Roundtable: After the Fall, Before the Draft

Image by Portand Thorns FC on Facebook

Well, that’s it. No more NWSL soccer until next spring…we hope! What’s left is the shouting – specifically, the expansion draft for Racing Louisville, the newest addition to the NWSL roster, which will be held in early November. After that we may – and the COVID-delayed and disassembled fall NCAA season makes the “may” very much a thing – have an NCAA draft in January and then, if we can do something dramatic and effective about the Plague, stirrings of a new season in 2021.

Before all that, the Riveting! Gang got together to talk 2020; Thorns, the league, and how we saw them from our socially-distanced stands.

To go with the utter weirdness of the season, though…two of our Four Amigos found they didn’t really have much to add.

Shannan Sorenson told us ”I feel like the fall series was too short to glean much from, but I’m more curious/interested about the number of US players who have bolted internationally.” We agreed that the latter was a good question.

Patrick Chizeck is still unhappy with the whole idea of playing soccer during the plague; he reminds us to mask up, wash our hands, and keep our distance!

So Richard “Budweiser” Hamje and John Lawes were left to kick around the Thorns and the NWSL in 2020.

Let’s go to tape.

  1. From Challenge Cup doormats to Fall Series champs. Portland Thorns…the Sybil of the NWSL. Which is the “real Thorns”, and why

Richard: Who are the Real™ Thorns? Not the worst team in the league, although the Challenge Cup result shows that. Not the best team in the league, although the Fall Series result shows that. While it was welcome to see some football played safely, nothing that we saw even approximated a regular season. No travel, no six-month grind, no preseason, no fans.

John: Well…I dunno about that. We did play some games, and I think we can see some big-picture things emerge from them. Starting with the Utah Cup. That Thorns was…well, by its record it was a Bad Team. Not so much for losing, but by the way it lost; continuing the attacking sterility and making defensive errors we saw a lot of in 2019. The only “good” game depended on the reserve goalkeeper going utterly mad, and one good attacking play.

But my take on that wasn’t that this team was bad in the “Boston Breakers” bad, deeply, fundamentally, structurally bad.

It was struggling with a lot of issues; missing important pieces – Heath, Smith, fighting back from a long layoff that had obviously taken a lot out of the team, and the Cup being treated by the coaching staff as a sort of preseason to give minutes to lots of players, so no coherence or cohesion.

It was a team in flux, but in the “bad team” phase of flux.

Fast forward to September and October. With the huge caveat that the opposition was, absent Orlando, the worst in the league, the team was more coherent, more experienced. Several players, most notable Christine Sinclair, were rested and feeling frisky. The attack was coming together – admittedly, in a kind of weird way, a mix of Route One Charley with some nice possession and buildup through Horan and Sinc and especially Smith. The defending was better. The goalkeeping was still solid.

So I think the impression of Bad Thorns/Good Thorns is an artifact. I think we saw a spectrum, from “still shit but working on it” in July to “figuring it out with the caveat that it doesn’t take genius to beat the Royals and OL Reign”.

So it wasn’t Sybil; it was The Three Faces of Eve.

Richard: Okay, well, that is all very deep and philosophical. I still can say no more than that the Thorns are 24 women who play soccer in empty stadiums. And who, in the black kits, look fabulous doing it.

John: And they say I’m the Eeyore! I think there’s reason for hope from the 2020 “season”, such as it was (especially, as we’ll talk about in a bit, the now-notorious Dunn Deal). I do agree that the Black Rose kits are sweet, though.

  1. We talked about this at the end of the Cup, but which Thorn was your Fall Series standout, and why?

John: Hard not to say Sinclair, but my perception is colored by my expectations. I always expect Sinclair to shine, so to me it wasn’t a “standout” performance, just another day punching the clock.

My standouts were Simone Charley, who turned a very drab Challenge Cup into a terrifically effective Fall Series, and Westphal, who was solid all through the season.

Richard: MVP of the Fall Series is Christine Sinclair, duh. But I was very happy to see that Westphal’s Challenge Cup was not a fluke, and that Sophia Smith is the real deal.

  1. Was there anyone who underwhelmed? And, again, why.

Richard: I was extremely disappointed that our backup goalkeeper did not play even a single minute. That would have been the most epic thing in the history of the league.

