Tag Archives: Cindy Parlow Cone

Thorns FC: Broken by the Breakers

broken

John Lawes has the lowdown on Thorns FC 0-2 Boston Breakers.

Does crisis fuel soccer in the Rose City? It’s now two defeats in a row for the Thorns and all-too familiar problems on the field for Portland fans.


Damn but these are getting depressing to write.

Thorns FC lost it’s second match in a row and the third without a win Saturday night at Jeld-Wen Field.  The fifth-place Boston Breakers looked comprehensively the better team; effective in front of goal, dominant in midfield, and solid in the back.  Naeher, the Boston keeper, played a blinder that included an 86th minute stoning of Alex Morgan that kept the sheet clean.

On the other side of the pitch Thorns FC showcased the problems I’ve been carping about for the recent weeks, both individual and collective.  Nikki Washington had one of the worst outings I’ve seen from a winger whose usual form has been subpar since early in the season.  Kat Williamson and Nikki Marshall got torched, Rachel Beuhler and Williamson seemed to be playing for different teams and with a Sydney Leroux in front of them that has been a pantsload over the last couple of matches the backline gave her acres of space and aeons of time and were rewarded with a pair of nifty – for Boston fans – goals.

The less said about Courtney Wetzel’s night as a defender the better, but if Parlow Cone tries THAT little experiment again she’d better have a good explanation for why.  Wetzel looked so bad matched up against Leroux that Parlow Cone kept shifting her around the field like she was playing human three-card monte and Wetzel was the Red Queen.  Cone’d better hope that she never has to take to hustling rubes for a living, because she sure wasn’t fooling Boston.

Thorns midfield?

What midfield?

Boston dominated midfield play, pressing high and attacking the ball aggressively, just like every successful Portland opponent has done.  And the Thorns responded with errant passes and lost tackles as has been their wont when confronted with this tactic.

Up front the attacking woes continued.  The attackers took 20 shots but of that only seven were anywhere near the goal and those seven were either softballs or right at Naeher.  Boston was rarely troubled all night by the supposedly deadly Portland forwards due to a combination of poor Portland coordination and tough Boston defense.

It’s getting harder and harder to see a good ending to this mess unless we see some real improvement in both team and individual play, and soon.  Parlow Cone has got to figure out what to do about the problems we’re seeing and implement it.  The team needs to find an on-field leader who is capable of marshaling the troops to make the coach’s plan happen.

And I think this needs to happen before the end of the regular season.  One of the comments on my last post read in part:

“…as long as Portland keeps drawing 3X the crowds of the next closest drawing club in this league nobody at the FO gives a F***. And I mean that. This is a cash cow for them. SPC can coast on talent. With the talent the Thorns were gifted (and don’t think they weren’t) they will make the playoffs and win a lot of games. Her 1965 tactics won’t matter to anyone at the FO as long as they make the playoffs and they will.”

I think the commenter misunderstands the position this club is in.  Merely getting to the playoffs this season will not be enough.  A finals berth; in fact, a championship is the minimum the fan base expects.  Portland soccer fans are far more forgiving than most – too forgiving, in my biased opinion.  But given the expectations I firmly believe that merely making the playoffs and going out in the first round won’t cut it.

So I think this next match will be crucial.

If we can see some real changes, some real improvement across the entire team (except you, Karina – you are still The Wall!) against a tough opponent – even if we lose a hard-fought match – I think we can see the Thorns we expected to see and challenge for the league title.

If not?  Well, if not I think we may be in for a damn ugly off-season.

Dammit, I refuse to think we can’t do that.

Onward, Rose City!

 

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Thorns FC: Coach? It’s John Spencer on the smartyphone…

Seems like only last week I sat down and fired up the Commodore 64 to ponder what best for our coach Cindy Parlow Cone to do to prepare for the final half of the season.

Oh.  Wait.  It was.  As part of that external internal-monologue I had some thoughts about the upcoming matches, and here’s what I had to say about last Sunday’s match against FC Kansas City:

“Hard to suss these out just because our first meeting was a frightful mess with goals hard to come by and the second was a wild free-for-all with goals by the bucketful.  Which teams will meet for the last two matches?  I have to think that we’re better now than either Thorns team that played those first two matches; at least four points, then, with the dire possibility that KC might possibly sneak a home win next week and leave us with only the three.”

Humph.

Guess what.

They did.

But in truth the match away to FCKC was worse than the loss – or as a Kansas City play-by-play announcer might have termed it, the first ever road loss for Thorns FC – it was another example of a coach whose  team and whose “tactics” are starting to look very familiar to those of us who sat through the Timbers’ first two MLS seasons.  And this Spencerian style, although Coach Parlow Cone says nothing about it, is going unnoticed by the fans.  Here’s just a selection of some of their observations from the comments on the match report over at Stumptown Footy:

“The midfield still stinks and we’re playing longball or, as someone else noted, kick and chase. There appears to be no philosophy. This is Spencerball revisited. It’s ugly, tragic, embarrassing, and contrary to what we’ve been told to expect tactically. Heath isn’t going to be the savior, and she shouldn’t have to be. We have great players, but aren’t the team we should be.”

