Five things we know about the Portland Thorns

Richard Farley March 31, 2013 151
Allie Long, Portland Thorns

Allie Long (back) battles for the ball vs. the Portland Pilots. (Photo courtesy David Blair/Portland Timbers)

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Thorns have already become known for their superstar talent, but on Saturday night, with those stars away on international duty, Portland used their only scheduled preseason game to tell secrets – information those around training have known since camp came together mid-March:

Even without the likes of Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, Portland looks like a solid team, a state that may prove disappointing to opponents hoping the Thorns would be a top-loaded side with as many weaknesses as strengths.

That doesn’t appear to be the case, something the University of Portland found that out the hard way. While the final of Saturday’s game was a close 2-1, the Thorns controlled the game from the fifth minute on, eventually putting 14 shots on goal to the Pilots’ three.

In an NWSL preseason of mixed results and varying performance from professionals facing collegiate squads, the hamstrung Thorns impressed. Their performance against the Pilots was the first indication that this team may be more than a overstocked attack.

After their win at Merlo Field, there five things became apparent about Cindy Parlow Cone’s team:

1. Portland’s midfield is set

When the Thorns were allocated Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath, prospective opponents could comfort themselves knowing the team needed more than stellar attacking talent to live up to their favorite’s status. If those opponents were at Merlo on Saturday, they would be comforted no more.

Portland’s midfield not only looks set with Becky Edwards playing behind an interchangeable line of (left-to-right) Allie Long, Angie Kerr, and Nikki Washington, the quartet looks strong. A dominant Edwards was easily Saturday’s best player, and come the start of the regular season, it’s easy to see the more advanced midfielders winning most of the second balls she creates in midfield. With Kerr’s skill on the ball providing a link to Sinclair, the Thorns midfield also provides value going forward, particularly with Long and Washington able to play off their more advanced teammates.

It looks like a group that can become more than the sum of its parts, the midfield’s flexibility and industry able to protect a back line that’s expected to be a weakness. And with Tobin Heath and potentially Amber Brooks joining in June, the group could develop into the league’s best.

2. There’s more forward depth than expected

But what happens when [Sinclair and Morgan] are with their national teams?’ was another comfort opponents could use, and although that issue is not as easily written off as the midfield, Portland do have a surprisingly deep collection to talent up top.

Danielle Foxhoven has been a key addition. Her off the ball movement was great on Saturday, while her first touch brought Kerr into play as defenders targeted her from the back. Either off the bench or in place of Sinclair or Morgan, the former Pilot will prove valuable.

UConn alum Jessica Shufelt helped focus the Thorns attack after coming in at halftime at U.P., while draftee Nicolette Radovic gives Cindy Parlow Cone a player capable of playing in wide areas. Playing off Foxhoven, each allow Cone a different look to try and navigate those spells where she’ll be without her big two.

If a team had to go a whole season with Foxhoven, Shufelt, and Radovic in attack, they would probably have a below-average offense. But those are Portland’s third through fifth attackers – players who give the Thorns a surprising amount of depth.

3. Emilee O’Neil’s winning battle to start opposite Buehler

There’s still a chance Tina Ellertson could join the Thorns, but it’s a long shot. Without the former U.S. international in camp, there’s a spot open next to Rachel Buehler.

First round pick Kathryn Williamson had looked strong in training, but over the course of preseason camp, Stanford trialist Emilee O’Neil started seeing more time alongside Buehler. With the U.S. international gone on Saturday, Portland’s friendly became a de facto battle for a starting spot.

The two couldn’t have had more different nights. Almost any success the Pilots had came at Williamson’s expense, including their only goal. The former Florida defender looked overawed.

O’Neil, on the other hand, looked capable of starting. She was composed, read the game well, was aggressive when needed, and contributed in the air as well as with her feet.

Though she faced more tests against U.P., O’Neil ended up making far fewer mistakes. It’s difficult to imagine Williamson being able to make up the ground needed to win the starting job before April 13 in Kansas City.

4. Cone starting to reveal her setup

The way the Thorns set up on Saturday will in all likelihood be replicated against FC Kansas City in the opener on April 13. The team’s personnel seem to have been acquired with this setup in mind, and with Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair focal points of the team, you know the Thorns are likely to play a 4-4-2 formation.

The shape we saw through the midfield was narrow, with Allie Long and Nikki Washington spending most time through the middle than wide. Marian Dougherty and Nikki Marshall, the anticipated starters at right and left fullback, will be expected to provide the width.

You can call that a diamond, but Cone has been reticent to ascribe labels. Instead she focuses on qualities. She wants to play an attractive and intense style, though the terms she keeps coming back to are versatility and interchangeability.

We should see Washington falling back into defense when Dougherty goes forward. Same with Long on the other side. Kerr and Long will constantly be swapping, while Washington will have license to roam.

The first part of Cone’s tenure will be about getting the rotations mastered. How does the shape adjust to the myriad of movements Cone’s allowing? That will be as important as Portland’s base formation.

5. Portland looks scary

Every team in the NWSL is going to have weaknesses. Most teams will have trouble scoring. Others have problems in midfield. Defense is an issue for some.

