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Thorns FC: Jersey Blues

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Bennett Dewan

My pop grew up a Depression kid, a hard man in a hard time. After the Navy let him out at the end of WW2, and he had worked his way through to an engineering degree hauling wood and waiting tables, he was seldom in the mood to cut me - or anyone else, for that matter - any slack.

He’d eye my unruly pals and remind me that if I let trouble hang around with me long enough, sooner or later it would get me in trouble.

The Thorns should have listened to my pop.

Instead, they let NWSL Wooden Spoon favorites Sky Blue FC hang around for 78 minutes and, sure enough, the worst team in the league bagged a soft penalty, scratched out an equalizer, and hung on to scamper away with a troublesome point.

Given their domination in the first half - outshooting Sky Blue 10 to 5, putting 3 shots on goal to SBFC’s one, earning 5 corners to none for Sky Blue, and holding 60% of the possession - PTFC should have been up not by one goal but three or four at halftime.

Instead of laying a whooping on them, the Thorns let trouble hang around so when Sky Blue came out looking much better in the second half, the Thorns were the ones in trouble.

The key to this match was pretty simple; the Thorns needed a win. That’s what good teams do; they beat down bad ones mercilessly and take all their points. They don’t let them hang around scratching out draws. They put three past the poor devils’ keeper in the first quarter hour and then club them 4-1 or 5-nil by the final whistle.

The Thorns didn’t do that to Sky Blue, and that’s troublesome.

Player Ratings and Comments

Crnogorcevic (+7/-4 : +5/-4 : +12/-8) Once again the Thorns forwards failed to score and Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic was one of the worst culprits. AMC put two of her three shots brutally wide; one in the 21st, and the other in the 85th minute. Energetic as usual, some terrific runs and good passes, but Crnogorcevic needed to be precise in front of goal, and wasn’t.

Weber (57’ - +6/-0 : +0/-0 : +6/-0) The Thorns used Mallory Weber well in the first half. Weber made good runs and her teammates threaded passes up to her, like Horan’s sweet lead pass in the 37th minute. Then Weber hit dangerous crosses back to them, as she did just seconds later, feeding back in to Horan whose header forced Sheridan to tip over the crossbar.

In the second half, service to and from Weber dried up and she was not a factor in the 12 minutes she played in that period.

Raso (33’ - +3/-1) Had several dangerous attacks, but all were well defended or (as in the 75th minute) negated by an offside call. Still appears to be working her way back into form, and so wasn’t particularly effective against Sky Blue. Early days yet.

Horan (+10/-5 : +9/-1 : +19/-6) Woman of the Match for her overall quality of play as well as a very nice finish. Worked hard on both sides of the ball, passing well and defending stoutly. Not quite the Great Horan, but a Pretty Damn Good Horan.

Sinclair (+8/-0 : +9/-4 : +17/-4) Christine Sinclair passed the ball to her teammates like a Pez dispenser passing out Pez, including a sweet flick to Horan for an assist on the goal, and 15 of her 17 pluses are significant passes. However, with the forwards lapsing back into sterility the team needed Sinclair to score and she couldn’t put either of her shots on goal. Not a bad night, but the team as a whole needed someone to carry it, and Sinclair just wasn’t up to the task.

Andressinha (+5/-3 : +8/-4 : +13/-7) Remember the stick I often give Klingenberg for her “Good Kling/Bad Kling” inconsistency? Well, Wednesday night Good Andressinha played some terrific passes forward and created some lovely half-chances for her teammates. Bad Andressinha wasted three terrific opportunities in the first half, including a 1 v 0 on Kailen Sheridan that the Brazilian blasted hopelessly wide.

I love what Andressinha has been creating in the past two matches, but her teammates need to accept that she seems unable to put quality shots on frame and hurry to provide her other options. They, and we, need to accept that she’s a creator and a provider, but not a finisher.

Boureille (+4/-3 : +3/-2 : +7/-5) Played well, particularly in the first half. Probably would have helped the team’s play had she stayed at defensive midfield. Not sure what prompted the move, but it didn’t help a backline that has seen too many changes already this season. Boureille might have avoided the clumsy foul that drew the Lloyd penalty if she’d come in a little more daintily, but I’m not sure; that was a soft penalty, and more so coming from Ekaterina Koroleva, whose usual reaction to onfield thuggery is a sort of patrician disinterest. If Lloyd’s theatrical tumble could sell Koroleva it might have sold any referee.

