Thorns FC: Drafted in the Time of COVID

So a draft thing happened last Wednesday, and the Portland Thorns took four players; two midfielders, a forward, and a defender.

We’ll get to that in a bit, but other than the weird, strange, hopefully-one-off nature of this Plague Year draft, two thoughts stuck with me as I was watching – well, mostly listening, since I was at work so I could only occasionally peek at the screen (and desperately try to ignore the appalling Twitch “comment” window) – this thing on a freaking gaming site.

First, was that I may have to revise the way I think about Orlando, which is “Could fuck up a one-car funeral”. The hole is still too deep for the Shame to climb out of with a single draft, mind, but at least with this one they stopped digging.

Getting Villacorta in the low first round and following that up with taking Colohan in the second? Identifying one of their big weaknesses – a shit midfield that can neither defend nor create – and drafting players who can fix that?

That’s…not what I expected from them.

You go, Orlando! Still going to enjoy thrashing you, but the league doesn’t need you to be a perennial doormat, and this was a good sign.

The second was how vividly I remember that Paul Riley’s malfeasance with young players and rookies/draftees in particular was one thing about him that really chapped me when he was here.

The Damned’s first two picks were complete WTFs. I’ll leave the summation to Chris Henderson, who put it best: “Leaving someone like Jimena Lopez on the board when you’ve already burned an international slot on Deanne Rose when you could have had someone like Kelsey Turnbow at 10 and Lopez at 20 and instead ending up with Rose and Malonson seems like incredibly poor planning.”

But that’s Riley all over; he just doesn’t do drafts. His single big success has always been snaring Emily Menges in the last round of 2014. But he knew her from Long Island and none of his peers did, so that was kind of a one-off backdoor. In his last four drafts his first round picks have been:

Ashley Hatch (2017)
Darian Jenkins (2017)
Frannie Crouse (2018)
Leah Pruitt (2019)
Hailey Harbison (2019)
Ally Watt (2020)

Hatch was Rookie of the Year and brought the Damned Crystal Dunn. She’s the only pick out of those six I’d call even close to “success” – five, if you want to call Harbison “incomplete” and Crouse might be one of the most bizarre and appalling first-round picks I’ve ever seen. The guy just doesn’t do draft, and this week was no exception.

Other than that…no, wait, okay, weirdest pick in a weird draft?

Washington going for Sydney Schneider – she’s the Jamaica goalkeeper and plays here for University of North Carolina Wilmington – in the third round.

Schneider was a media darling at the ’19 World Cup.

Her metrics with UNCW? Christ, I don’t have words enough to describe how awful. Per Henderson, she’s 65th of 77 keepers in the 2021 class in xG/goals conceded, tied for 66th of 77 in this class in major error rate, and 64th of 77 in big-save-to-major error ratio.

Speaking of Washington…Richie Burke apparently complained heartily (at least Lauletta says he did) that he wanted to trade up in the first round but everybody blocked him out; first KC outbid him for the #4 overall, then we screwed him out of the #6 from Chicago, and then Chicago wouldn’t give up the #7. But – did I mention this was a fucking weird draft? – Tara McKeown, the player he was frantically clawing at everybody to get, was still there at #8.

He sure fucked up the #30, though. Schneider! Richie, what were you thinking?

Any other general-draft-related things? Hmmm…nope. can’t think of anything.

So. Going into the draft, what did we need?

Well, depth, overall. We’ve got a lot of internationals who will presumably leave for the Olympic Games this summer. When they’re here? We’re dynamite. When they’re gone, well…

So with that I think we all agreed that the squad needs: 1) stiffening at DM, 2) backline depth, and 3) reliable fill-ins for national team players who will be gone for the OG.

Given the relative position of the initial picks (lots of late-rounders) the chance for a big impact player were slim even in a normal year. Yeah, yeah, Menges, fourth round, I know, I know, but low-rounders are typically opportunity picks and void-fillers.

Oh, did I list the picks? No? Sorry. At the beginning of the day Wednesday we had a total of five: one low-ish first round (7th), one high second round (12th), one high third round (22nd), and two high-low fourth round (32nd and 37th).

