The Thorns unbeaten streak is over.
Houston handled the heat and humidity better than we did. After pressing hard early on, we just ran out of gas at around 35' and never really got our mojo back.
That, plus having too many bench players out there at the end when we needed a goal. I mean, we had Nally, Porter, D'Aquila, and Reyes playing while Hina Freaking Sugita was watching from the bench. (Mind you, Reyes and D'Aquila have potential to be really good, but clearly aren't there yet.) I understand the need to get some of those players some minutes, but not all of them at once when the game is balanced on a knife edge. Bad substitutions, Mr. Norris.
Hot take: switch to a 4-4-2 w coffee, Moultrie, Dunn and Hina in MF. Weaver and Smith up top. Moultrie and Hina can track back or push forward. Young legs is the answer!
I am coming to accept that this is a team, and club, in serious flux.
The roster has many players who are not contributing much, if anything at all, for various reasons -- too young, too old, too green, too injured, too misfitting, too something.
The club is for sale. The coach, the staff, the GM, all are on one-year deals.
And, all teams in all sports have their ups and downs. True greatness is rare. There is a lot of talent here, but I do not get the sense that this is a great team.
Finally, last night I became convinced that this team would greatly benefit from Lindsey Horan's return.
And wins from Gotham and Washington will drop Portland to forth which, frankly, is better than they deserve given how they've been playing since KC away.
I think the problem is that we're seeing that the bench isn't that deep this season. Nally has been a trainwreck, Reyes underwhelming, Porter is...Porter. Agree I'd like to see more of Moultrie, Rodriguez, D'Aquila...and I'd like to see Dunn given a look at RW and Hina in midfield.
We're also seeing some pretty appalling organization and discipline in back, and the coordination between the midfield and backline was poor.
Bottom line? The individual issues seem less of a problem than the team/coaching ones. Which means it's on Norris and his staff to deal with.
Our girl Tyler Lussi puttin' one down on OL Reign, who are just lookin' a bit ragged with NC's pressing and passing.
Fun game so far...think I'm pullin' for NC here, I enjoy watching OL Reign on the back foot honestly....
Ugh, I hate watching games reffed by Koroleva. She just lets too much fouling happen and it makes for an ugly game.
And what was with letting Alozie remain on the field in second-half stoppage time after the trainers came out for her? Not that I think it would have made a difference - the Thorns didn't have enough quality on the field to score at that point, even 11-vs-10.
OT: "Kang Spotted in Lyon as Washington Remain Mum"
We all know how that turned out the last time...
There's been a lot of talk here about Sinclair's continued starts, and her disastrous substitution into the Houston game, as being a sort of Canadian conspiracy to keep her in good form for the World Cup, or to kowtow to Sinc's wishes to keep playing.
It seems much more likely to me that
(a) Mike Norris, KK LeBlanc, Sinclair herself, and everyone else wants to win every game they possibly can.
(b) These people all have strong connections to Canadian soccer, where Sincy is an absolute *legend*, the GOAT of WoSo, an Officer of the Order of Canada, yada yada.
(c) They see her ineffectiveness now as a slight, temporary dip, something she'll move past - rather than the age-has-caught-to-her view that we fans have.
(d) With regard to (c), one of the challenges of coaching is deciding when a player's poor form is temporary and when it's the start of a long-term downward trend. (Remember a few years back when Kling wasn't playing well and we all thought she was washed? Yeah, I thought that too.) And it has to be doubly hard when you're a new coach dealing with a legend.
(e) Norris is new as a head coach, meaning he sometimes has to lean on the older hands around him for advice and support - especially on a team as high-profile as the Thorns. If the whole culture around the Thorns management is "Sinc is the GOAT!", it's going to take a LOT of evidence for him to see it differently.
(f) Mind you, that evidence is mounting with every game, but counter-evidence like Sinc's energetic, effective first few games this season will go a long way towards staving off any real reckoning with Sinc's ineffectiveness.
I'm reminded of Napoleon's saying, "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence." In this case the incompetence, namely not seeing how much Sinc has declined, arises from the Canadian culture of Sinclair-as-legend, her now-rare flashes of brilliance, and the low self-confidence of a brand new head coach on a high-profile team. It doesn't take malice, or a conspiracy.
Premature Diamond Power Rankings -- You Are Your Results Edition
Tier 1: Washington
Tier 2: PSWoSoT, Gotham
Tier 3: SD, NC, Portland
Tier 4: ACFCNFT, Houston, Louisville
Tier 5: Orlando, KC
Tier 6: Chicago
If I were Camille Ashton, I'd be updating my resume. Maybe there's an opportunity in the WWEUFC.
If I were AD Franch, I'd be thinking this is probably the end in KC.
And, if I were Matt Potter, I'd feel bad for my players from last year but I'd be LMFAO.
In "actually able to score goals when it counts" news, Riko Ueki of Tokyo Verdy Beleza put five past Elfen Saitama yesterday in WE League competition. FIVE.
Sam Kerr does Sam Kerr and Chelsea makes it three FA Cups in a row.
BBC had the teevee broadcast locked down (for me anyway) and I settled for listening on the radio. United outplayed Chelsea in the first half but they were keeping Harder on the bench until after halftime. That tipped things. Now she's off to Deutschland with another ring. Nice sendoff.