“All of this tells me that while CPC may be doing a fine job of helping the ladies be good friends and have fun together, she has yet to build a functioning professional team. With others in the league clearly improving, the clock is ticking loudly.”

“We’ve proven that we can take care of the Washingtons and Seattles just on talent, and even then only barely. Any team with a pulse can throw good markers/back line numbers at Sinc and Morgan and just wait for the midfield to turn it over. Then just wait for the defense to get in its own way one too many times.”

Brutally critical?

Yes.  But, in my opinion, justified.

In my last post I identified certain on-field issues that I thought CPC could address to sharpen the Thorns, issues that we’d seen in all of the team’s poorer outings this season;  Alex Morgan lacking bite, as well as lacking service and assistance from her strike partners.

The mess in midfield.

Lack of effective wing play and the ease with which smart and talented opponents can stifle the narrow Thorns attack.  Lack of communication between the midfield and backline, and random moments of disorganization in the back leading to opposing attackers getting far too much open space and time.

Poor passing and poor coordination and team play in general.

All of that was on display in Kansas City along with one of those awful moments when a coach has burned all her substitutions and then one of her players goes down injured; with no way to replace Marian Dougherty, Parlow Cone could only watch helplessly as her team played the final 10 minutes a player and two goals down.

The part of all this that disturbs me most is how, of all John Spencer’s coaching ways Parlow Cone seems to mimic his most damaging;  an unreflective approach to the game of soccer and the paleolithic “tactics” it produced.

Sure, Spencer had plans and tactics, mind; plans like the French Army had plans in 1940, and tactics like they were still written in the original cuneiform.

Spenny came to every match with an idea of what his team was going to look like, and do; boot the ball up to his big forward and let the big fella knock it in.

Substitute “Alex Morgan” for “Kenny Cooper” or “Kris Boyd” and this year’s Thorns FC starts to look a hell of a lot like the Timbers of 2011 and 2012; a team that can’t pass the ball well or control the tempo of the match and relies on antiquated hoof-and-hope long ball to get Alex Morgan to make something out of nothing.  A team that suffers catastrophic breakdowns in back.  A team that smarter coaches can beat because they know before the opening whistle where that team will go and what it will do when it gets there.

What’s so disturbing about this is that while what we’re seeing from Thorns FC is pretty much what we’ve seen from their first match – with bits of tweaking here and there – most of the rest of the league has been getting better.

Seattle’s USWNT veterans Rapinoe and Solo have earned the dire Reign two wins and a draw from their last three matches.  Sydney Leroux is pulling Boston – a Boston that we play three times and I had counted on the Thorns thrashing repeatedly – out of a slough of mediocrity into…well, perhaps at least a much shallower slough of mediocrity.  We’ll have to see.

Western New York remains as dangerous at random moments as lightning from a cloudless sky, and Sky Blue FC is still atop the table with us and a consistent and persistent threat.

Thank the soccer gods that Chicago still sucks, then.

Mind you, I suspect that even with a less successful second half the Thorns will be able to ride their fast start into the playoffs.  But what then?  FCKC showed they’d learned the lessons that Sky Blue wrote on the Jeld-Wen turf; mark the two star strikers out of the match, press high and force the poor passing and bad clears that will gift you the ball, and then take advantage of defensive errors that will follow.  Even The Wall cant stop everything.

I believe that unless Parlow Cone can manage her way out of this the championship we’re expecting this season – and we ARE expecting it – will go a’glimmering.

Spencer seemed like a genuinely good man, the sort of quirky guy that a lot of the fans enjoyed for his personality, the kind of manager that in a sunny, happy world would have retired here full of years and honors, beloved of the supporters and the city alike.

The main reason he did not is that he was unable to analyze the game, to learn from his mistakes, and to adjust to his conditions; he tried to play “his kind of soccer” with a club that didn’t have what it took to play that kind of soccer, and a kind of soccer that didn’t have what it took to beat teams whose tactics had evolved past 1965.

Now Parlow Cone has a dilemma.  She has a small number of great players and “tactics” that rely on those players being great enough to beat poorer, weaker teams.  But now many of the poor are getting richer and the weak stronger, and it is appearing increasingly likely that those “tactics” will no longer work.

If she can figure out how to adjust those tactics she may well – if the league itself prospers – find herself at the end of her career the next Clive Charles, a beloved fixture of Portland soccer, a treasured reminder of glories past.