Then the draft began, and this happened:

First Round:

The Chicago Red Stars, picking at #6, went into a “timeout”, and the NWSL broadcast moderators signaled that the Portland “war room” was making trade-like signs.

Sure enough, the Thorns swapped an international slot, their #7 and #32 picks to move up to #6, and with that picked Yazmeen Ryan out of TCU.

Image by Portland Thorns FC on Twitter

Ryan was a player whose value seemed to vary by the beholders; Top Drawer Soccer had her 8th on their draft Big Board, while Henderson had her all the way down to 20th. Top Drawer didn’t rate players this past season but the highest she’s been rated there was 88th on their top 100 nationally in 2019.

She’s versatile; although she appears to be primarily an attacking midfielder she’s listed as a left wing, attacking mid, and centerback.

As an attacker she’s not a huge scoring threat; 19 goals (4PK) in 5,600-odd minutes over 68 matches. About a 40% SOG/shot rate, but converted only about 9% of her shots, 24% of her SOG.

Coach Parsons said after the draft that she was their big first round target, and the reasons they made the deal was to be sure of securing her, so clearly something or things about her are important to the Thorns management. I think we payed for her, perhaps a bit more than we needed, but she’s a quality player and given our midfield situation we need some more quality there.

So…I’m pretty happy about this.

Second Round

While the Thorns felt they had to trade up in the first round they had the second pick in the second round and with it they took Sam Coffey, attacking midfielder out of Penn State.

Image by NWSL.com on Twitter

This pick is, honestly, a either a huge steal or the FO didn’t know that Coffey enjoys juggling live handgrenades in her spare time, because she was expected to go high in the first round; Top Drawer ranked her #5 on their big board, and Henderson had her #4. If the pick for Ryan seems a trifle forced, the Coffey pick seems like a pure gift, especially after the huge effort to bag Ryan.

It’ll be a bit of late gift, though; Coffey has committed to playing for Penn State in their rescheduled spring season, so we’ll have to wait until May for her arrival.

Even with that she looks like a terrific player. I can’t do better describing her than Henderson did:

“Coffey has been an offensive wrecking ball at both Boston College and Penn State…(t)he truly scary part is that really hasn’t played with professional caliber talent in the attack at either spot, so Coffey could make dramatic gains when she’s just a cog in an attacking machine and not the entire machine herself. Coffey will probably be an impact sub to start (in Portland) but could be a long-term replacement as the attacking midfielder in lieu of Christine Sinclair.”

~ Chris Henderson in Twitter

Wow. Replacement for the Greatest of All Time? That’s…not half bad.

Guess this Coffey gal can play some.

Oh. And.

She comes from Sleepy Hollow, New York. Make of that what you will.

Personally, I see some awesome signage there.

Third Round

With the second pick in the third round we took Top Drawer’s Big Board #29 – Henderson’s #16 – forward Almirah Ali out of Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey.

Image by Rutgers University on Twitter

One of “…the best finishing forwards and one of the best passing forwards…” (per Henderson) of the class, he also described her as “…ruthless in front of goal.”, and given that over 5,000-odd minutes in 62 games Ali converted 25 (6PK) goals on 77 SOG for a 32% conversion rate…yeah, I’d call that pretty ruthless.

She also put 50% of her shots on goal, and I love efficiency in a forward. That alone makes her a decent third-rounder. Update 1/15: Looks like Ali’s goingto play at Rutgers in the spring.

Fourth Round

The Thorns final pick – third from last in the entire 2021 draft – went for defender Hannah Betfort of Rutgers.

Image by Portland Thorns FC on Twitter

Betfort seems to be a sort of Swiss Army knife. Henderson lists her as a center-forward, centerback, and right back and had her more than halfway down his board at #54. Top Drawer rated her nearly twenty spots higher – #36 – as a primary defender.

She’s very tall – 5′ 11″ – and that seems ideal for a centerback, given that we don’t have (or have had, for that matter) anyone with that kind of height in the backline, and it’d be nice to have for a change.

And at #37? If she’s any good at all she’ll be value for her cost. I don’t really see her as anything more than deep depth, but, again – fourth round, so deep depth is perfectly okay.

Result?