Portland’s thought to fall into this last group, and until an answer is found next to Rachel Buehler, their ability to prevent goals is in doubt. But between Edwards’ play in front of the line and O’Neil’s strong March, there’s reason to think Portland’s problems are a lot smaller than originally expected.

Even if the defense was bad, Portland was going to be a favorite to win the NWSL. Goals were hard to come by in WPS, and the few teams that found them won big. Nobody’s likely to contain Sinclair and Morgan enough to keep Portland’s attack from being the league’s best, meaning even with a terrible defense, the Thorns would be a title contender.

But now it looks like the defense could be decent. The back four may be vulnerable, but between decent goalkeeping (Karina LeBlanc), Edwards’ shield, and a good, possession-based midfield, the backline’s exposure may be limited.

Parlow Cone keeps repeating, “everybody knows soccer games aren’t won on paper,” but this team may prove more dangerous in real life than in print. On paper, names like O’Neil are unproven while the midfield looks like a collection of scattered parts. But in reality, all those pieces appear to be coming together.

  • Matt

    I’d just like to point out that Kat Williamson graduated from the University of Florida, not Central Florida. Radovcic graduated from Central Florida.

  • http://twitter.com/hercircumstance hercircumstance

    Only the most ardent allocation apologist believed Portland would have trouble filling out their roster. That’s why it was such a crime they were gifted two of the best forwards in the entire world in an extremely shady allocation. It wasn’t going to be hard for them to find talent for the easier to fill spots. In a league where there are so few top forwards to go around they should have never been given two in the first place. They were given two, a playmaker, a top defender, and one of the better goalkeepers out of the gate. Meanwhile look at Spirit. Hm. There was a clear need to distribute forwards evenly and they decided to set up a media darling super team instead of doing the right thing.

    So please, in the very least, stop rewriting history to make it seem like the Thorns overcame some kind of adversity in the team construction process. They didn’t.

    • NYRick

      Totally agree with everything you said here. The allocation of Morgan and Sinclair to the Thorns was an absolute joke, shady practice by the participants and a disservice to the competitive balance of the new league. Forwards and pure finishers (AM and Sinc) are arguably the two best in the world, are the hardest thing to find in the sport. Especially in the women’s game.

      This article is positioning the Thorns as “The Little Engine That Could” now because they are filling out their roster with capable mids and such. Please stop. And let’s not even get into the fact that the Thorns were allocated Heath, arguably one of the most creative playmakers in the women’s game to boot to provide service for AM. Plus, a defender on the US national team in Buehler, who I personally think is pretty average, but she is certainly capable on this club team level for stability in the back line.

      • http://twitter.com/richardfarley Richard Farley

        I’m sorry you two read the article as some kind of Little Engine That Could story, but in my defense, look at the second paragraph:

        “… may prove disappointing to opponents hoping the Thorns would be a top-loaded side …”

        This kinda of refrain is repeated at various places in the piece, speaking to an expectation, regardless of whether that expectation was reality or not.

        In section two: Stars’ absences “… was another comfort opponents could use.”

        I could see a complaint that speaking to an unjustified expectation isn’t the best angle, but that expectation is relevant considering allocation left people thinking one of the few ways the Thorns would be tripped up is if they failed to take can of business post-allocation.

        There’s no rewriting of history here or repositioning Portland as a little engine. Like any piece, this one has an angle. From the piece’s second paragraph onward, that angle’s laid out.

        • NYRick

          Fair enough.

          It’s just that post-allocation becomes much easier when you have been given fire-power like AM, Sinc and Tobin for starters. AM and Sinc are 2 of the top 5 players in the world without any doubt, and Tobin could even be in the top 10. In an 8-team US league, that’s an unfair allocation that caters to the player’s wishes. That’s really my gripe. AM and Sinc wanted to stay in the PNW and they both got to do just that. So did Hope and Pinoe. That’s flat out ridiculous. The PNW as your article indicates (a preseason match sans stars draws nearly 5k) doesn’t need the help, but they get it in the form of Canada and the US teams number one players going to Portland.

          I see the angle of your story (basically post-allocation they are filling in some capable pieces that will make them even tougher than originally thought). Your story is well written from the angle you took, my apologies and no intentional attack on you. I just don’t like when professional leagues employ shady practice (which they did with Portland), especially after two failed attempts with this particular model. For me, the Thorns can’t lose enough games.

          • http://twitter.com/richardfarley Richard Farley

            No worries, NYRick, and thanks. As I said in my comment, I can see people complaining that the angle choice wasn’t the best one. To be real about it, at some point you have to find another way to say “Thorns good.”

          • Steglitz49

            Do we know that Tobin Heath wanted to play in Portland?

            I have not followed the allocation in detail but the young lady is from New Jersey and played her college soccer for UNC. Now she is moonlighting in Paris.

          • NYRick

            In Tobin’s case, she seems pretty much to be a vagabond who will go where her soccer heart takes her. Playing overseas at PSG and then back in the states (on any team AM is on) is a great situation for her.