John: Yeah, the Return of the Eisbär would have been kinda epic.

Richard: Seriously, though there’s a little posse of Thorns that look good but don’t play good: Lussi, Pogarch, Everett, and to a lesser degree, Ogle and Salem. It seems like we always say that these five players are going to have a breakthrough, going to match up to their potential. But it just doesn’t happen and I don’t know when it will. That doesn’t mean they should be gone. Different people mature at different times. We’ve seen players muddle along and then excel – Westphal and Eckerstrom for example.

John: Sinead Farrelly, for you Thorns history buffs.

Richard: Yep. So if Farrelly and Westphal, why not Tyler Lussi? But when?

John: Well, of those five, the one that really bugs me is Lussi. She’s not a rookie anymore. She’s played Parsons’ “system”, such as it is, for years now. And yet she’s very seldom effective. Eats up a ton of minutes, can’t convert. I wonder if she’s a candidate for a left back conversion? She’s sure not getting it done as a forward, and at this point I’ve kinda given up hope she ever will.

The others? Enh. They’re still really green, except for Salem, and I guess I’ve never seen Salem as more than a squad player, Seiler’s backup. That said, it’s time for them to improve. Especially Pogarch. I’ve seen flashes of quality from Ogle, Everett is deep forward depth and fine as such now that we have Smith and Weaver and Charley tearing it up…but Pogarch? We need defensive depth, and we need defensive speed now that we have a centerback in her prime and another in her dotage. Pogarch has speed to burn, but she needs to show she can use it intelligently, and so far, instead, she makes pretty brutal errors. If she can step up, now’s a great time to do it.

  1. So the overall sense of where the team is headed, based on 2020. Or is there still too much work to be done to know where?

Richard: I feel like the 2020 Thorns are better than the 2019 Thorns. We’ve got more depth of talent and we finally have a replacement for Nadia Nadim. But the 2021 Thorns will have to cope with loss from the expansion draft, loss of Tobin Heath (see #8), and aging out at key positions. If we had serious understudies for Sinclair, Klingenberg and Sauerbrunn – by which I mean players who make it really hard for Parsons to start the old folks – I will feel a lot better. And we still haven’t replaced Amandine Henry.

John: I got nothing to add to that. Honestly, the lack of replacements for the big-name veterans is the most worrisome. I thought that adding Sauerbrunn meant that we were tooling up for a victory-or-death run in 2020 and then the Plague. I can see that going into 2021, but not much longer. I have a hard time seeing Sinclair and ‘Brunn starting regularly by ’22.

Actually I do have one thing to add. One player I’d really love to see more from is Rodriguez. What I’ve seen has been good! But I’d love to see more. Watching Vero Boquete against us reminded me how much she can do, even for a crap team like the current Royals. I’d love to see Rodriguez pulling strings like that. I’d love to see Rodriguez crack more golazos from distance. I’d love to see…well, more. What I’ve seen convinces me she has more. Now I want to see it.

  1. The next adventure is the Racing Louisville expansion draft this November. Thoughts?

Richard:  There are a jillion lists floating around, and plenty of talk about gaming the draft. From our side, my protected list is:

A1 Horan
A2        Dunn
R1        Smith
R2        Weaver
R3        Rocky
R4        Menges
R5        Westphal
R6        Charley
R7        Hubly

If the protected list is truly eleven; that is, nine “regular” players along with the two allocated slots as Equalizer posits, then I add Seiler and Boureille. [ed.: Based on the recently released NWSL rules, it is a total of eleven]

I would expect to lose one goalkeeper and Angela Salem.  And I would expect RLFC to not select Sinclair, Klingenberg or Sauerbrunn because they know they could not sign them.

John: For me the tough parts are twofold.

First, I agree that Sinc, Sauerbrunn, and Kling are unlikely to be picked just because I don’t see them signing for Louisville if they are. But Franch? I’m not sure she’s the starting keeper anymore. And losing one of our two starting quality centerbacks – and good as Hubly is, I’m not sure she’s ready to be Sauerbrunn – hurts more than losing one of three starting- or probably-starting-quality keepers.