But if not…

Ask not for whom the smartyphone rings…

Three quick thoughts on the Thorns FC victory

Want a recipe for an epic day in women’s soccer? Take Portland Thorns FC defender Jazmyne Avant absolutely nailing the United States national anthem, Karina LeBlanc’s hair, add the Rose City Riveters beautiful tifo and finally throw in 16,479 fans rocking Jeld Wen Field and you have a pretty phenomenal day.

It was most definitely a more epic day for Thorns FC supporters as they watched goals from Marian Dougherty and Alex Morgan lead Portland to a 2-1 victory over Seattle Reign FC.

Here’s three quick thoughts on the match:

* Christine Sinclair is pretty good.

Cindy Parlow-Cone said this about Sinclair in the postgame press conference: “Everybody talks about Christine in terms of scoring goals but she’s one of the best passers in all of women’s soccer.”

Coach hits the nail on the head there. NWSL needs to get some Opta Stats, because I’d be drooling over Sinclair’s heat map and distribution chart from today’s match. She was in one word: spectacular.

* Cindy Parlow-Cone can coach.

If you watched the first match of the season against FC Kansas City, you know the team didn’t display the kind of play Thorns FC was hoping for and Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan had way too few touches. In this match, Cone had Sinclair playing more withdrawn and underneath Morgan. As a result, Sinclair had many more touches on the ball and a much more influential impact on the match.

* Still room for improvement.

We saw some terrific flashes of brilliance from Thorns FC yesterday and with time, things should only get better. It’s still amazing to think that last week was only the first time every Thorns FC player was available for a full week of practice. That definitely showed against Seattle as every player was much improved over their first match in Kansas City. I have to think that every more steps will be taken in the next match against Chicago Red Stars.

Quotable:

Cindy Parlow-Cone on the atmosphere at JELD-WEN Field for the first Thorns FC home game:
“This was awesome. I was walking around the field with Rachel Buehler and we looked at each other and she’s like, ‘This is like the World Cup!’ That’s what it felt like. It felt like that atmosphere we had at the World Cup and at the Olympics. It was an unbelievable atmosphere.”

Game Stats:

Portland Thorns FC (1-0-1, 4pts) vs. Seattle Reign FC (0-1-1, 1pts)
April 21, 2013 – JELD-WEN Field (Portland, Ore.)

Goals by Half                1          2          F
Portland                        1          1          2
Seattle                            0          1          1

Scoring Summary
POR: Dougherty (Washington), 45
POR: Morgan (Sinclair), 52
SEA: Fishlock, 74

Misconduct Summary
POR: Long (Caution), 10
POR: Kerr (Caution), 11
SEA: Reed (Caution), 30
SEA: Nairn (Caution), 33
POR: Washington (Caution), 68
SEA: Fishlock (Caution), 78

Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Karina LeBlanc, D Marian Dougherty, D Kathryn Williamson, D Rachel Buehler, D Nikki Marshall, M Nikki Washington, M Becky Edwards, M Angie Kerr (Danielle Foxhoven, 76), M Allie Long (Courtney Wetzel, 80), F Christine Sinclair, F Alex Morgan

Substitutes Not Used: GK Adelaide Gay, D Jazmyne Avant, D Emilee O’Neil, M Meleana Shim, F Jessica Shufelt

TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Morgan, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Morgan, 2); FOULS: 11 (Long, 4); OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 1

SEA: GK Michelle Betos, D Emily Zurrer, D Lauren Barnes (Jenny Ruiz, 84), D Kate Deines, D Ellie Reed, M Kaylyn Kyle, M Teresa Noyola (Kiersten Dallstream, 54), M Jessica Fishlock, M Keelin Winters, M Christine Nairn, F Liz Bogus (Kristina Larsen, 66)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Hayley Kopmeyer, M Lyndsey Patterson, M Kristen Meier,

TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (Three players tied, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Fishlock, Nairn, 1); FOULS: 10 (Fishlock, 2); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 3

Referee: Josh Wilkens
Assistant Referees: Felisha Mariscal, Desmond Miller
Fourth Official: Jason Perlewitz
Attendance: 16,479
Weather: 51 degrees, overcast

Thorns FC add four players in today’s NWSL college draft

Portland Thorns FC selected Kathryn Williamson, a defender from the University of Florida, with the eighth overall pick in the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft on Friday at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

In the following rounds, Thorns FC drafted University of Central Florida forward Nicolette Radovcic in the second round (16th overall), University of North Carolina midfielder Amber Brooks in the third round (24th overall) and Pepperdine University goalkeeper Roxanne Barker with the final pick of the draft (32nd overall).

“I’m very excited about our four college draft picks. They’re all very technical players and players that I can see jumping into a game right away,” said Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone. “They’re all going to be wonderful professionals.”