            But if the USWNT want to fix things further for the success of their national team, they should move AM off the Portland team, into one of the two Cali teams that will form by 2014 and put Press on that team with her. Christen will no doubt play in the US in 2014, for no other reason than to be closer to the national team. So will Yael. This way they not only develop chemistry with the national team, but play their club team soccer together at forwards. That, although there are no guarantees in life or sports, would almost certainly solidify their chances for a WC15 title and Olympic gold in 2016. And probably beyond that. A forward team like that of that skill and young age is really unfair. Especially playing together all the time.

          • Steglitz49

            I agree that Alex would likely love to help get a California soccer league going. CA ought to have 4 or 5 teams, but let us start with 2. The division that Alex built.

            As for Ms Press, Tyresö will play in the CL next season and she would love to have a second bite at the cherry. After all, she took Gbg to the QF and had she still played for them, Gbg would now be in the SF. With Tyresö Christen might win the CL.

            I also agree with you that Yael can be expected to accept a berth in the NWSL. On the other hand, should PSG get the second French CL slot, then I expect Ms Heath to play for them next season.

          • NYRick

            Your logic is sound as it pertains to Press staying in Sweden, but it’s obvious that her big opportunity with the national team is right now. She finally has a coach that maybe understands that, and more importantly, one who is willing to finally give her the opportunity she feels she’s deserved for quite some time. I think any elite US woman soccer player if given the choice: excel with my club team or excel with the US national team, would take the national team. In the US, that is about legacy for these girls. If she has the talent (and it appears she very well might) she could be one of those names US women’s soccer talks about for years. Especially teaming with AM for WC and Olympic glory on the next two cycles.

            It is in her best interests (even at the sacrifice of a potential CL title) to play, train and be in the close proximity of the US team and all camps. If she plays her cards right, she could emerge as a big star in the US, and maybe the second favorite player to the young US soccer playing girls in this country. That’s a big deal for US endorsements too. She has looks, is well educated, articulate and talented too. An easy package for any sponsor.

          • Steglitz49

            UEFA have cleverly established the ladies’ CL as the competition for a woman to win outside the world cup (the CL seems greater even than the €uro and Asian championships). One juicy carrot. Endorsements would flow were Christen to win it; reaching the final would be enough.

            As long as Christen keeps playing as she is, it is hard to see her not selected for the NT. Her only rival from abroad would be Sarah Hagen but Bayern are out of the DFB-Cup and unlikely to qualify for the CL. Christen will get more exposure than Sarah.

            Christen’s potential hassle is that she has exchanged a good manager who was a fine striker (one of the “boys of 82″) for one who is best known as Pia Sundhage’s assistant. Also, she goes from a team who made maximum use of her talent to one loaded with talent, though fortune smiles on Christen in that their striker has joined ARod. (I had expected Mrs Ogimi to get there first.)

          • vert2013

            I like Alex with Sinc. Sinc plays similar to Abby, keep Alex and Tobin together because they read each other like a book and NT play won’t suffer at all. Eventually with expansion players will move, but Alex had her choice of team and she wanted to be in Portland.

          • Steglitz49

            I would not have said that Sinclair plays similar to Abby. They are different players.

            If you had to sell one of the three of Ms Morgan, Sinclair or Heath, whom would you trade?

          • vert2013

            I mean obviously they’re different players, but their style is more similar to each other than to Alex.

            The logical choice to trade would be Heath from both a business and talent perspective but with the restrictions on trading allocated players there isn’t much they’d get for trading any of them at present. US allocated players can only be traded for US allocated players (or draft picks/considerations apparently in Winters case). Who would they gain that another team would be willing to give up?

          • Steglitz49

            I agree with you about selling Tobin Heath. There is an obvious speculant in PSG. Should PSG get that other French CL slot then the Emir may well want her fulltime — and pay for it, more than for Ms Horan.

            I would only sell Alex for real money. Seeing that Lyon payed Gbg 200k€ for Lotta Schelin 5 years ago, I would expect Alex to fetch 300k€ today. I am not persuaded that I would get much for Ms Sinclair outside USA and Canada; no point giving her away.

            On the other hand, were I the Emir, I would simply keep using Tobin when the NWSL is not playing, which is most of the French season and spend my money on another 18-20:years old lass or two.

          • vert2013

            After seeing a few PSG games, I personally don’t think PSG could give her anything more than money. They’re not a great team by a long stretch and the only reason they’re in 2nd in the table is because everyone else is simply that far worse. For her soccer development, PSG doesn’t seem like a good long term option for her.

          • Steglitz49

            Farid Benstiti, the manager who built Lyon, has only been with PSG for this season. It was with him the Emir made money available to build up the side. Simply being coached by Benstiti will grow Tobin just like for Christen Press working with Torbjörn Nilsson helped her develop.

            Ms Heath also gets to live in Paris and be paid for it. Not bad. PSG ought to be in next season’s CL.