Second, the “regular player” list. The top six of the nine are easy; same as yours. It’s the 10-11-12-13 slots that are tough. I like adding Hubly and Seiler, too, because we need the DM, and depth as CB. So my nine “regulars” are Smith, Weaver, Charley, Rodriguez, Seiler, Menges, Westphal, Hubly, and Eckerstrom. I think we have to risk losing one of the keepers. Bixby is a wonderful luxury, but at this point a luxury, and Franch, as I’ve discussed, loses out to ‘Brunn for depth reasons.

But there’s also the “trading deadline” this week. Do you see anything happening there?

Richard: Could we make a deal like the Morgan trade? Sure, although maybe we’re the third party instead of the primary seller. [ed: This was from before the Dunn trade happened].

From RLFC’s perspective, they are building a whole team. They are going to get one of Mewis, Dunn, Dahlkemper from the Courage – my guess is Dunn [not now, suckers!]. Then they can get one (assuming Orlando rules) from Chicago out of Davidson, Naeher, Ertz, Short, Gautrat – my guess is Gautrat.

They then need a goalkeeper (Franch [their 2nd and final allocated player]), A-mid (Privett), and striker (Prince). With that spine, then fill out their choices with the best athletes available regardless of position.

John: One of our regulars, Trail 33, has a complicated trade he likes to propose that includes Portland sending Franch and Nally to Washington and Heath to Utah, and a future #1 pick along with $200K in Bairdbux (I’m not sure where that figure comes from – I’m pretty sure we don’t have that much left…) to Carolina in return for Crystal Dunn. Meanwhile Washington sends Labbe’ to Utah and Bledsoe to Carolina, and Utah sends O’Hara to Washington and Corsie and $50K Bairdbux to Carolina.

It all sounds like too many working parts to me, but I could see how it works for everyone involved if all the parts work.

[ed. – the complex trade didn’t happen, but Dunn came to Portland via Tacoma, so sorta-kinda…and here’s my additions both post-Dunn and re: the Louisville-Chicago deal:

First, Portland. Assuming everything works out – always never a given – 2020 is starting to look like 2015-16 in terms of Portland player moves.

Mind you, ‘Brunn makes it a little less long-term than 2015. We’ve got to grab some silverware before she ages out to get our value for her. But, OTOH, she might be a critical factor in bringing Kelli Hubly along as the next Big Thing at CB. So there’s that.

I know I’m the Eeyore here, but right now I don’t see any major flaws in the Peregrine organization’s plan for the Thorns. It’d be nice to see an obvious replacement for Kling (which I don’t, yet – Pogarch hasn’t impressed me to date) and a lockdown DM, but we’ve got Westphal steady at RB for Carpenter, we’ve got three solid CBs, Dunn to add killer speed to the midfield diamond with Horan and  Sinc and Rodriguez in there somewhere (and possibly Weaver – I can see her at RW to Dunn at LW) with Smith and Charley up top.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a damn good squad. Now we need to control the Plague so we can have a 2021 and we’ll see what happens.

Second, Louisville. Louisville made their first move, going to Chicago for McCaskill and Nagasato, plus a 2021 first-rounder and an international slot. (https://www.racingloufc.com/news_article/show/1129222).

I’ve always liked what I’ve seen from Nagasato, but…McCaskill? Even as a second option she’s prodigiously wasteful when she DOES score, which is not very often – her conversion rate is in the low teens. She can’t pass and consistently loses over half her duels, so she’s a turnover machine. Maybe she re-invents herself in Louisville. But if this is their FO’s idea of a big-time striker signing?

Even weirder is the “Macario Rule”, the strange provision in this year’s draft where if Racing doesn’t steal anyone’s allocated player they get $150,000 in Bairdbux. What’s the point of that, if not to pay down Macario’s wages?

The NWSL has NEVER been consistent about expansion draft rules, but this one is especially weird, and I admit to not “getting” what the league is trying to do here, or what Racing will do with it.

Hmmm…]

6. Any controversial suggestions for the protected-vs-unprotected lists? I mean, Horan, no brainer, but who’s your #9 versus your #10?

Richard: I don’t care about losing one GK. Any 2 of our 3 is enough of a corps to start the season confident. And I am certain that Angerer can and will find and develop a world-class third for us. So my hot take is, let Louisville take their pick of our keepers and we’ll be fine. And, I should add, if we leave all three unprotected, RLFC will probably take Franch because she is free to them – although if they took Eckerstrom they could also take Lussi or whomever else is unprotected and non-allocated. Franch is unlikely to make the tiny Olympics roster, so she would be available to them all season, same as Eckerstrom or Bixby.