Looking back up at what we agreed the team needed – midfield help, defensive depth, and OG replacements – I’d have to call the FO’s work this week damn well done. The young midfielders and Ali will provide depth as well as potential replacement during the Olympic callups, and Betfort should be a promising defensive piece to cover for both the OG as well as the hopefully-avoided recurrence of Menges’ injuries and/or Brunn aging suddenly.

After several years of somnolence that let the Thorns slip off the top step of the podium the FO has awakened over the past year.

It’s too early to say that the 2020/21 acquisitions will have the luster of the Big Year of 2015-16.

But it’s not too early to say that they look far better than anything we’ve seen between then and now.

Now. Here’s what I don’t know:

How will all this player goodness look on the pitch?

The downside of lots of acquisitions and changes is that it puts the team in flux.

Our new midfielders played on the front foot in college, but we still need a true lockdown DM. Can they be that player, or do they go forward and another player already here moves back to the #6? Who is that? Rodriguez? Sinclair? Where in this mix is Celeste Boureille? Angela Salem?

Our backline is as unsettled as I’ve ever seen it. AFAIK Menges is still unsigned, and we’ve shipped a lot of Bairdbux we could use to entice her. Sauerbrunn is on the “old player” clock. Where does Nat “hakkaa päälle” Kuikka fit in? She’s played mostly at centerback, but how does she start over Menges and ‘Brunn? So is she a FB, instead?

If so, where does leave Westphal? Is Kling good for another season? And if Kuikka IS a fullback, who backs up the centerbacks? Betfort is greener than grass. Kelli Hubly has looked good, there’s always Tyler Lussi. She has disappointed as a forward, but could she be a fullback-conversion project?

And we haven’t even gotten to the whole “three-goalkeepers” thing yet.

I think we might be a bit surprised when we finally see the club on the pitch for the first time…but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate, so feel free to hammer the whole subject in the comments.

I’m not sure when I’ll be back. Some time before the Challenge Cup, certainly, but we’ll need to have some more news to discuss before we do that. Until then, though…

Hakkaa päälle!

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27 thoughts on “Thorns FC: Drafted in the Time of COVID

  1. End of an era?

    When I think of the history of the Thorns, I always divide it into 2 time periods: the Morgan/Sincy Era (2013-2015) and the Heath/Horan Era (2016-2019), with 2020 as a lost year for obvious reasons. I took a look at the goals/assists stats to see if my perception matched reality.

    First, the Sincy/Morgan Era (2013-15). Sinclair was in the top four for goal scoring 2013-2015. Morgan was dominant in 2013 with 8 goals/3 assists, 2nd behind Jess McDonald in 2014 (6/4) and not in the top 4 in 2015 (WC year). Ally long led that year with 10 goals.

    Second, the Heath/ Horan Era (2016-2019). While she scored no goals, Heath was a monster in 2016 with 10 assists. She fell off in 2017 due to injury and rebounded in 2018 with 7 goals and 7 assists. Finally, Heath fell off again in 2019 (WC year) with 3 goals and 3 assists.

    I get that it is hard to use goals/assist metric to evaluate a DM. While Horan was notably absent in 2016, she was in the top four in 2017 (4/2) and had a the MVP season in 2018 (13/2). She fell out of the top four again in 2019 (WC year).

    What I was surprised to find: Sincy has been the consistent thread. She has been top 4 in goals every single year, and in the top two goal scorers in 7 of the last 8 years! Truth be told, its all been “The Era of Sinclair”. Your thoughts?

    1. I’ve always found it simpler to think of the Thorns’ periods by coach.

      2013 was a one-off under CPC. The team was supposed to be the monster of the league what with Morgan and Sinc and they were, indeed, the top team scorers. But Wambach and Lloyd were monsters for WNY, the Thorns barely squeaked into the playoffs, needed a mad overtime to get to the Final and Heath’s FK to win it.

      2014-2015 was the Riley Era, distinguished by chaos that we should have seen coming with the weird Shim loss-and-regain thing in the offseason, then the SF loss in KC that signaled the arrival of Vlatko’s FCKC as our rivals, and then the mess that was 2015.

      2016-2017 was the Rise of Parsons, beginning with the huge offseason that brought in Henry and Horan and the progression from Shield to Star. That, to me, was a big break in player personnel, too, with the Morgan Trade bringing not just Horan but Klingenberg that assembled the second Championship team.