            None of the European ladies’ leagues breaks even. They are all subsidized one way or another. In addition some teams have generous patrons usually in the shape of wealthy men’s teams who see it as good PR or a reasonable community service. In some countries, France and the UK, the government has been active behind the scenes apparently (ie give the ladies some support or else we will legislate). The ladies’ game is rapidly splitting into the haves and have-nots.

          • NYRick

            But the future IMO is Alex-Press, not Alex-Abby. Besides, AM could make any forward teamed with her look good. So why not team the most talented US forward, Press, with her.

          • vert2013

            It also depends on how they do allocation with expansion teams. Do they expand the allocated list or do they hope that the teams have enough revenue that US Soccer no longer has to pay for the NT players? I agree that Press is the future, but in terms of NWSL I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Plus Press had the opportunity to play NWSL this year and chose to re-sign in Sweden anyway.

          • Steglitz49

            Ms Press obviously concluded that Tyresö was a better berth than a team in the NWSL. Let’s hope it works out for her and if all goes well Christen will help lift the CL trophy in 2014 for Tyresö plus at least the Swedish league trophy, she already having acquired one Swedish Cup with Göteborg.

            If you believe the figures from Europe, you need a salary budget of about $3m to match the top European teams. That is the main reason that the leagues are separating into the haves and have-nots. Of the 4 CL semi-finalists, 3 belong to wealthy men’s clubs and the fourth (Juvisy) has players supported by the French Federation so as to try to avoid the D1 being just Lyon and PSG.

          • Steglitz49

            That looks like Sermanni’s plan. Abby will become a substitute for the last 15-20 min, like Beckham the other night for PSG.

            Sermanni’s headache is the midfield and defense, not the attack, and he has to settle on which goalie he wants to train up. He would be unwise to rely on Hope Solo getting back to her old self.

            There will be many candidates in Canada in 2 years time, not just the usual suspects and the home nation, though for the ladies home ground does not seem an advantage. It has not mattered since OG-96 nor WC-99. What happened during the second millennium?

          • Anton

            There’s no proof that Alex wanted Portland, at least as her #1 choice. To me, her saying ‘Portland was my top choice’ means nothing because she could have been allocated to the middle of nowhere in Montana and she would have said the same thing, that’s how she is. Could PDX have been #1? Yes, but I’m skeptical.

            It’s pretty obvious that she had PDX/SEA as her top two though (with probably WNY as her third). So whoever did the allocations had to stack someone to make Alex happy because SEA was getting Hope and PDX was getting Sinclair no matter what. It’s just sad that they chose to give one team a massive competitive advantage instead of giving one a marketing advantage.

            Of course they could have just done the smart thing and put Alex in the midwest, but I’m not going there again.

          • vert2013

            Alex had her choice of teams. I’ll bet you every team had her at the top of the list they turned in to US Soccer and therefore Alex basically got to pick. Plus US Soccer/NWSL would do just about anything to keep her happy, remember Alex was a hold out. She didn’t publicly commit to playing NWSL until allocated players were announced.

          • Anton

            I don’t doubt that Alex’s list was held in higher regards than others and every team had her #1, but I also don’t believe she was given first choice over say, Hope, Abby or Sinclair (who clearly got what they wanted), which she shouldn’t have. Alex may have gotten her #1 choice in the end, but no way do I think she was put on Portland before Sinclair.

            In the end, none of us know what really went down and who wanted to play where (except Hope and Sinc), but however anyone spins it, it just brings up question after question and those questions will probably never go away. Unless of course, someone speaks… or if the Thorns don’t end up winning the title.

          • Steglitz49

            Sinclair being Canadian would have been allocated separately from Alex Morgan, who is American. Why should Alex Morgan not get her first choice if her first choice wanted her?

            The league is what the league is and the sooner the matches start, the better for everyone.

          • Anton

            Because Alex and Sinclair on the same team is fair to nobody but the Thorns. That’s not debatable. This wasn’t like giving one team Lauren Cheney and Desiree Scott, this was giving one team two of the top five players in the world.

            If both Alex and Sinclair had Portland #1, Sinclair should have been the only one in PDX.

          • Steglitz49

            Assume that Canadian, Mexican and US players were allocated separately, this would explain why Ms Morgan and Sinclair ended up where they are.

            Ms Sinclair, fine player though she is, is not among the world’s five best players.

          • TsovLoj

            Bullshit. I would to this day take Sinclair over Morgan.

          • Steglitz49

            I think you would be in a minority of one.

          • Short_Change

            The UNC connection with Parlow-Heath may have been a factor.

          • NYRick

            That’s a good point regarding the Parlow-Heath UNC thing. That could have been a factor, but what NWSL team wouldn’t want Tobin? When she gets it going, she is one of the most creative, and skilled players in the world and a real fan favorite. Putting her on Alex’s team is a misuse of spreading the talent around the league, but also, and maybe just as important spreading the most popular players around too.

            Also to note with Alex-Press teaming on a future NWSL Cali team. As everyone knows, both are from LA county, both starred at California schools and both surely wouldn’t mind playing close to friends and family. It’s a perfect match all the way around and US Soccer should make it happen in 2014 for the good of the national program. They obviously had the power to fix the allocation any way they wanted.