Evidently NWSL Sam Kerr was not yet peak Sam Kerr, something to ponder with wonderment. What might the Matildas look like this summer?
United remains flawless against Chelsea, notching zero wins in club history.
77k attended today. Well done.
Sports programming note, Area Edition: Portland Distance Carnival happening this afternoon and evening at Lewis and Clark College stadium.
It's a warmup for NCAA championships for some, last chance meet to qualify for NCAAs for others. My kid's there in that second category. Coincidentally, the NCAA West round will be in our fair city at the end of the month.
No team in a salary capped league has great depth. The way to win in the NWSL is by maximizing your starters and supplementing with the bench as the game demands be it via injury or tactical. Norris' mixing and matching at seemingly random is the opposite of that. I cannot understand leaving Sugita on the bench the whole night and clearly the subbing in of Sinclair to the midfield was disastrous. All control was lost as soon as she came in instead of Sugita. Madness. The Canadian mafia has an agenda and I don't believe winning the game is at the top of that list.
Bottom line is this team not only needs to win against Chicago but needs to win convincingly against a team that has been atrocious. They had an iffy run to start off last season--winning 2 from 7, including just 2 of 5 home games. But fail to pick it up against a team torpedoing to the bottom, and there should be alarm bells so loud even the national media will pick up on it
From the Kassoufsayer...
What’s gone wrong?
In short, Portland has been poor defensively in individual moments. The Thorns’ expected goals against average (xGA) of 7.6 is the second-best in the NWSL, but they’ve given up 10 goals this season, eight of which were conceded in the last three games.
It is no coincidence that this defensive skid coincides with the absence of central defender Becky Sauerbrunn due to a foot injury. Emily Menges filled in for Sauerbrunn in the 3-3 home draw against Angel City on April 29, and again in the 3-3 away draw against the North Carolina Courage on May 6. Friday brought change, with Meaghan Nally starting at center back alongside Kelli Hubly.
Portland is particularly feeling the loss of Sauerbrunn’s guidance and decision-making in central areas, and the Thorns will need to contend with her absence throughout the summer as well, when she is expected to join the United States for the World Cup. The Thorns will also lose most of their midfield to international duty.
Yes, the number of regular-season games during the World Cup window is limited, with mostly Challenge Cup games scheduled for late July and early August. Still, the Thorns will face significant depth issues during that time, and recent defensive hiccups are not setting them up to manage the summer period from the top. They need better performances defensively from everyone in their back five — defenders and goalkeeper Bella Bixby included.
This is the precarious time of the NWSL season when teams start to drift. The grind of the season sets in alongside the summer heat, and momentum feels like it can either carry a team forward, into the Shield race, or pin it down below the playoff line. Portland has mostly only ever known the former option as a franchise.
Now, the Thorns are facing some unfamiliar adversity.
“We’re in a bit of a run where we seem to be lacking confidence, lacking belief,” Thorns head coach Mike Norris said. “So, yeah, I think it’s how I take that and start to work on how to build more belief and confidence in the players.”
The good news
Goal-scoring remains abundant for Portland, as it was last year. The Thorns’ 18 goals scored in seven matches is six more than the next-closest team, and there have been some beautiful team tallies that suggest cohesion and confidence are not lacking on that side of the ball.
There was the second equalizer against North Carolina earlier this month when Meghan Klingenberg got forward in a one-touch sequence, Sophia Smith backheeled a through ball, and Crystal Dunn finished the play. Against Angel City, the Thorns strung together 18 passes over a 60-second period before Morgan Weaver finished the final pass to put Portland ahead, 2-1.
Dunn and Smith have four goals each this season, and Olivia Moultrie continues to produce game-changing moments, including the assist to Weaver on the aforementioned play. As was the case last year, scoring is not a problem for the Thorns.
Norris suggested on Friday that being better (“cleaner”) on the ball would help solve some individual defensive errors.
Up next is a trap game: a home match against the last-place Chicago Red Stars, who have conceded 11 goals in a four-game winless skid. The Red Stars are reeling, and the Thorns are better player for player. It’s a game Portland should and must win, but that means little in the NWSL.
Portland’s loss on Friday broke a 57-game unbeaten streak for the team when leading at halftime (all competitions), per Opta, a record that stretched back to 2017.
Framed like that, it’s easy enough to view Friday as a fluke, and that might be best for the psyche of the Thorns internally, even if the preceding draws add evidence to the concerns. This isn’t so much a personnel issue for Portland as it is a time for self-reflection and course correction.
In the NWSL, sometimes the month of May is just about getting by.
OT: Apparently you CAN stop the music...
Back in 1980, Village People starred in a thoroughly unmemorable movie called "Can't Stop the Music."
More memorable, however, was the film reviewer who asked "Couldn't SOMEONE have stopped the music?" and then sidestepped the whole mess.
And when I say "mess," I mean Caitlyn Jenner 40+ years ago, Steve Guttenberg, and Valerie Perrine starring alongside said People.
Well, looks like the answer is, yes, Village People themselves CAN stop the music. They're stopping Trump from using their music.
What's the possible relevance here? Well, Village People did perform at Civic Stadium, on July 1 1995.