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Roses and Thorns: Heaven

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Heaven is in ... Bridgeview, Illinois?

Nikita Taparia

Heaven

Heaven is a place

A place where nothing

Nothing ever happens

I think a lot of us were, on some level, in shock after Saturday’s game. I, for one, have a brain too small and slow to keep track of eight whole goals.

As entertainment, that game was pretty unimpeachable. So much happened! The Thorns were winning, and then they weren’t, and then they were again, and so on and so forth. Eventually, neither team won, which feels like a fair outcome if for no other reason than the fact that the physical conditions were very weird.

But for a game where so much happened, in retrospect, it feels weirdly uneventful. Start with the result itself: from an abstract standpoint, a draw is probably the expected outcome between these two teams, at this point in time. Two weeks into the season, it’s apparent that things stand pretty much exactly where they stood late last year for most teams in the league. With everyone at full strength, there are three truly good teams in the NWSL, and they’re all playing pretty much like they did last August.

Even getting down to the specifics of who scored how, things were pretty dead even. Both scored on penalties (the relative deservedness of each penalty call notwithstanding), both took advantage of weird environmental conditions (which is how I’m choosing to refer to both the wind and Emily Sonnett’s whole Thing) and defensive breakdowns, both had one or two goals that were genuinely beautiful.

If you’re a Red Stars fan, Saturday was probably exciting because of what happened in the last 20 minutes or so—namely, that Morgan Brian came on and looked really good, and that Sam Kerr and company grabbed a game that looked like it was about to be a disappointing loss, and one that a couple years ago would have been a disappointing loss, by the scruff of the neck and said, “Not today!” and tied the thing up.

If you’re reading this, though, chances are you’re not a Red Stars fan. And from the Thorns’ perspective, you could definitely look at that last 20 minutes and be upset for the same reasons Chicago fans might be excited. Certainly, you could look at this and be upset:

(This is Morgan Brian, having just received the ball off a poor clearance, looking at Kerr through a wide-open passing lane as the Australian sits unencumbered between lines; momentarily, Brian will pass to Kerr, who will set in motion Chicago’s stoppage-time goal.)

But, I don’t know. I’m just ... not?

We know exactly what to expect from this team right now. We know the ways they can be good, as in the clever Lindsey-Horan-flick-to-Christine-Sinclair goal, and the ways they tend to mess up, as with Sonnett’s giveaway to Kerr, or the collective lapse in judgment pictured above.

I could watch these two teams play each other a dozen more times and be entertained every time, but probably not learn anything new about the Thorns.

And with that said, when I quote “Heaven” (someday maybe I’ll start referencing non-Talking Heads songs in this space, but today is not that day), I mean it two ways. We aren’t learning anything new, because the same things keep happening; but on the other hand, if all you’re invested in is the success of this team on the field, you should feel pretty good right now. Yes, they just dropped two points in the last two minutes of a game, but they did it to a very good team under very weird conditions. I had a headache by the last ten minutes of that game. Those players had to have been absolutely fried by that time.

The Thorns are still very much the same team they’ve been for a while, and that’s a good thing. In a real sense, if more of this was all that was ahead of them in the coming season, that would be heaven.

Of course, it’s not all that’s ahead of them. We get just one more week with this setup before things start to get wacky. And look, I don’t want to say I’m excited for things to be harder, but I am excited to see how the Thorns deal with things being harder. I’m excited to see Andressinha playing in her actual position, which is hopefully something we’ll get for two full games. I’m excited to see what some of the youngsters—the Emily Ogles and Madison Pogarchs and Gabby Seilers of the world—can do when the chips are down. I’m excited for the next Michelle Betos header goal, whatever form it might take.

Before I go, another rose to Meghan Klingenberg: I’ve been saying this nonstop since last week, but there are people in this world who don’t think Meghan Klingenberg is good, and yet again she came through with a performance to prove those people wrong. Red Stars right back Casey Short is famously very good at marking Tobin Heath, so instead of trying to go through her, the Thorns capitalized on the acres of space left behind their star winger and dropped the ball back to Kling, who put up two assists (well, maybe one and a half, if you look at the wind on the first one, but still).