Salem (45’ - +6/-3) Salem’s shift is tainted by the team’s deconstruction in the second half. Although she passed well out of deep midfield and tackled adequately when she had time to get position on her mark, Salem’s main weakness seemed to be her pace; she got skinned several times by Shea Groom, worst of all in the 55th minute, and again by Lloyd in the 87th.

Based on that small data set, Salem seems to lack the vision to see, and the decisiveness to act quickly to cover, runs coming at her. However, that may be the result of getting too few matchday minutes instead of fundamental skill problems. It might be interesting to see what would happen if Salem could get more first team time.

Klingenberg (+7/-0 : +7/-3 : +14/-3) Meghan Klingenberg provided all her usual attacking flair, and did a generally decent job defending against Groom, at least as decent a job as any Thorn did (That Groom Woman was a nasty pest all evening, as is usual when she plays Portland).

Given how well she takes free kicks, I have to wonder; why doesn’t Klingenberg also take the corner kicks? Heath and Andressinha aren’t bad, but Klingenberg seems just that much better at setpiece delivery.

Sonnett (45’ - +3/-3) Emily Sonnett seemed to be having a decent evening, so I’m a little baffled as to what happened to her. Did she pick up a knock? Was Coach Parsons resting her for Seattle? Whatever the reason, I have to suspect that replacing her with Boureille did little to settle the Thorns backline at a time when Sky Blue was finding their way back into the match.

Reynolds (+0/-1 : +3/-3 : +3/-4) After bouncing back in the previous match against Houston, Kat Reynolds didn’t have a terrific outing against Sky Blue. Struggled to keep pace with the fast attackers all evening. Reynolds did come up huge in the 81st minute when Groom came steaming in on goal and had only Reynolds to beat. She didn’t; Reynolds picked her pocket neatly.

Carpenter (+2/-5 : +3/-4 : +5/-9) Ellie Carpenter did some nice work going forward.

Unfortunately, she undid a lot of it with clumsy work in back. In the 38th minute she was mentally somewhere in the outback, ballwatching when Groom found Imani Dorsey all by her lonesome at the corner of the Thorns penalty area. A.D. Franch baled Carpenter out with a huge save. She got toasted again five minutes later, when Janine Beckie megged her; this time it was Sonnett who cleaned up after her. If Carpenter is going to play more minutes as a defender, she needs to do more defending.

Franch (+2/-0 : +2/-1 : +4/-1) Huge saves, including on Dorsey and twice on Groom, once in the 56th taking in a headed corner kick and, more critically, kicking away a point-blank shot in the 87th minute to hang on to the single point. Guessed correctly on the Lloyd penalty shot, but the PK was well-struck; not at fault for the concession.

Coach Parsons - This match was, perhaps, the first time all season I’ve felt that Parsons didn’t have his team well in hand. Yes, there must have been some fatigue left over from the brawl in the Houston steambath. But the Thorns seemed less fatigued than unfocused. At a time when the Thorns needed to be all business there were far too many missed chances, far too little urgency, and far too many opportunities ceded to Sky Blue.

The deletion of Tobin Heath from the matchday roster seems to have been a genuine injury scratch, but at the time I thought that Parsons was resting Heath and Emily Menges in anticipation of Seattle. I suspected that the Salem-for-Sonnett-and-Bourelle-to-the-backline had a similar motive. My suspicion was that the coach and the Thorns were already looking past Sky Blue, more worried about setting up the roster for the rivalry match in Seattle than having the team on hand to beat the Jersey devils.

I hope that wasn’t the case, and that the home draw was simply due to some yips, bad luck, and a visiting team playing over its head.

But whatever the reason, the result is the same; the Thorns missed an opportunity to take three easy points from the points-vending-machine that is Sky Blue.

Instead, now they must travel to Seattle and convince Megan Rapinoe & Company to hand over those points, instead.

Hmmm. Good luck with that.