      2018-2020 was The Doldrums of Parsons, as the FO stood pat over two offseasons or made foolish moves like Andressinha, Foord, and AMC. We had Horan’s MVP season in 2018, but overall the team slid backwards a bit, losing ground to Riley’s Carolina squads.

      What I think – what I hope – is a “Return of the Parsons” in the coming season, with the acquisitions of 2020 revitalizing the team and setting up another championship push. We’ll see. I’m hopeful, at least.

      You’re right in that the one stand-out player over all this time has been Sinc. She’s not just a stats leader on the pitch but the captain and heart of the team. Obviously her on-field performance is a huge part of that. But she’s also deeply respected and admired. She’s a huge part of the club, and – since she can’t outrun the time that is now closing on her rapidly – she will be a big hole to fill when she finally hangs ’em up.

  2. I know my biases. I love productive players with great effort and some combination of plus athleticism or plus instincts.

    I absolutely love Sam Coffey. 47 points in 2 years without playing with premium players offensively (I know that’s weird considering Penn State’s history) . She does the little things that aren’t obvious. Adjusting the loft of her passes considering the teammate and the competition. The small movements that force commitment from the defender that allow her to get by them when she shouldn’t. I believe she was a top 4 or 5 player in this draft and am utterly amazed that she fell.

    Yazmeen Ryan is a player I didn’t pay much attention to despite the fact that she was in the Olympic Development Program. Her production levels could be better, but the film shows obvious skills and the ability to shoot with either foot. Her finishing rate isn’t what I’d like, but I haven’t seen her defensive stats. I respect the development I’ve seen in players with her profile in Portland with Charley and Purce. If he can do the same here, we could have a useful player.

    Ali is such an interesting player. I never viewed her as skilled player that sticks out when you watch her. That said, she’s in the right place at the right time consistently enough that I don’t believe it is a fluke. Great short area quickness and relentless nature that Chris Henderson mentioned. It’s the instincts that stick out.

    Don’t know much about Betfort. I do trust our ability to spot talent in late round defenders.

    With regards to Orlando, I struggle a bit. I like their picks and how they fit together, but I’m also of the opinion that they’ve passed on more talented players in the past with the same thought process. They should’ve selected Ashley Sanchez last year, though I understand the appeal of Taylor Korneick. I think Villacourta is kind of the same type of decision. Selecting a player who fills a specific need, but passing on a more talented option.

    Coffey is a considerably better prospect than Villacourta, but the combo of Colohan and Villacourta might be better than Coffey and another option. How do you balance that?

    1. Draftees are all future. The future can be a dream. Or it can be a nightmare. Or it may simply never be; the promise and the hope simply never bloom, and we will never know.

      As such I’m never sure how much weight to put on individual skills compared to how well they will mesh with their new teammates and their new system.

      All four draftees look just fine as individuals, and have done well for their prospective teams. Because soccer is, perhaps, the most “team” of team sports how well that will transfer into their new team? We won’t know until we see it on the pitch.

      But at least on paper, this and the last Thorns draft class look like the strongest since 2015-16…and The Damned look more vulnerable than they have since before the beginning of the Riley Era.

      We’ll see.

      And Orlando has been, not to put it too bluntly, a flaming tire fire since 2016. Their FO has been, both in terms of drafting and player development, the most consistently awful (even counting Sky Blue) in the league, given the immense leg-up they should have had from a team built around Marta and Alex Morgan.

      So my surprise wasn’t whether they took Coffey or Villacorta or Colohan so much as that, as I said, they 1) recognized their problem(s) and 2) took steps to deal with them. That’s almost shocking for Orlando, and might suggest better times ahead for the Shame.

      1. When they first selected Ryan, I thought it might be as a defensive mid, because her shot rate wasn’t that great and the only detailed scouring report from Top Drawer seemed to suggest she had that versatility.

        Doesn’t sound like Parsons is going that direction in his scouting report. There are about 4 games online and it looks like TCU used her more as an in the box midfielder rather than an attacker as far as I can see, but I’m looking forward to Henderson’s detailed scouting report so I can see the heat map.

        The high level stat line is concerning if they are using her as a wing especially if we have Dunn, Smith, Weaver, and Charley there.

