Nobody’s going to feel all that confident enough to want to open up and finding out that they’ve read their opponents (or their own quality) all wrong, and give up two goals in the first half hour. Playing pretty soccer is going to be tough with a month to train and one-and-done. I’m betting teams are going to play either grinding defense or Route One, or both. That will be a bad look for what I hope will be a large viewing audience. I hope not, but I’m worried that the timeframe doesn’t give too many other options.

And I’m worried about injuries. Same problem; short run-up, crude play…bad enough to be risking the Plague, but who the hell wants an ACL tear at any time, much less the Plague Year?

But here we are. It may not be such of a muchness, but it’s the season we have.

Thoughts? Let’s discuss in the comments…

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10 thoughts on “Drawing to an inside straight

  1. My first thought is what happened to the 2 players we were going to sign? Are they casualties of covid with the FO deciding its not worth it to spend in a short year?
    Our current roster seems less than impressive up top , with 2 un-proven rookies slotted in for Midge and Raso.

    Where does Rocky fit into all this? not at forward i hope.

    1. Per Merritt some time ago (couple of weeks? Time seems to stretch like the train in the relativity filmstrip they showed us in high school during this plague…) the FO is still negotiating with an (a couple of..?) internationals. What this means…I have no idea. For one thing, what sort of “transfer window” has any meaning now? What is the status of a, say, CAF forward coming in on a work visa? Is that even a thing, or will Merritt have to parachute into the West Wing and fistfight Stephen Miller to make that happen?

      As far as the attack goes…well, we’ll have to see. I’m actually concerned that Heath might sit this one out; there’s a lot of downside for her – age, injury potential, The Plague – relative to the amount of play…but, frankly, other than that, we’ve got Horan hopefully back in Great form, Weaver is certainly no less promising than AMC was a bust, who knows what Lussi might do as a starter, Simone Charley tore up the W-League this past winter, Sinc will surely be in there pitching…and, tho I’m a bit more skeptical than some, Rodriguez is supposed to be hot stuff as an attacking midfielder/creator. So I’m not so sure that we’re going to be as punchless upfront as we were at times last season.

      And it’s worth recalling that Purce had four great matches. Seriously. That was it. She was decent the remainder of the season, but her reign of terror as the potential MVP?

      Four games.

      So I think we’re going to have to be creative to fill Ribbons’ right wing position…at striker? Hard to say, but I’m actually kinda optimistic.

    2. There is no way the computer spit out an impartial random draw with Portland facing the Courage opening day on the first try when they had already announced CBS to be televising the opener. If Orlando and Chicago get that game I will buy some of the Reign merch.

      I am also sniffing some Orlando trade history, and Reign rivalry bias in the wind.

      Also there is so much about this cup I want to know. What the heck are the tie breakers for seeding, assuming final 8 don’t redraw for knockout stage(s) or even tiebreakers if 8 & 9 finish even on points?

      Best of luck to whatever portion of the Thorns make the month+ long work retreat away from family.

    1. In a weird way I’m more okay with her getting treatment now than if she went down late in June. Hopefully it’s minor, and the physios are working on her. But injury is a huge concern of mine during this thing – they’re playing on turf, mostly, and with the short conditioning time…

  2. I am with you John in preferring Sofia’s injury to be something to take care of now rather than have happen late in June. But I had a nagging concern from draft day that she might be injury prone. That concern is beginning to get more uncomfortable. I remember thinking she looks so slim, but then Press and Morgan are no more robust looking. I hope she is more of a Press-forward than a Morgan-forward, because Alex seemed to dive right into danger.
    I didn’t see either Horan or Carpenter in the latest pictures of the team practicing. I wonder if anyone knows when those two will be in camp. I think if Elie is in Australia she could have difficulty leaving right now. Also, is Simone in town?
    On another topic that 2014 game with Boston that was replayed this last weekend reminded me of what a treat Vero was, I just love to watch her play!

    1. AFAIK Smith had a serious ankle injury in college, but hasn’t shown herself to be “injury-prone”. Knocks and bangs happen to athletes, so it’s hard to be confident about her one way or the other. But she’s a big part of the Thorns’ future plans…so I hope she’s not going to end up struggling with injuries. That’d suck.

      Carpenter was in Australia when the lockdowns and travel bans went in, so she may still be stranded there. Charley posted some videos of her training that looked like she was here in the US, but I’m not certain.

      The status of the Nats is a real question here. I can see how older players like Heath might not want to risk injury or the Plague in Utah. Horan is young and strong, though, so…hmmm. We’ll have to see.

      I’ll always see Vero as a truly tragic lost opportunity. She was so skilled and intelligent and clever in 2014. She should have been in position to take the league by storm. But between PRO and Paul Riley’s issues and the way the team unfolded…sign. Just sad. Wish we’d been able to hang on to her rights. I’ll always wish her the best…except when we play Utah, of course…

  3. This will be our first game against NCC since the the 6-0 drumming at PP last September. Im not optimistic about our first match.

    Im wondering if the FO didn’t just throw in the towel for 2020 and nix the 2 international signings (or so it appears). 2021 Looks to be a huge re-build maybe? Especially with expansion.

    1. Oddly enough…I’m actually coming to be sort of okay with it. Not that I think it’ll be three points, mind you; Carolina is going to be the odds-on favorite to win this whole thing.

      But…all we need to do is get to the knockouts. So beat Orlando (doable), Washington and Tacoma (possible). If we take a point off Carolina…fine.

      But here’s the important thing: we HAVE to learn from that game. Because of the weird way this is set up, like I said – there’s no second leg. There’s no chance to adjust, to adapt, to figure out what went wrong and fix it.

      Until the knockouts. Then, at some point, we’re going to see the Damned again. And we damn well better have figured out how to beat them.

      At this point my guess is that between the Plague and the short lead time to this Cup there’s no hope to make international transfers work this year It’s looking like the Maroszan/Bouhaddi deals might be off in Utah, so it’s likely that whatever was going to happen here won’t, either.

      As for 2021, we need to hope for a vaccine, or next year is going to be as troubled as this one. But…presuming that the draftees work out and the international deal is on hold not off and the league finds a way to play something like a regular season next year…we’ll have to see. Perhaps. We’ve got a bunch of players that are getting close to retirement – Sinc, Kling, possibly Heath and Sauerbrunn. Have to see how this Utah cup unfolds and how next season looks, but…maybe.

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