John: I do find it kind of intriguing that I’m reading more than a handful of people – and knowledgeable people, too, not internet yahoos – suggesting we leave all three keepers unprotected. That seems…risky to me. I’d just as soon protect the one we most want to keep and force Racing to choose between the other two.

7. Obviously the single biggest story in ThornsWorld so far is the Dunn Deal. Any observations?

Richard: It looks like a good piece of business getting a player like her for draft picks and money. And she clearly wants to be here. There are questions though:

A: Where will she play on the pitch? In our normal 4-3-3, the front three could be Dunn, Smith, Weaver (assuming Heath is not coming back). Ellis had so much attacking talent that she could afford to stick Dunn on defense. With us, it’s the opposite.

John: If I can break in for a second…

Richard: Um, like that’s ever stopped you before.

John: Yeah, okay, sorry. Anyway, Dunn tweeted out – Per this Linehan thread: https://twitter.com/itsmeglinehan/status/1319737386696400896

Linehan says: “No real sit down with Parsons yet, and she – Dunn – said “if he has that idea (of playing defense) lined up, I’m like, ‘okay, I’ll deal with it’” but she said he knows she wants to play an attacking role.” And the first reply is from Merritt Paulson: “She will get one.”

So I think we’re going to see her as either a true forward or, my guess, in the LW slot in the diamond.

Maybe that’s why we played a diamond in the Fall Series? Because Parsons knew this was in the works, and wanted to get things shaped up for it? Hmmm…

Image by Portland Thorns FC on Facebook

Richard: Fair enough. To move on…

B. Will we rue the $250k we paid, plus whatever went to URFC for Sauerbrunn? I don’t know if we now have salary space to bring in a top Euro player, given that we’ve blown through a hefty chunk of our allocation money…

John: My guess is that those mystery foreign internationals are a gone thing between the Plague and the uncertainty. But, yeah…we might rue giving the Tacoma Lions all that spare cash.

Richard: …and, C. Is it a little weird to have a married couple on the team? I know hubby isn’t really a coach, but it’s still a management/labor connection that could be uncomfortable. Maybe for her, maybe for another player, maybe for a situation that has yet to arise. But I could be overthinking things – they handled being with bitter rivals and I sure hope that our labor relations aren’t bitter.

Not much more to add. A lot’s already been said. Her interview with Ann Schotz is great – every fan should watch it.

John: I’ll get on that most quick smart!

8. Anything else you want to add about the expansion? The league in general?

Richard: I really, really hope we can have a normal season in 2021. Even a late start would be fine if we can safely play to full stadiums. I don’t know if the league can survive another 2020.

Consider the chance that a couple of the weak teams fold in 2021 or 2022. The expansion teams could be replacing them, so the league would not grow but also not contract. Maybe we lose Orlando but gain Louisville. Maybe the Royals become Angel City or the Republic.

Pro sports is not a stable business – even the mighty NFL struggles with teams moving and doing stupid racist/sexist stuff. We should be prepared to withhold judgment until things shake out, knowing that they likely never will.

John: Yeah…I worry about that. This is a very weird pathogen. It’s very likely that even if we get a vaccine some time in 2021 the effectiveness may be limited; it may be similar to a flu vaccine that only gives you partial protection. If that’s the case, well…a lot of older fans – older like me, early sixties, no really scary morbidities otherwise – we’re not going to be excited about packing into a roaring mob in the stands. Or, for that matter, having our friends or families coming back from that shedding a big ol’ viral load.

And this is an even less-stable-than-usual pro sport. Sadly, women’s sport is and is likely to be less lucrative than the men’s game for some time. So another year of big revenue hits? That’s not going to be good.

9. Bonus question: Tobin Heath – once and future Thorn, or Gone, baby, gone?

Richard: Remember David Beckham? An aging famous player cashes in on their celebrity with an ambitious second-rate league.

Image by Portland Thorns FC: on Facebook

John: I agree to a point, except I think in this case it’s more like she’s cashing in on an ambitious who-knows-the-rate league. I’ve been intrigued by all the big names flooding into the FAWSL, but flooding to the obvious places; Man City, United, Arsenal, Tottenham. Kinda sucks to be a West Brom Ladies supporter, then, dunnit?

