From here it looks like the Peregrine organization fell into one of the classic blunders: standing pat after a championship season.

I get it. But it sure looks like Mike Norris is nothing more than a competent assistant coach, and the reserves are undercooked. In a similar situation this looks more like 2015 than 2019; no plan, and what plan there is was oversold and underwhelming.

The problem I see is that there’s no terrific way out of this anytime soon. It’s a small-roster-hard-capped league, so even if the sale goes thru tomorrow and the Strong group is flush with cash, there’s only so many players they can buy. And same with coaching…who do you recruit? Look at the big names flailing at this WC, or at last year’s darling Stoney, sinking like her namesake at SDW…

We’ve been crazy lucky here that we’ve never had to suffer through an extended rebuilding. The great 2015-16 off-season turned the Riley (spit!) debacle around immediately. Parsons’ last seasons were always “semifinal-good”.

Now I think we might be looking at some tough times. I don’t know what’s going on with Paulson, but it LOOKS like he’s either stepped away, or he’s stuck with his player personnel staff (KK, Ned) that lack skills, insight, or both. And the sale? Who knows if it’s a thing and, if it is, what vision the prospective new owners - presuming it’s still the Strong group - even have. We’ve heard literally nothing from them.

Supporting means supporting, in good times and bad. We’ve been very lucky supporters until now. But we might be headed to a place where Cloud Nine or whatever the Boston supporters group was called could tell us about…

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Yes to all this.

And... next year figures to be a brutal year for the Thorns.

New ownership presumably, which also likely means new FO and new HC (and maybe technical staff).

Probably several retirements.

Two-team expansion draft.

A high-profile FA in Dunn, and players like Smith who -- no matter their contract status -- will be the focus of every top European club.

And, let's face it, we have a backline that needs to be rebuilt and we need more pace in the midfield.

But, what I am also seeing from the Courgettes is that this doesn't have to be a sink-to-the-bottom situation.

North Carolina have had every right to collapse in the post-Riley era.

Setting aside the devastation that that alone entailed, since 2021 they have lost Debinha, Sam Mewis, Lynn Williams, Kristen Hamilton, Hailie Mace, Diana Ordonez, Carson Pickett, Abby Erceg, Jess McDonald, Amy Rodriguez, Cari Roccaro, Angharad James, Merritt Mathias, and Jaelene Daniels.

They've replaced them with Emily Fox, Kerolin, Tyler Lussi, and a bunch of draft picks. That's about it.

And... dammit if the Courgettes aren't back at the top of the table, kicking ass and chewing bubble gum. Bad news for us: they're almost out of bubble gum!

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This year it doesn't take a super team to remain above the red line; the whole league is sort of flailing. I won't disagree that the Cary FO did a good job plugging the holes. But Tyler Lussi is Tyler Lussi; that's not a long-term fix. We'll see if their current form holds or whether this is an artifact of not having a dominant team in the league this season...

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I think Nahas being around has a been a big difference, though. They've lost a ton of players, but having a consistent coach is huge. He was Riley's assistant and has been with the club a while now. I also think he's a good coach with an obvious gameplan. With the Thorns, we've had 3 coaches in as many years, many of whom had no real HC experience before they came here...and we're likely in for yet another coaching change in the next year or so. That can take years to gel, regardless of player movement.

NC 's recruiting of players has gotten better also, now that there's a blueprint for how Nahas wants to play. Fox, Kerolin, Fujino (when she was still here) have all been excellent players for their style. Miura has been great in their midfield as well. They also just signed TWO more Japanese int'ls. Rikako Kobayashi, a midfielder. And, youth int'l midfielder/forward Manaka Matsukubo on loan from Vegalta Sendai of the WE League. And within the last day or two, they signed star midfielder Riley Jackson, the captain of the U-17 US NT. She was the Golden Ball winner at the Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship. They aren't standing pat, and have really beefed up their roster with young technical international-level players.

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It helps if the gaffer has a vision, too. Wilkinson seemed to have had one...but centered around the 3-5-2 and playing people out of their positions that she had to 86 in midseason. Then Norris, wedded to the 4-3-3 and pretty much relying on Smith to win games for him. She's good enough to do that, but only if she's there. Hannah Betfort can't carry the load consistently.

