Tag Archives: FC Kansas City

Thorns FC: Quick Quick Slow

QUICK


If you’re a Thorns fan you already know that the Girls in Red came back from 2-nil down to take the match in overtime, 3-2.  I can’t add too much to Jonanna W’s fine match report over at Stumptown Footy.

However, if you were one of the many who doesn’t get FOX Sports 2 (Or  “The Ocho“, as we like to call it around here…) and didn’t get to watch the game you might not have had to pound out the flat spot in your forehead after the first half hour.  Actually watching the match was a bipolar swing between quick despair and slowly building hope.  Because, as Jonanna says, within 30 minutes the game seemed all over –

“It’s here that the gloom descended, over the several watching parties across Portland; over who knows how many PDX households; over the Rose City Riveters tent, where a handful of SG faithful cheered their team on halfway across the country; and, most importantly, if body language is to be believed, over the 11 Thorns who almost sleepwalked through the next 10 or so minutes at Verizon Wireless Field, shoulders slumped.”

The Thorns truly looked like a beaten team.  Kansas City’s goals weren’t just goals, they were shots right to the head; two in the skull, quick-quick, a sudden killer.  The very worst examples of the sort of defensive breakdowns that have killed Thorns FC all season.  Tymrak had eons of time and acres of space to place her shot, and Karina LeBlanc looked slow to dive to her right.  Then the defense simply stopped, ballwatching, as Melissa Henderson looped a header over LeBlanc for #2.

I was watching the game at Bazi Bierbrasserie – which was a terrific host and provided a great venue; thanks, Bazi! – and after I finished pounding my head on the table I looked around and saw I wasn’t the only one.  Too many other Thorns fans had seen this before; the defensive derp (TM), falling behind on soft goals…and too many of us have seen the team crash and burn in this situation.

Only Saturday it didn’t.  The two quick-quick Kansas City goals were their only goals that day.

Instead, slowly, the Thorns fought their way back into the match.

Perhaps it was Tobin Heath, refusing to just lie down and die, pulling back the first goal, roaring and driving on her teammates and lifting their heads back up.

Perhaps it was Christine Sinclair, wrathful as always, working tirelessly up front, making runs, moving skillfully and intelligently off the ball (her brilliant dummy at 65′ practically makes Weimer’s tying goal happen as the defense freezes long enough for Weimer to calmly claim the ball at the top of the six and drive it past Barnhart) and forcing FCKC to respond to her moves rather than start its own.

Perhaps it was Coach Parlow Cone, whose substitutions were timely and effective.

Perhaps it was Beuhler and Williamson, Marshall and Dougherty and Ellertson tightening up for the last 90 minutes; communicating with each other and with their midfield, marking Holiday out of the match, acting like a tough, composed band of well-drilled professionals instead of four strangers who just happened to wander onto a grassy field.

I’ve had some hard things to say about the Thorns backline this season.  I have some hard things to say about the first half hour they played Saturday.

But after that they did a woman’s job, all of you; well played.  That was the Thorns defense we all hoped we’d see this season.  That defense saw out the full time drawn 2-2.

And then the game went into overtime.

There’s no way to describe the tension of the last half hour of play.  Both teams looked gassed.  The hot day and the brutally hard pitch looked like misery.  It felt at that point like the next goal, whoever scored it, would be the winning goal.

So when Allie Long took a sweet pass from Weimer and slotted it into the FCKC goal to put Thorns FC up 3-2 I’ll bet that people emerging from the Fred Meyer all the way down on SE Hawthorne and 39th must have heard the roar from us down on 32nd.

Hell, when the long whistle blew people out in Corbett must have looked around and up at the cloudless sky, wondering what that strange distant bellowing noise was.

What is was, was pure wonderment.

The wonderful thing about this match was that slow, remorseless comeback; the Thorns’ refusal to concede.  For perhaps the first time all season this team, this entire team, showed ferocity and cohesion instead of fragility.  From the 33rd to the 120 minute, from Coach Parlow Cone’s substitutions to the play on the pitch, this team looked like the team the rest of the league started out afraid of.  The Death Star.  Mentally and physically tough, technically skilled, and tactically smart.

Now.

My father used to say that the reward for work well done was more work, and that is surely the case here.  The reward for this wonderful win is a hard hour and a half in Rochester, where Mary Abigail Wambach and Carli Lloyd and another dozen or so talented players will be waiting for Thorns FC this coming Saturday.

We’re there.  We’re in the Final, where “they” said we would be back in April.

I could thoroughly break down Western New York against PTFC here as I did FCKC last week, but why?  You know and I know and Coach Parlow Cone knows what we’re going to see in Rochester and what we have to do about it.

We’re going to see Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd.  We will have to put a collar on them; defend in depth, with our keeper and our backs and our midfield communicating and working as we did over that last hour and a half in Kansas City.  We will have to watch especially for long balls over the backline, the Wambach specialty.