I honestly don’t see how that works even in the medium-term. At least in the men’s leagues, the Premiership, D1, the Bundesliga, there’s SOME hope for the Leicesters of the world. The WSL, or FBL, or D1F? Who the hell’s going to support Rennes, knowing that your choice is going to be OL or PSG every season? Who’s going to watch Reading Ladies, knowing that every match that matters is going to be a seven-nil stomping at the feet of City or United or the Arse?

Richard: the answer to that last one is simple – not many people at all. Average attendance last year was 3,400 (1,300 for poor Reading) and that’s real generous given what I saw watching online. The men’s teams are subsidizing the women’s club game in Europe, mostly for the PR value. Or maybe because it’s the right thing to do, and they have the means.

John: Aside from that, though…I get a sense that Heath is and has been ready to move on for a while. I don’t think it’s so much hate for the Thorns or the NWSL but needing something different. She’s been grinding away for us for years. Got her rings, did her bit, had the fun and excitement. Now it’s time to build up the IRA, see a bit more of the world, try something new before hangin’ em up. So, yeah, I think she’s gone.

And back to Shannan’s point at the top…I wonder about all those Nats playing in Europe. They have to be making some pretty nice bank. I wonder, and particularly if we have trouble getting the Plague in hand, if at some point they decide they’d rather just stay there? Mind you, the Europeans are losing ground again – they’re not Japan – and at some point may have similar troubles that we’re having now. So, in a sense, the Plague may both hurt and help the NWSL.

Right now, though, it’s hurting, and, as you point out, possibly worse than we know.

Image by Portland Thorns FC: on Facebook

That’s all for now. We’ll be back to talk over the expansion draft and, of course, in the comments. Until then…there’s some stuff going on next week, and it reminds us that if we want a better country, we need to be better citizens. So.

Vote!

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21 thoughts on “Roundtable: After the Fall, Before the Draft

  1. Right now I think we have a really good team. Dunn adds a lot more than some mystery European signee…was it Diallo? But there is the expansion draft and that may change things a little. I agree with Richard we could lose a goalie and no big deal. Brunn, Kling and Sinc are not going anywhere so we don’t need to protect them. I see our weakest position as the six, but we have a lot of very capable players in that position. Honestly, IMO the six position to me is where you can get away with pretty good. Excellent can make a big difference (see Amandine Henry), but is a good six that much better than our three or four pretty good sixes.
    In my opinion we are stacked up front and in the back. In the midfield we have a lot of flexibility, so I think we are good. I would rather have Mark Parsons job than Paul Riley’s. Houston has looked good, but I am not totally sold on them. Washington is full of potential; Utah is heading in the wrong direction; and Tacoma has loads of talent but…. Then there is Chicago, I just don’t know about them. Whoever gets Macario is going to be good. I left out Orlando and Sky Blue because both of those teams could be dark horses or just not be able to put it together.
    If there is a 2021 season the NWSL will again be the best league because of the across the board talent, coaching and competitiveness.

    1. I’m always hesitant about the “Soccer Jesus” theory. Macario is a hell of a player in the NCAA and as a junior Nat. As Lavelle proved, that isn’t a lock to transfer to the NWSL. PRO lets a hell of a lot of play go that would be a yellow in college or in most international matches. Life in a pro league as lean as ours is very much not like a lavish national team program or a big college. So I suspect that you’re right, that whoever gets her will immediately improve. Will that make them “good”? We’ll see.

      And I kind of feel the same way about us. On paper? We’re stacked. Two extra starting keepers. Solid backline. Terrific options in midfield. Danger all over the frontline. There’s just a LOT to like there (and I agree, the #6 is the most headscratching position right now).

      Will that translate into wins? I THINK so…but it’s so hard to say until we see how we run out against the full-strength playoff teams. Then? We’ll know.