  3. Great summary of the draft John. I am always so glad when the draft is over and we can see what new talent we have added. As you say “Draftees are all future” and right now knowing only what I have read about these players that have joined I feel very bullish about the future. All of them seem to be players with great personalities that will make them crowd favorites.
    My main unease is when will Emily Menges be signed? We have a deep team but that would be a gigantic crater if she left. I may be paranoid, but with Dahlkemper leaving the Courage for 2.5 years and Riley’s relationship to Emily, one can’t discount the possibility that Riley could coax her over to North Carolina. That would be a total bummer. In my opinion she is better than Dahlkemper and would really strengthen a very depleted Courage back line.

    1. As I said – I was really pleased with this draft (as I was with the 2020 draft and the signings/trades between them). The FO made the mistake of assuming that the squad it assembled for the 2017 season would carry through the next seasons, even as it lost critical pieces and The Damned got faster and stronger. In the 2019-20 offseason I think the management woke up and realized that we were going to be a perennial also-ran – the next Chicago, always stumbling just short of the star – unless they woke up and diagnosed the pieces that needed strengthening and did just that.

      But…as the military saying goes; no plan survives contact with the enemy. We’ve assembled a team that looks terrific on paper. We now have to make that happen on the pitch. I think we can. But we won’t know for sure until the results and points start rolling in.

      I think we have enough quality to survive if Menges chooses to go – whether it’s to Europe or to retirement (because as Trail33 points out, unless we let her go, her rights stay here…). And – let’s not forget – it’s entirely possible that she’s already re-signed! Thorns FO >>>>>> Sphinx for cryptic silence!

      So I’m concerned…but not to the “push the siren” worried…yet.

      My larger worry with her is injuries. She’s had a troubled past couple of seasons with fitness, and with those sort of issues it can be very easy for the injuries to sort of compound on each other and pile up, forcing the player to the bench and eventually out of the game. I’m hoping that that isn’t happening…but it’s not impossible. Again, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

      1. I’ve always walked in with assumption that you require a certain production to be considered a 1st prospect that plays forward.

        I’m all for athletic prospects that need development in round 2 and beyond, but most Round 1 players I expect more from.

        To be frank, Ryan is below the threshold I’ve been using for offensive players, when she was picked, I immediately thought she profiles as someone that could play a defensive mid.

        I’m trying to be flexible in my mindset and biases, because there could be lots of reasons for lower conversion rates (which is the only reason she doesn’t hit my threshold) … but the lower conversion rate sticks out when you have other talented players on the board.

        That said. the player I would have selected at 6 dropped to 12. I would have been giddy with Coffey at 6 and Ryan at 12, so I’m not complaining one bit.

        The draft was a success, but I’m looking forward to watching Ryan develop because the tool set is obvious and I want to learn.

        1. I wish I was that confident projecting forward from NCAA form. As it is, I’m never sure enough that a particular player’s skillset is inherent as opposed to a product of her skills, her teammates, her coaches, and the setting (league, rules, opposition) in which she plays to fell like I can predict where she’ll do best in the pros. A general idea of HOW she may do? Yes. But exactly what her coaches will end up doing to make her that successful? No.

          I’ve just been pleasantly surprised (and bitterly disappointed) too often now to feel confident. Now I just wait until I have a chance to see them on the pitch with their pro clubs to guess how they’ll shape…

          And, yeah…I hope Menges will re-sign (or already has…)

          1. Henderson has an interesting theory that Carolina’s draft decisions may have been influenced by watching the SEC Tournament during COVID. I know I am higher on Konte because of that tournament and the recovery time period for ACL’s, but that was interesting to say the least.

            I’ve always put minimums on offensive players, because I can’t recall a player that didn’t close well in college who closed well in the pro’s, but that could be a bias

          2. Almost every player drafted by the NWSL “did well” in the NCAA. When you think of the number of players who emerge from US college soccer every year, forty or so is a tiny fraction of that number, so unless the pro club makes an appalling drafting error (Crouse!) then you get the top percent or so of skillsets coming into the league every year.