And then we have to score; our midfield has to protect the ball, move to space, and make accurate passes.  Our midfielders and attacking fullbacks will have to spread the Western New York defense wide and pass into our forwards.  Our forwards have to make the timely runs, take the passes in stride and turn them into goals, something we have yet to do in Rochester.

But the Thorns showed last Saturday that they can do things they haven’t done before.

If there is ever a time to do that again, if there is ever a time to show that last Saturday was the team as it is and can be, it will be next Saturday.

I learned one other important thing from Jonanna’s post; the NWSL Championship Trophy may well be the butt-ugliest piece of silverware ever offered up as a professional sports prize.  Seriously.  It’s fugly.  Reeeeeally f’n ugly.  I’ve seen kid soccer trophies that looked better.

There’s only one hope for it.

The damn ugly thing will look a whole lot prettier sitting in the trophy case at Jeld-Wen Field.

Thorns FC: Goin’ to Kansas City…

kansascity


I mentioned the last time that the upcoming semifinal match in Kansas City might be anybody’s game.

After looking back at the season past I’m still not sure who can pull off a win at the fabled Shawnee Mission District Stadium.  The four meetings between Thorns FC and FC Kansas City tell wildly different stories, and while it’s worth looking back to see what happened I’m not sure that we can predict this coming Saturday’s match from the preceding games.

It’s also probably also worth looking at FCKC’s recent form and try and suss out who we should be worried about.

But first – let’s roll tape, shall we, and see if we can learn anything from it? Continue reading Thorns FC: Goin’ to Kansas City…

Thorns FC: Level One Complete

levelone


The regular season is over and Thorns FC will play in Kansas City next weekend.

This is because the Thorns ran their season record over the Seattle Reign to 4-0 on Saturday, and because FCKC couldn’t hold off Chicago ninety minutes on Sunday, long enough to win the league and go top into the playoffs.  Instead Western New York took the top spot with their win over Boston the day before.

Can we agree that this has been a turbulent and rather intriguing August for the NWSL?

As for Thorns FC…

Well, the match in Tukwila wasn’t exactly the dominating performance I’d hoped to see out of PTFC going in to the postseason.  The defense was caught asleep in the third minute and Megan Rapinoe began what turned out to be a 90-minute schooling of the right flank of Portland’s backline by skinning Kat Williamson  – with Marian Dougherty pulled out of position – and slotting the ball past Karina’s outstretched leg and inside the far post for the 1-0 lead.

Let me say for the record; Rapinoe is a hell of a great player and I wish we had her.  She’s one of those players who look liable to score nearly any time that they have the ball at their feet, and she did that all night on Saturday.

But Saturday the Defensive Derps TM had a conscience and five minutes later the Reign were caught on a similar long ball, this one a perfectly weighted lob from Allie Long onto the feet of a running Sinclair.

Sing, oh Muse, of the wrath of Sinclair.

Christine’s fierce desire to score, and to win, were huge elements of the Thorns’ win Saturday.

Collecting the ball, Christine had a defender closing down on her and the USWNT keeper in front of her.  But…Hope Solo then made the inexplicable decision to come all the way out of her 18 and missed the tackle.  She was left chasing Christine like a Brittany spaniel pursuing a street dragster.  Sinclair went to her right, cleared the Reign players, and deposited the ball neatly into Solo’s abandoned goal.

In many ways Christine has had a frustrating and disappointing season, but every match – one way or another – she does something that reminds me what a hell of a great player she still is, and of how badly she hates to lose.

If Alex Morgan cannot return next weekend I hope Sinclair can somehow infuse that hatred into the rest of the Thorns.

Meanwhile, back in Tukwila Chris’ strike was the end of the scoring for the next seventy-odd minutes; the two teams spent the remainder of the first half and most of the second trying to create another goal and failing.

If you forced me to be honest I’d admit that Seattle had by far the better and the more numerous opportunities.  Fishlock and Rapinoe were constant menaces to Portland’s goal, and both Nairn and van Egmond had good opportunities that they either whiffed or couldn’t finish.

Seattle largely won the fight for control of the midfield, while Portland’s attack dried up; Weimer and Foxhoven were not effective most of the match and Shim was energetic but unable to create a really decent chance.

Portland’s backline was…well, Portland’s backline; controlling their penalty area and Seattle’s attack for much of the first half.  Until someone missed a mark, was caught ballwatching, or stabbed and missed.  At that point a free-for-all would break out, with panicked Thorns racing about trying to recover their marks and clear their lines.

Fortunately for Portland when Portland was panicked and out of position – Seattle was unlucky.

The Thorns defense looked more composed in the second half, and Coach Parlow Cone’s defensive substitutions – Ramirez for Dougherty at 51′, Ellertson for Williamson at 73′ – were, if not inspired, at least effective.  I had my particular doubts about pulling Williamson, who had largely done good work throttling down Fishlock, but Ellertson continued to contain the Welsh Rarebit.

No, the substitution that puzzled and frustrated me was Wetzel for Foxhoven at 82′.