      Anyway, it’s fun to speculate, and that’s what we’re gonna have until next April at the earliest…

  2. When I was thinking about Macario I was assuming that she will not be going to Louisville, but probably Seattle in exchange for Rose LaVelle. Louisville has to take her or get something of greater or equal value. She might not make Louisville good, but she would sure as hell make a good Seattle team better and OL could find a way to give her enough money (like a part of the NWSL season in Lyon). Rose would be a good fit in Louisville, being from Cincinnati.
    Macario I think has enough promise she can walk away from a team she doesn’t want to play for. Of course, I don’t know if she would walk away from playing in Kentucky, but I am guessing she would rather play on the West Coast. Hell this all just blue skying!

    1. I keep forgetting that Lavelle is a Cincinnati local so, yeah, she might be a local draw in Louisville. But I’m not sold on Lavelle in this league, frankly. She’s been terrific for the Nats. But I think she’s like Vero; she doesn’t do well when opponents get free shots at her, and PRO is nothing if not a “here, you take a shot!” organization. Until she can stay healthy and productive for a NWSL team? I’m gonna call her a crapshoot.

      My understanding of Seattle and Portland is that we don’t really count as the “West Coast” for players from California or other actual big cities. Apparently the Blazers have found this a consistent problem – nobody wants to live here, and particularly young single people who are used to a more upscale lifestyle and nightlife.

  3. 1. Seattle and Portland are highly appealing locations for west coast players. We’ve seen several players push their way to Portland between Sophia Smith, Crystal Dunn, Christine Sinclair, and Becky Sauerbruun. There were a lot of rumors that Ashley Sanchez wanted to come here as well. You listen to players interviewed about Portland and in many ways, Providence Park is Mecca.

    2. I’m pretty comfortable Louisville wouldn’t be Macario’s top choice and the league threw in a wrinkle that allows Louisville to pay her $150k.

    Is it OK for me to admit I’m super impressed with Lisa Baird. I never believe that top international college stars will sign in the US,. The league is making Macario a priority and they should.

    1. Jesse Fleming, Canada, UCLA
    2. Bunny Shaw, Jamaica, Tennessee
    3. Deyna Castellanos, Venezuala, FSU
    4. Alessia Russo, England, UNC
    5. Natalia Kuikka, Finland, FSU (new Thorn)
    6. Kadeisha Buchanan, Canada, WVU
    7. Ashley Lawrence, Canada, WVU
    8. Grace Fisk, England, South Carolina

    All were premium players in their draft who chose to sign in Europe pre draft,

    Super creative way to get this done. I also don’t see Louisville picking USWNT players with the $150k they can allocate to Macario if they don’t.

    3. That said, I can easily see a scenario where Macario asks Louisville to keep her on the west coast and I can see the appeal of Lavelle to Louisville. Shes struggled with injuries, but I always view her as dangerous as heck when we played the Spirit. There are very few players in this league I’d take over Lavelle. I could see them packaging Lavelle with one of their international played ( I’m also convinced that Maroszan and Boudhaddi are going to be OL Reign)

    4. I would like to see us make a deal with Louisville . We could trade Franch pre draft and pass on the $75k in allocation money we get if she is selected. That would come directly from the fund for Macario.

    Louisville just extorted Chicago for two players that would have been on their protected list and the 5th pick. You have to believe they were threatening to take an allocated player Chicago wanted to keep (Morgan Gautraut or Alyssa Naehrer) and their objective was to get a pick to secure Emina Ekic out of Louisville

    5, Before end of year, I predict John is going to write an article fawning all over Natalia Kuikka. We all have biases towards players. Things that make you gravitate towards a player. I’ve read his content and believe this will be the international signing he will look back at and smile about some day

    https://mobile.twitter.com/NwslAnalitica/status/1321899696063918082

    6, Crystal Dunn … how often do you acquire the best player in the league for allocation money, a first round pick, and an international slot

    I’m pinching myself. That convoluted deal I proposed was just about finding a goaltender Carolina would covet, They found that deal. Good job Gavin.

    1. I think it’s too late for #4 – the trade window is closed until after the expansion draft. But maybe it’s never too late for a gentleperson’s agreement.

      I am starting to think that my certainty that leaving Sinc and Kling unprotected is not OK. We did that once before, with Mana Shim, and paid a high price. Sinc and Kling have both made it abundantly clear that they intend to play in 2021. So, if picked, they might go to Louisville – a chance to kick start something new – or Louisville might ransom them back to us. Both are bad for PTFC.

      I’d rather lose Boureille than face that scenario.