          • KT5000

            If we open up the line of thinking that the PNW “doesn’t need the help”, then can’t we also say that it makes sense to put stars where the fans are? (Or, to give players some degree of choice, given how much sacrifice and dedication it takes to stick with a sport that only pays the bills for a small handful? As you say, your gripe is that these players wanted to stay in the PNW… what, they owe you something?)

            If the WNT federations are paying salaries to keep their players conditioned and (likely as a secondary consideration) try to kickstart a pro league here, it’s an afterthought to them whether it’s 100% perfectly even. They want players to be happy and for the league to sustain. And for all we know the Canadian, US, and Mexican federations allocated separately.

            There hasn’t been a practice for starting a league that HAS worked, evidently. Do you think the league itself is being legitimately “shady”? I am honestly taken aback by the reaction to ALL THIS MEDIA COVERAGE and its incredible bias. There’s so little media coverage of this league and women’s sports. There’s so little framework for a league to use in this situation.

            And, going back to heircircumstance’s comment, I have been voraciously seeking out media coverage of this league, and have not come across these trumped-up arguments that Portland would struggle. It’s valid to say there were question marks. Think about it – you’re a writer with very little info and there are a lot of uncommitted players and deep college draft picks… that’s an understandable read on the situation.

          • Steglitz49

            Your point is well taken. Women’s sports get precious little mention in US media and this league seems to get more noticed abroad than in USA!

            I expect that you are correct that the Canadian, Mexican and USA federation allocated separately. It stands to reason.

            Ladies’ football the world over needs for the NWSL to be a success. Women players around the world understands that and wish it well, and FIFA has been most helpful.

            Of course there will be teething problems, but at least there is an NWSL and it is about to kick-off. Long may it last. BUT — it has to get media coverage in USA not just in Germany and Sweden …

          • NYRick

            I understand your argument and you make a lot of sense, but I think you are missing the point of what a professional league truly is. I get that these girls aren’t paid like other sports (sans AM, Abby and a few), but no professional league (even a women’s soccer league) can let the players dictate where they want to play. Certainly not when an “allocation” is in place to “situate” the best players from the 3 feds (especially the US players) on each team randomly. I know the salaries are subsidized, so in reality wasn’t that enough for the US players (and Sinclair) especially? Did they still have to get personal preference where they play? Of course, they all want to play in Portland and Seattle. That’s a no-brainer for any of them. But as important and good as Morgan is, she can’t dictate the league. And we know she did. No one player should have that power.

            It’s widely known that Abby called the shots in the previous failed league. How’d that turn out? These girls are playing for the survival of their sport in this country. With that, there must be sacrifice. And the sacrifice must come not from the girls filling out the roster and playing for the love of the sport, but from the stars. That’s the only way it will work. This new league should be about Title IX, not AM.

            Strong teams and popular players are needed in the Midwest and the East, not just the PNW. There is nothing to win in the PNW for soccer in general. That area of the country is won. For the sport to truly prosper, the media attention needs to come from the east coast (specifically NY) as well. Morgan called the shots, no doubt. I often praise her for many things, but if she truly cared about growing the sport in this country she should have insisted to play in the NY area. That was a challenge for her and she decided to take the safe route and play in the soccer playground where everything is candy and roses for her. We’ll see how it all turns out.

          • Steglitz49

            The NWSL is on a shoe-string trying to do what the NFL has been doing for decades and what should have been done in Europe where UEFA instead walked on big capital’s leash, the more is the pity.

            You may be right, that the NWSL may have listened too sensitively to the preferences of certain players but in terms of US funded players only Ms Heath and Morgan are in Portland. Ms Sinclair is funded by Canada. To my shame, I do not know enough about the Mexican players to express an opinion. Their star goalie is on the east coast somewhere.

            Of course there will be teething problems and we do not know what alternate cards certain players held. We know what trumps Ms Heath, Rapinoe and Brooks had in their back pockets and ARod.

            I still think KCFC and Chicago will surprise us and we want to be surprised, else why play the matches?

          • NYRick

            FIFA of course has done it wrong for years. In the EPL, you have the big 4 (with Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool) always on the fringe of cracking into CL qualifying. But it is ridiculously unfair, we all know that. The two Manchester teams, Chelsea and Arsenal can buy their way to the top 4 every season and always do. Same with La Liga (Barca and Madrid rule the league and always will), and Serie A (Juventus, Inter and AC Milan will always rule). So basically, 10 big money teams in Europe, include Bayern, control everything. And FIFA and UEFA are so corrupt and making so much money they could care less.