Here’s a quick rundown of Portland’s picks in today’s draft:

7kathrynwilliamson1st pick at #8: Kathryn Williamson (Center back)

College: University of Florida, where she anchored the defense for all four years. She was an All-American for the past three years.

Skills: Williamson has excellent pace which always her to play aggressively on defense. She is also very comfortable with ball in possession.

Concerns: Injuries have been a big concern as Williamson has missed time with ACL and meniscus injuries. If she can stay healthy, Williamson could easily step in and be an immediate contributor for Thorns FC.

nicolettradovcic2nd pick at #16: Nicolette Radovcic (Forward)

College: University of Central Florida, where she led her team in scoring over the last two seasons.

Skills: Radovcic led her team with 12 goals last season and became known for coming up big when it counted most. Her new teammates will love Radovcic’s impressive workrate.

Concerns: Radovcic won’t be an immediate contributor, but that shouldn’t be a big worry as she’ll be able to learn a great deal from Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair.

Brooks13rd pick at #24: Amber Brooks (Midfielder)

College: University of North Carolina, where she was captain and anchor of the Tar Heels midfield. Coach

Skills: One of the most highly rated players coming into the draft, Brooks is known for her excellent leadership skills as well as her tenacity. She can also provide good service on set pieces, but has also scored goals as a poacher on set pieces as well.

Concerns: None really, except Brooks won’t be joining Thorns FC right away as she signed with Bayern Munich for the remainder of their season last week. This explains why Brooks, who was projected as a first-round pick, dropped this low. Hopefully, Coach Cindy Parlow-Cone’s relationship with Brooks (Parlow-Cone was her assistant coach at UNC) can possibly help bring in Brooks sooner than later. More on this in a later post.

roxannebarker4th pick at #32: Roxanne Barker (Goalkeeper)

College: Pepperdine University, where she was a four-year starter. Barker is also a South African international and made the roster for Bayana Bayana’s Olympic squad last summer.

Skills: Barker’s stock began to rise over the last two seasons at Pepperdine and has developed a reputation as a quality keeper who can come up with big saves in big games.

Concerns: Not many really, but Barker can sometimes be inconsistent and isn’t particularly known for her athleticism. However, she’s in a terrific situation in Portland where she can learn and grow as Karina LeBlanc’s backup.

 

Thorns FC name Cindy Parlow Cone as head coach

Photo: Jeffrey A. Camarati, UNC Athletic Comm.
Photo: Jeffrey A. Camarati, UNC Athletic Comm.

Portland Thorns FC today named Cindy Parlow Cone, 34, one of the all-time leading scorers from the U.S. Women’s National Team, their first head coach for the inaugural season of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

While this is Parlow Cone’s first professional head coaching job, she definitely brings an impressive pedigree and potential to Thorns FC.

Playing Career
– Parlow Cone recorded 68 goals and 53 assists during her collegiate career at the University of North Carolina (1995-98), and is one of 10 players in the program’s history to record 40 or more goals and assists in a career.
– 158 matches as a forward (75 goals and 35 assists) with the U.S. Women’s National Team (1996-2004) which included a 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship and gold medals at the 1996 and 2004 Olympic games.
– Parlow Cone played in the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) for three seasons with the Atlanta Beat from 2001-03, leading the team to the postseason each season.

Awards/Honors
– Parlow Cone earned All-American honors all four years at UNC, won the Hermann Trophy in 1997 and 1998 as the nation’s top player and led the Tar Heels to back-to-back national titles in 1996 and 1997.
– Named the U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year in 1998.
– Member of the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team which was named Sports Illustrated’s 1999 Athlete of the Year.
– Inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004.

Coaching
– Parlow Cone holds a USSF “A” License and has participated in a FIFA Futuro III course.
– For the past six years, she has served as an assistant coach for the women’s soccer program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, helping guide the team to national championships in 2009 and 2012.
– Also over the same time, Parlow Cone was the Director of Coaching for Senior Girls Programs (U-15 to U-18) at Triangle United Soccer Association in Chapel Hill, N.C.
– Served as a member of the U.S. U-14 and U-15 Girls National Team coaching staffs since 2010.

“It is very exciting to be part of a new women’s league and to be a part of launching a new professional team in Portland. I’ve seen first-hand the great enthusiasm Portland has for soccer; it’s a soccer-smart fan base that generates an incredible atmosphere. I am very much looking forward to the first season of Thorns FC.” – Cindy Parlow Cone

Now that a head coach has been named, next up for Thorns FC and the rest of the clubs in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will be the announcement of the league schedule as well as the allocation of national team players.

We’ll have more news as it’s announced. What do you think of today’s Thorns FC news? Do you see Parlow Cone’s connections with the University of North Carolina as another positive for the club?