      1. Yeah. If a deal has happened, it’s a gentleman’s agreement at this point.

        1. Select a pre agreed upon player

        2. Sending a player selected for someone like Franch.

        1. I wonder …. a national player selected gets Portland $75k and gives Louisville $75k less than they can give to Macario.

          I wonder if Portland would be willing to waive the $75k to incentivize a specific selection (specifically Franch). Louisville gets their goaltender and we get roster certainty, I could also see a scenario where Eckerstrom is left unprotected as a mechanism to get Louisville to select her.

          If Eck is unprotected, she’d be my pick if I were Louisville. I’d select both Eck and Bixby if Portland were dumb enough to leave all 3 unprotected because I don’t believe there is a pull back provision in this years draft.

          1. Disregard. Jen Cooper, on her latest podcast, just said once a player is selected . You can protect one more.

            I do wonder if the Thorns leave one young player unprotected that they wouldn’t to get Louisville to bite and leave others alone

            Britt Eckerstrom? Simone Charley? I wouldn’t leave Charley unprotected, but the concept of letting them choose between Franch and Eckerstrom might be interesting.

            I’m also wondering if Portland could pass on the $75k they’d be due if Franch is selected as a mechanism to enable the deal,

            Any deal between Portland and Chicago would have likely been done before the trade deadline so I don’t believe there is a pre existing deal in place though I wouldn’t be surprised if there are parameters for one in place.

          2. I think the problems with that are:
            1) We have to protect Horan and Dunn, and
            2) We can’t rely on Bella Bixby unless Angerer knows something we don’t.
            So we have to expose Franch, which means we have to protect Eckerstrom.

          3. John … I think the only difference in my thought process and yours is we can ONLY lose one of Franch OR Eckerstrom in this scenario. Just because Franch is unprotected doesn’t mean you have to protect Eckerstrom

            The question is what goaltender would you rather go to war with next year. Franch or Eckerstrom? If the answer is Franch, then you leave Eck unprotected

            You can’t lose a national player AND Eck. It’s one or the other.

            My perspective is Franch is going to likely be off the subsidized list next year, but that’s what allocation money is for.

          4. I agree that we can’t lose both. But I think we need to lock in a keeper. I don’t want to risk giving Racing the choice of deciding which one to take; I want to force their hand. If they want a keeper from us, I want to force them to take Franch and give up the Macariobairdbux.

          5. The interesting part of that decision …, is protecting both Eckerstrom and Bixby says that our choice is Eck,

            Leaving both Eck and Franch unprotected to me says our decision is Franch

            Leaving both unprotected and waiving the fee says we are indifferent

      2. With 20-20 hindsight, the Shim trade-back might have been a mistake. She never really lived up to the promise she showed in 2013. But I get your meaning; yes, there is a danger in leaving either or both exposed.

    2. 1. I know we like to think we’re a Big Deal, but for a lot of people who come from actual Big Cities we’re a pretty podunk town. I always tell visitors that Portland is the biggest small town they’ll ever see, and in a lot of ways that’s the case. We’re intensely parochial, and white-white-white. I think that only works for soccer players because a lot of them are “white”, too – our soccer development programs are geared strongly toward the suburban middle-class kid who is fine with our Wonder Bread Oregon lifestyle. But I’m not sure it’s so wonderful for anyone who’s NOT from that background.

      2. I suspect you’re right. I also suspect that as a would-be-professional she’ll go where she gets the best contract. So we’ll have to wait and see. I do agree that Baird has done a hell of a job, especially given the bad hand COVID has dealt her.

      3. Don’t get me wrong. Lavelle is a hell of a player. She’s also never quite lived up to her quality outside the NWSL INside the NWSL. If I’m a GM going to take a flier on her at this point, I want to make sure I have a solid Plan B in place in case she goes down with injury (again).

      Everybody keeps talking about OLR and OL like they’re two branches of the same bank. They’re not, they SHOULDN’T be, and if the league wants to prevent becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of rich European soccer magnates Baird & Co. need to be fiendishly protective of the other clubs’ abilities to make fair bids for European stars and not be aced out by OL making sweetheart deals with OLR.

      4. I’d like to see us make that deal, too…but it’s going to depend on how willing the league is to open expansion draft day to the sorts of swaps that happen on NCAA draft day. Right now the trade window is closed until the day AFTER the draft.