            American football (the kind with helmets) is not perfect, but they do have a near perfect system in place. Small market teams like Green Bay and Baltimore can contend and do win Super Bowls. And it is all due to one owner’s insight and unselfishness over 40 years ago. That being, the great and late Wellington Mara of the NY Giants. NY controlled the TV, the media and money in the sport and could have forever. Mr. Mara decided the league would prosper better for the good of all teams with competitive balance. If he didn’t do that, the NY Giants, much like the NY Yankees, would be in serious SB contention every year. Doesn’t mean they would win it, but instead of the 4 SB titles they have, they probably could have had 10-12 without Mr. Mara understanding that the league prosperity and not greed win it for all. He gave up financial and personal glory for the good of the sport. A rare bird indeed. The NY Giants simply (like Man Utd.) had more money then the other teams and could have bought up all the best players and coaches. But the NFL instituted a fair draft (bottom teams pick the top college players) and top players are deemed “franchise” players and are given a pay scale cap per position that can’t be blown out of the water by poachers. It’s a better system, and for that reason NFL American football will always be the richest and most popular sport in the US.

            That’s why, even the formation of this new NWSL should be done with hardline sacrifice BY THE STAR PLAYERS. Especially after two failures. I realize it’s not the same thing as the NFL, but put in ironclad player movement rules now. If AM doesn’t like it, she could go play in Europe. The thing is she never will. She’s not stupid. She’s as a big a female athlete star as you can be in this country. So the NWSL has her over a barrel, not the other way around. . It’s not about KC or Chicago being good. It looks like they might be. It’s about the “players” not controlling the league. That is a recipe for disaster. Might not be this year, but it could be then next year or the following. Just watch.

          • Steglitz49

            Pete Rozelle has a lot to answer for. The NFL is the nearest America will get to communism.

            Alex Morgan may, as you write, be the biggest female sports-star in America, but in Europe this is not the case on the whole. In Germany the biggest female name in sports during the past 7 years or so has been Magdalena Neuner. In Norway it is a dead heat between Björgen, Johaug and Berger and in Australia Ellyse Perry is better known for cricket than soccer. Although Pia Sundhage’s image appeared on a Swedish postage stamp 25 years ago, it seems that it really was not till her success as the coach of the USWNT that anyone took much notice of her. That stamp may have been more significant than people give it credit for. A suitable subject for a PhD.

            Well managed, the NWSL ought to become the world’s most attractive league to play in. At least that is not only what a lot of women hope but what FIFA expects. If NWSL fluffs its lines, all women’s soccer will be bang in trouble.

          • NYRick

            The NFL communism analogy is pretty funny. I never thought of it that way, but you may be right. However, in big money pro sports that model may work best to uphold fan interest in even the smaller market cities. In all of the US Big 4 sports, each team has superstars and big TV and cable contracts. Players don’t all migrate to the favorite city of choice or where the fans will treat them best. They make a king’s ransom anywhere they go and they know it. They are in fact hired mercenaries. There is no loyalty anymore in American sports (I’m talking fan to team). Players change teams through free agency like people change underwear. One year a team has a player who you detest as a hated rival to your team. The next year you are wearing his jersey for your team. I guess that’s the communism you speak of. It it quite hysterical that it started in America of all places.

            Also, I think the main point we are both trying to make here is that the NSWL needs to “get it right.” I guess that’s a grey area to whatever that means. For me, it means the inmates (players) can’t run the asylum. I don’t care how nice they are (Morgan), how deserving they may be (Morgan) or how much you have to cater to them (Morgan). It doesn’t work. Never has and never will. History has proven that in all pro sports. In the end, a star athlete (and their team of agents and handlers) will 98% of the time act in the best financial situation for themselves and their agents. Not in the best interests in the health of the league. And as you astutely put it, the whole of women’s soccer is riding on the success of the new American league. That’s the 80,000 lb. gorilla in the room no one wants to say is there, but it’s true.

            The The NWSL is currently set up as a star player’s league. IMO, that’s a colossal mistake. Those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Abby ran the last league indirectly, but in reality, very directly. Stars usually make the worst owners and business people. Ask Michael Jordan.

          • Steglitz49

            You raise a big and complex set of issues which are not easily answered. Let’s turn it around and look at it another way.

            How do you satisfy the aspirations and desires of the young ladies in America (pop 315 m) who want to play soccer professionally? Germany (pop 85 m) has a 12 team ladies’ league + feeder leagues, as do Sweden (9 m) and Norway (5 m). Does the NWSL need to be 4 leagues of 12 or 8 leagues of 8 teams, with a CL bolted on for the top teams from each league? How do you get there? Maybe 16 leagues, even?

            I do not think that the players have much influence on the NWSL. I do not think that Ms Sinclair has any influence at all. I doubt if any foreign club can afford Alex Morgan, so in a sense she is outside the market and therefore powerless.

            The world took the plucky Nadeshiko to heart. They are lousily paid, treated disdainfully by their association but bask in the love of the people and the world. What can the phenomenon of Japanese ladies soccer teach us?

            Male soccer players go for the money, which in the last 25 years or so has become really big. The last time semi-amateur male teams won anything of significance in Europe was 1982 and 87. At the same time, quite a lot of male players in the big leagues have not gone abroad, preferring the local coin. But USA is one and indivisible. Today KC; tomorrow Kalamazo.