            When you think of it that way, then you can come up with any number of draftees who didn’t “close well”; hell, I can think of a handful just off the top of my head who were drafted here – Mackenzie Berryhill, Caroline Flynn, Sandra Yu, Savannah Jordan. All decent-or-better players in college, all fizzling out in the pros for one reason or another, whether injury, or lack of enthusiasm, or whatever. Multiply that times nine or ten other teams?

            But that’s neither surprising nor shocking; talent in sport, like every other racket, is a pyramid, and for every decent player there’s only one or two “good” players, and for every ten “good” players there’s only one or two “very good” and so on up the hill. It’s no disrespect either to the players or the clubs that an expected proportion of players don’t make it at the next level.

            Or take a long time to find their mojo. Look at Westphal; from the glory of first round (third in the draft behind Sonnett and Rodriguez!) to struggling journeywoman, injury, out of contract…but picked up here and productive – or better – in 2020.

            So I’m not saying it’s impossible to infer pro prospects from college performance…just that I think it’s a rough guesstimate with a LOT of fudge factor built in…

          3. I think you can spot talent that translates at the college level. Still believe the NCAA is the best development cycle for a prospect. None of these prospects are Sophia Smith or Morgan Weaver, whom I believe will likely have a bigger impact this year.

            That said, I do think the talent level with the top 3 players to be qualify NWSL contributors exists. I think Coffey is the safest bet and her athleticism is a bit underrated, but I can see the talent of Ryan jump off the screen. Intrigued to see what happens next

  4. Well not in the way I had guessed back in October, but my belief, and that of one many people shared, we will not have Franch, Bixby, and Eckerstrom come Match Day 1. Eckerstrom has retired from professional football at the age of 27 years old.

    Staff excited to have her crush her next unannounced oppertunity.

    1. Poorly worded, but I watched a few games from 2020 and 2019 on YouTube. It’s amazing to me that US colleges are easily the best development cycle for junior players in the world today. Watching internationals like Macario, Russo, Shaw, and Castellanos develop shows that especially with Russo. The physical development in US college programs is fascinating. That said, the difference between the NWSL and college is pretty vast.

      I really like Ryan’s athleticism, but I didn’t see a top 7 pick when I watched her. That said, Henderson’s write up on her was very accurate and I’m interested in John’s take on the variability of her stats.

      Massive improvements in areas of weakness, but regression in areas of strengths. If she were able to take the top stats in 2019 and 2020, you really have an interesting statistical profile. That generally isn’t realistic considering she played different roles, but I think she has the ability to be a complete complementary talent to this roster.

      With Smith, Weaver, and Charley … I’m not sold that she has the ability to beat out any of them, but her versatility to play up front might be useful.

      Her junior year film looked like an interesting defensive mid, but her crossing stats don’t fit perfectly there. She’s fast and physical. She can shoot with both feet. The tools are super interesting.

      I’m intrigued to see the athleticism of Dunn, Horan, Weaver, Smith, Rodriguez, Ryan, and Charley on the pitch.

      Looking forward to Henderson’s write up on

  5. My post may be too late – but thanks JL & trail33 for that discussion about our rookies. I too was bemused about why Parsons was so excited about Ryan. Sounds like he was desperate at the thought of losing the chance to pick her despite the fact that she was expected to go much lower & no other teams seemed particularly interested. Hm.
    Couple questions: I saw a Twitter exchange where Paulson seemed to agree with Dunn that she should be a Thorns forward. But in the preseason roster she’s a midfielder. Wondering about that. Also, why in the world did we give up Seiler?? It was my superstitious belief that our precipitous drop in ‘19 goal production was due to the loss of Seiler via injury. Why oh why would we give such a promising player up for nothin’?
    FYI- I see the absolute dread of losing Menges threaded through these posts. I’m so happy to be on the other side of that

  6. Oh – couple more questions: there have been a number of comments, here and elsewhere, that the Thorns look strong but will struggle during the Olympics (lack of bench, depletion of international players, etc.). How many games do you think we are we talking here – 3 at most? What am I missing? Finally, why in the world did we let Tacoma nab Rose Lavelle? Why didn’t we get her at that low cost? Also, why does nobody think she’s actually going to play there ( which gives me hope)?