      5. And I hope this is true, too. Right now I’m leery of our FOs ability to interpolate NWSL form form in other leagues as well as international play. Our overseas signings going all the way back to Vero Boquete and Ano and Hanna Terry have been REALLY hit-or-miss. Yes, Henry was a huge “hit” but, frankly, that was an absolute no-brainer. And – as I’ve said many times – I’m a big believer in the “team” part of this sport. There are a handful of Maradona-quality players that can lift a club all by themselves. Short of that, what makes a player “great” is their ability to integrate with their club’s system and teammates. We had a bunch of fine players like Brynjarsdottir and Foord that we couldn’t do that with. Can we do that with Kuikka? I sure as hell hope so. But we won’t know until we see the product on the pitch.

      6. “Good job, Gavin”? or “Thanks for putting the screws to The Damned Courage, Ms. Dunn”?

      My read on this is that this wasn’t so much some sort of 12th dimension chess played by our FO as Dunn kicking herself off the Courage because she wants to be here.

      Good for her, good for us, and I’m happy that our FO was either able to help make the deal happen or, at the very least, sit quietly and not screw it up as Dunn put the pistol to Carolina’s temple and backed out of the room.

      Frankly, my increased respect for the confidence of our FO has more to do with the overall progression of the 2020 deals, from the NCAA draft through the Dunn Deal. As opposed to 2017-18 and 2018-19 our FO has a) stayed away from doofy “big” signings that don’t look like they fit well with the club, b) recognized obvious needs and targeted players to fill them, and c) built what looks like a solid TEAM as opposed to throwing together a congeries of players.

      But (and you knew there’d be a “but, right..?) we STILL haven’t seen this team against decent opposition. When we do – and I have a fair degree of confidence that it will be solid when we do – then we’ll get the smoke test and see how well we’ve really done.

      1. Portland isn’t NY or LA or even Seattle, but the assumption that every young person wants to live in a huge city is a misnomer

        The NBA is one thing where the sport is very popular in urban areas but soccer is more of a suburban sport in the US and most of the major market cities locations are even located in suburban location.

        Portland is a great market if you like the outdoors, reading, a creative food scene, and fans that support the game in a rabid manner. I believe once other markets support their teams like Portland that Portland won’t be as differentiated. We aren’t there yet.

        Kuikka is more solid player than star, but I’ll take that

        1. We’re kind of a nice little town with shitty weather half the year. Our amenities – dining out, clubs, entertainment in general – is about what you’d expect in a kinda podunk-y minor city. I’m not saying we’re horrible, but unless you’re a kid from some bushwa ‘burb we ain’t Bright Lights Big City.

          AND we’re in a capped league. The crowd is fun…but so’s a serious paycheck, and unless you’re with the Nats we can’t give you that.

          So I think we’re not a minus for the NWSL the way we are for the NBA…but I’m not sure we’re THAT big a draw.

          And there’s the competitive aspect of this, too; Carolina has three stars; now you can tell me that Cary is a shithole and I agree. But to play for the powerhouse of the league..?

          So, again, I don’t think we’re in trouble overall in terms of attracting players. But I also think that the heady days of players like Nadim and Henry taking pay cuts to play here? Those days may be gone…

          1. For a secondary sport, cities like Portland probably have more value than being an unknown in a big market.

            My hope is that Sky Blue and Angel City will have some success, but I worry about the NWSL’s ability to put butts in the seats in those markets.

            I’ll use Justin Herbert as an example .., if the Chargers were in San Diego, he’d own San Diego. In LA, I doubt most people know his name.

            I don’t claim Portland is NY, LA, or San Francisco … but for a player making as low a salary as an NWSL player I’m not sure major markets are a positive.

            I personally believe San Diego would have been a better market than LA. I understand the appeal of LA, but the reality of LA has been difficult.

          2. I think California is tough, period. WoSo has a terrible record there, everywhere; LA Sol, Pali Blues, Cyberrays…they all collapsed. I want to believe that times have changed and Angel City can succeed. But I agree that it’s far from a lock.

          3. To be honest, I don’t believe that major markets make sense for the NWSL until they become more established. I’ve always felt that markets like San Diego, Bothell/Tacoma, and Sacramento made more sense than Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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