            None of the European ladies’ leagues breaks even. They are all subsidized one way or another. In addition some teams have generous patrons usually in the shape of wealthy men’s teams who see it as good PR or a reasonable community service. In some countries, France and the UK, the government has been active behind the scenes apparently (ie give the ladies some support or else we will legislate). For the NWSL, the FAs of Canada and Mexico chip in, but the brunt of the cost comes from US Soccer. Where does US Soccer’s money originate? For how long can they pick up the tab? Maximum to 2016.

          • necron99

            Such BS. The players always do what is best for the players… Of course they do.. and the owners do what is best for who? the owners, and definitely not the league. How about those lockouts in the last year? The NHL with popularity down since the previous lockout decides to lockout again? All because the owners can’t control themselves and keep giving out stupid contracts. They are like idiots with credit cards. They want to declare bankruptcy every few years to wipe away the dumb contracts they themselves made.
            Nobody knows what it is going to take to make a Women’s pro league truly work and survive. There is give and take in everything. The league needs the players and the players want/need the league.
            I love the whispered conspiracy theories “Abby ran the last league, everyone knows it”. Where is the expose’? Where are the leaked incriminating documents and meeting notes that show Abby controlling the cabal, running the league? Was it Abby or Mia who ran the first league that failed? You can hate where Alex Morgan ended up, but she has a right to make a living and request to play where she prefers. And I say this as a Spirit season ticketholder who got the shortest end of the allocation stick. She surely could have played somewhere else, just as Sinclair was days away from doing. As long as she is a star for the USWNT she would have those endorsements. Or do you think she got them for her play in W-League last year? If you want to make the rules put up your money and run a team. Show us how it is done, sustainably.
            What these leagues need is asses in seats. If the fans don’t show up they don’t survive. The costs can be lowered only so far, or you just build W-Leauge and WPSL for the third time.

          • NYRick

            Read your last couple of sentences again. Stuff about “fans needing to show up or the league won’t survive.” Don’t you think spreading around the star power to different cities and capitalizing on the current popularity of the USWNT players would do that more than anything else? The fact that AM, Hope, Pinoe and Heath (probably the 4 most popular players on the team sans Abby) are playing in the PNW is just poor and unwise marketing by the league.

            That’s the basis of my whole argument anyway. No one is intentionally picking on poor Alex Morgan. The rest of the star players are just as guilty. But AM is far bigger than anyone else on the team and has a far greater influence on the league’s success. The league won’t necessarily succeed or fail on her shoulders, but her actions will affect it more than any other player, now and in the foreseeable future.

          • necron99

            There is no “Poor” Alex Morgan. She is an adult who makes her own decisions and seems pretty successful for it. She doesn’t read these message boards where us fans argue about her. I just tire of the same theory being pushed over and over again in multiple threads. When it reaches past opinions into outright mindreading is when I think it goes to far. I prefer to answer those messages so at least some of the casual observers don’t take wild speculation for fact and carry it outward into discussion elsewhere.

            I read this statement and it could well prove true:
            “The fact that AM, Hope, Pinoe and Heath (probably the 4 most popular players on the team sans Abby) are playing in the PNW is just poor and unwise marketing by the league. -NYRick”
            At least in this instance you are saying the league made the bad decision and not Alex Morgan.
            I hope it doesn’t turn out that way. I put my money where my mouth is and bought season tickets in hopes that it succeeds. I am not interested in I told you sos.

          • NYRick

            What exactly was wild speculation by anyone here? AM was allocated to Portland. That’s fact, not speculation. Any fan who follows the sport can comment on that. She’s the most important name and player in the sport right now. Especially when it was widely publicized that there would be an allocation of the top US players, and they were given a preference choice of where they may like to play as well. That’s fact, not speculation.

            Where does mind reading come into play? There were only 3 outcomes to assume for AM: 1) Yes, I want to play in Portland or Seattle, those are my first and second choices 2) I really don’t care to play in any other city 3) I may play in Europe if this doesn’t shake out the way I want it. That’s it. No one is faulting her. She has power right now, they need to cater to her and she played by the rules currently in the system. The same way Hope, Abby, Sinc and Pinoe did. But her decision stacks one team with 2 of the 5 best players (forwards and scorers no less) in the world. People may want to comment on that. Even the writers of the Equalizer want to and should be commenting on that. That’s an important issue as it pertains to the new league.

            BTW, I bought season tix for Sky Blue, so my money is where my mouth is too.

          • Steglitz49

            “She [AM] surely could have played somewhere else, just as Sinclair was days away from doing” — there is no hard evidence that either of them were offered anything outside of the NWSL.

            PSG signed Kosse Asllani and Tobin Heath, while Lyon Megan Rapinoe and Bayern Munich Amber Brooks. In addition a number of Japanese ladies came to Europe.

            Alex has every right to ask for her first choice. Ms Sinclair was allocated as a Canadian so the fact that she and Ms Morgan play together is OK.

          • futbolista

            I agree with you. AM & Sinc both wants to play in PDX let them be. Having a formidable paper lineup does not guarantee a Championship just look at the Lakers.

            Putting to much pressure on several players alone for the survival of the league is just funny.

            Can with just wait for the season to start before talking about survival.

            I’m just happy that NWSL is just days away.