So, yes; Nahas being able to step in and play a version of Riley's set has to be a huge help for The Damned. Unfortunately...

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tbf we're seeing a better version of Nahas' vision this season. We didn't see closely what it was last season, but it was less effective. And I would say that Wilkinson showed adaptability to change mid-season but I don't think the principles of play changed all that much, the players were just in better positions.

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I do think comparisons with 2015 and 2019 are a little harder to make because, for all intents and purposes, there are 3 games that genuinely mattered during the World Cup period. We all would've liked a Cup run - they're great! - but the majority of games were ultimately just Cup games. And in a league with playoffs, even losing those 3 league games isn't going to totally damage the Thorns' chances.

Norris was an uninspiring hire, and the back of the roster is uninspiring, but before the World Cup players left this team was literally top of the table. I think it'd be very hard to it completely crash and burn because there's just too much talent and it's not completely dysfunctional in the way that bad NWSL teams have been previously. Now, if the sale drags on into next season, then I think you start looking at things going very badly.

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It's less the results that the squad. The 2015 squad was set up to win with the World Cup players. Riley had no interest in the back of the roster, and had no idea how to squeeze a result out of them, and it showed.

Parsons at least did the basic diligence to try and have a working roster with the left-behinders, drilling the squad and playing disciplined soccer. It helped that Purce went nuts, but the team as a whole was well-organized and directed.

Norris is doing the WC period a lot more like Riley than Parsons. His tactical naivety and lack of attention to things like turnovers couldn't sink his squads when the talent level was high. But now? The same things are sinking the reserves.

Thing is...a talented team can be just dysfunctional enough to falter when the pressure is on. Look at Chicago and Sky Blue with Kerr. That's where I see this outfit going. And next season? What's the plan? More Smith hero-ball? That's going to get old real quick.

I'm still hopeful. But things seem to just be drifting right now, and there's no one to answer the helm.

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At least the GM is enjoying herself with a mid season moonlighting gig while the team she’s responsible for flounders and the coach she’s responsible for shows no signs of actually coaching. This team desperately needs to be sold so we at least have a puncher’s chance of getting a FO that’s not a complete clown show.

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Thankfully, Challenge Cup need not occupy our thoughts. Not when we have World Cup!

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Jul 30, 2023·edited Jul 31, 2023

One thing not talked about much because the game was such a shitshow was Kayla Morrison making her late debut. She's a CB, but she came in for Reyes, so I have no idea where she actually was playing, but I did like her energy. She came out looking fast and like she wanted to prove something. I'd like to watch again because I wasn't paying attention to her specifically, but we had a few corners and she definitely looked like she wasn't afraid to get into the scrum and I think maybe even got to the ball with her head on one of 'em. It's more than what I've ever seen Menges or Hubly do. Yes, Hubs has won a few headers on corners (that came right to her), but she doesn't really attack the ball like I remember seeing from Morrison...Hubs seems hesitant to use her head if she isn't standing by herself when it comes to her. Didn't see much of her defending, but I'd love to see more of her in this OL Reign game since it really means nothing now and we really need to test out some other CB's. Let's see if she has some good potential for a future depth piece...she is from the west coast of the US, so it may not be too hard to coax her from Australia later if she proves well. Replacing our bottom-roster talent will be a task, but if you can improve each position little by little, it may go a long way. Being better than Nally is a low bar...so, let's see some more of Morrison.

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Jul 31, 2023·edited Jul 31, 2023

Have to admit poor officiating has somewhat soured me on NWSL. Twice this weekend I witnessed two bad calls that absolutely changed the outcomes of matches. First was the OLR vs SD penalty call. The second was the Menges call at the start of the second half that led to free kick goal. Now maybe I'm just seeing everything from rose city colored glasses but both of those challenges looked perfectly legal to me. Thing is we have players going down at minimal contact trying to work refs into calls, and it's working. Shoulder charges are not fouls unless excessive force is used. It's one of the reasons I have preferred woso over broso as they approach the game with a bit more integrity. Seems like it's creeping more into the womens game now though. So am I off base for thinking this way?

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