For all that she hadn’t been spectacular Foxhoven had rattled the crossbar at 56′, had been doing at least no worse than the other Portland forwards, and didn’t look gassed or out of ideas.  Wetzel has not been a particularly effective attacker this season, and to me, at least, the move suggested that Parlow Cone was content to see the draw out and take the away point, a choice – if that was her reasoning – I didn’t and still don’t understand.

Yes, Western New York had already clinched the second home semifinal, so the win wouldn’t have secured a home game.  I get that.

But still…here was the final regular match, against the rival Reign, for the chance to go into the away semifinal with a victory if you can score a late goal…and you pull one of your forwards for a defensive midfielder?

I don’t get that, Coach.

Whatever CPC’s plans were, fortunately for Thorns FC she didn’t bother to brief Christine Sinclair who latched onto a long lob from Weimer – less than a minute after the Wetzel sub – and flat outran the entire Reign defense to slap the ball past Solo for the 2-1 lead.

Have I mentioned lately what a terrific player Sinclair can be?  How badly she hates losing?

Sing, oh muse, of the wrath of Sinclair..!

After that Seattle kept pressing but the defense held on, and Thorns FC ended their season with a win.

To my mind Saturday’s result in Tukwila vindicated the notion of refusing to settle for a draw whenever possible, and especially when a match is critical, whether its for league standing or team morale.

For example:

Sky Blue’s draw to Washington dropped them emphatically into fourth, while FCKC’s loss to Chicago handed Western New York the “Sahlen Meat Products Supporter’s Shield” or whatever the heck the NWSL calls the regular-season championship.

To make things worse for FCKC, Chicago’s unheralded striker Jennifer Hoy scored two of the three goals that she would score in the 2013 season in the match, including the winner deep in second half injury time.  That has to be gutting for Kansas City who enters next week’s semifinal on a tw0-game losing streak.

But…Portland’s form hasn’t been outstanding this month either.

The semifinal could be anyone’s match, and we’ll talk about what we might expect in Kansas City in the coming week.

Thorns FC: Fckc’d

fkckd


Man, that was brutal.

I don’t want to try and take credit away from Kansas City.  They worked hard to win this match.  They outhustled and out thought and outplayed the home side and came away with three points they probably never thought they’d see.  Up front FCKC blocked off the passing lanes and stymied Tobin Heath as well as any Thorns opponent has yet.  The visitors largely marked both Morgan and Sinclair out of the match.  Holiday, FCKC’s heavyweight striker, worked hard to get open, and did.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  Sunday’s 2-3 home loss was largely on Thorns FC.  And largely on the defending.

Yes, Karina LeBlanc picked a bad Sunday to have an off day (probably two of FCKC’s goals were saveable).  Yes, a little more precision from passing in the midfield might have helped things a bit (especially late in the game looking for the equalizer; the Thorns midfield looked gassed at about 75 minutes and the passing suffered accordingly).  Yes, the wasteful shooting and failure to pull the trigger up front was a bit maddening (of the 17 shots Thorns FC put less than half – 8 – on frame).  And, yes, FCKC keeper had a very good match, including a huge tip over the bar on a Heath shot at 69′.

But.

When you give up three goals, at home, you will have a hard time getting the result you want, and that’s defending 101.

I could go on at length about the defensive errors that led to the FCKC goals.

But why?  We know what happened and how it happened.  We’ve been seeing it all season.  Failure to mark – .  Failure to track back.  Lack of communication in the backline.  Failure to close down on loose balls in midfield and lack of hustle getting back to defend against the resulting loss of possession.

The stake to the heart of the Thorns’ game was probably FCKC’s second goal, putting the visitors back up four minutes after Foxhoven equalized at 51′.  The Stumptown Footy description – “a comedy of errors” – pretty much nails it;

“Kansas City got a counterattack started, and again and again the Thorns stepped up to try to intercept the ball. Again and again, they missed, until Erika Tymrak calmly chipped the ball past Buehler to Holiday, who was streaking into the box unmarked (again). Karina LeBlanc got a hand to the ball, but it wasn’t enough to keep the shot out.”

Even this account doesn’t give you a really good sense of the flailing panic in the Thorns defense.  By the time Karina gave up crawling after the ball that rolled inside her left post you could almost feel the starch go out of the Thorns.  The remainder of the match was a clinic in how to see out an away win with better organization and hustle.

What should have been the pinnacle of the Thorns FC regular season turned into a back alley beatdown of the home side in front of 17,000 Portland fans and a national television audience.

Are you angry, Karina?  Alex, Christine, Tobin?  Mana, Kat, Rachel?  Danielle?

Are you angry, Coach?

I hope you are.

I’ve tried to come up with some pithy, epigrammatic, or witty things to say about this match and I just can’t.  The problems were there for all to see; all Thorns FC had to do was play 90 minutes of solid soccer – score when they could, and defend their home goal – and they couldn’t do that.

Because there are now 270 minutes left in this regular season.

And Thorns FC has put themselves in a position to win every single damn second of them.