    1. I’m going to use this for both your comments, so bear with me. In order beginning with 3/3/21:

      1) Not sure why Parsons was so freaked out about Ryan to the point of going mad fighting to move up a spot in the first round. But for whatever the reason – she IS a fine player – he did, and got what he wanted. Maybe he’d heard talk of other teams looking hard at her? Dunno.

      2) Dunn is going to be an attacking piece, per both Merritt and Parsons. I don’t recall either of them saying she’s going to be a pure forward, and she’s just as likely to push up as an attacking winger than as a #10. She’s not a pure #9, that we know. The other thing to consider is that Sinclair hasn’t played as a true forward in years and she’s still rostered there. So the club’s designations don’t always translate into actual position on-field. We’re gonna see Dunn running at goal; trust me on that.

      3) So we had to make a choice in the expansion draft, and we chose:
      Simone Charley
      Crystal Dunn (US Allocated)
      Lindsey Horan (US Allocated)
      Kelli Hubly
      Meghan Klingenberg
      Natalia Kuikka (International)
      Emily Menges
      Raquel Rodriguez (International)
      Christine Sinclair (CAN Allocated)
      Sophia Smith
      Morgan Weaver
      I’m not sure I can come up with one of those players I’d shift off the protected list to swap for Seiler. The closest might be Kelli Hubly, but Hubly can play CDM and CB, a versatility Seiler lacks. Sinc? She might retire if Racing picks her…but she might not. Same with Kling, and they’re both still pretty important pieces.

      Between Salem, Boureille, and Hubly, I think we’ll be alright at DM.

      4) Probably three games for the OG itself, but throw in another two weeks for travel quarantine, another two at the end to recover, and possibly a tomato can tour? Could be more. Definitely something the club needs to prepare for.

      5) I’m not sure we were ever in the hunt for Lavelle. We used a chunk of our Bairdbux on Dunn and Horan and, probably, Menges. I suspect the FO might have put out a feeler for her, but obviously didn’t feel confident she’d respond.

      And the negatives are pretty huge. She’d signed with Man City. Assuming form holds they’re going to the Champions League as well as in the hunt for the league title. She’s going to Tokyo.

      She’s also had a very meager showing in the league. She’s a weird case, a player who tears it up internationally but can’t stay healthy for her club. I think Washington got tired of her seeing the training table more than the pitch, and OLR was willing to take a chance a lot of other NWSL clubs wouldn’t.

      So the combination of her FAWSL commitement, Tokyo, and her injury problems have made a lot of NWSL suits wary of her, us included.

  7. All good & thoughtful responses as usual, thanks. I noted belatedly that Seiler (&Ogle) were traded for a first round ‘21 draft pick. I could not imagine why the Thorns would give up a promising player in the hand for potential (draftees are all future), but maybe Parson’s jonesing for Ryan explains it all. I really liked Seiler tho & we’d still have her if Parsons had checked with me (Boureille would be in Texas). Your points about Lavelle make sense & I feel better.

    I am so excited to see our team on the pitch! I really curious how they are going to organize the seating in Providence Park.

    P.s. I said this already, but thank you so much for the podcast!

    1. I think that the addition of Kuikka and the emergence of Pogarch and re-emergence of Westphal in 2020 made both Seiler and Ogle more expendable.

      In all honesty I don’t think I would have dealt Seiler if I could have made the deal with Salem (their skillsets have a lot of overlap, but Seiler is younger and has a higher ceiling) but my guess is that that Houston wouldn’t take that deal and as you note Parsons reeeeeally wanted to make sure he snared Ryan.

      But I have to say if that deal had to be made I disagree on Boureille. Seiler is a good DM but Boureille is about as good AND can play at outside back and even centerback if needs must. In the small roster world of the NWSL that’s a huge big hairy deal. I’d have tried to swap for Salem, since she like Seiler is a one-trick DM pony, but CelBee? No way. She’s WAY too useful.

      Lavelle is someone I see as a high-risk/high-reward player. IF she can finally duplicate her international for for a club? She’s huge. She hasn’t yet managed to do that, so if you have to spend what you need to spend on her – a lot – you’re going to sink a lot of money into that black hole.

      Glad you enjoy our stuff. There’s nothing really much to talk about at the moment, but as April approaches we’ll surely have some more to say…

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