          • Don B.

            Sinclair herself said a couple of days ago that she was on the verge of signing to play in Europe.

            ——————————–

            From NBC Sports, March 21:

            “I was actually within a couple of days of signing in France,” Sinclair said, asked about the temptation of accepting a lucrative offer from aFeminine Division club. The 29-year-old attacker later confirmed Paris Saint-Germain nearly signed her last fall.

            U.S. internationals Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath have accepted lucrative, short-term offers to spend the spring in France. Their deals with Lyon and PSG (respectively) run into June, when they’ll join their NWSL teams.

            Sinclair’s deal would have been a permanent one, and if it wasn’t for her desire to take time off after the London Olympics, the 29-year-old star would be in Paris now.

            “That was back in September, October,” Sinclair explained. “There were rumors of a league forming in the U.S. I had sort of given myself the fall off from the Olympics last year knowing that would have been my last break before World Cup [preparation] and the next Olympic prep starts. So I decided to hold off and hope the league would form here, and I’m so glad I did.”

            ———————————————————————-

          • Steglitz49

            Last September was an interesting time. There were rumors that various French clubs were about to sign Ms Sinclair, Wambach and Solo. Then PSG announced that they had signed Kosse Asllani and promptly published a picture of Kosse and Zlatan in Paris together with various PSG senior brass. Then there was silence. You could have heard an elephant fall.

            Much later at a press-conference that year a jaded journalist asked Zlatan whether it was true that he had tried to recruit Lotta Schelin to PSG and he confessed that he had but failed.

            PSG seem happy to take Ms Heath on a limited basis. Maybe she will make PSG her home after a tour of duty in the NWSL?

          • necron99

            I am going by Sinclair’s own statements. I am sure she has a much better idea of what she was going to do and why she was going to do it than all of the people on the internet with their speculation.

          • Steglitz49

            “The players always do what is best for the players” you type. Some might disagree. Fritz Walter only ever played for his beloved Kaiserslautern and Uwe Seeler was always with Hamburg. Such loyalty is rare today admittedly, but many Man Utd players have stayed with United, though not all of course.

          • Steglitz49

            “The players always do what is best for the players” you type. Some might disagree. Fritz Walter only ever played for his beloved Kaiserslautern and Uwe Seeler was always with Hamburg. Such loyalty is rare today admittedly, but many Man Utd players have stayed with United, though not all of course.

          • necron99

            You gave a couple of examples to my generalized answer to someone’s sweeping generalization. I do not need to pull up Sports Illustrated’s webpage and type out a list of football players changing teams for millions of dollars do I?

        • http://twitter.com/hercircumstance hercircumstance

          After the allocation a few in the media spread around the idea that Portland had holes that would be hard to fill and big question marks. They wanted Portland to appear on level with other teams who have long lists of legit problems.

          No one bought it. It just came off as a straw man argument to distract from what was an indefensible allocation. The newsworthy topic no one seemed to want to take on and still don’t. Maybe you weren’t aware that was where the whole “but Portland has question marks too” thing came from. It was never a real argument. No one believed Portland would have difficulties. Not even those who introduced the idea. They just wanted the allocation drama to go away.

          So listing these straw-like fears no one believed and showing how Portland has proved them wrong, as weak of obstacles as you admit they are, feels like a continuation of how Portland is handled in the media. It is by no means an indictment of you. Since that was a topic planted out there in the general conversation fair enough to cover it I guess.

          I don’t envy those covering Portland. They had an embarrassing amount of riches land in their lap through questionable means. The only way anything they do is newsworthy is if they go off script which they haven’t yet. Right now they are exactly line and verse with where we all thought they’d be, fake obstacles overcome included.

    • KT5000

      Totally agree that Portland did get a sweet allocation, but I’d say it stops at the strikers.

      Heath is amazing, but hasn’t proven to contribute professionally any more than any of the other allocated midfielders. I know, I know, it’s heresy to say it because she is a gem (esp. in situations that favor her) and engenders true devotion from fans because she’s awesome to watch, but… see above. (I am a huge Tobin fan, honestly, but these arguments have been made to me and I think they’re fair.) Plus, she’s gone for most of the season – possibly known to the federation beforehand?

      Ditto Buehler – she’s a top defender in the same way all the other allocated WNT defenders are top defenders.

      • Steglitz49

        I put it to you that you are a bit harsh on Ms Heath. After all, she plays for PSG; the others don’t.

        As for Ms Buehler, she was sent off in WC-11 and should have been sent off in the Olympic final and cost USA a penalty. Any ref worth her salt will have her in her sights (including the touch-judges) and the yellow card ready. I would trade her today, even for a draft pick.

        • NYRick

          Hmmm. I’m just going to go out on a limb here and maybe assume that you are not a big fan of the Buehldozer?

          • Steglitz49

            A manager prefers players who do not risk yellow or red cards. Players who have a history of cautions run the risk of being cautioned. In his whole career Gary Lineker never even had a yellow card!

  • ItIsWhatItIS

    JERSEYS: Ugliest Jersey goes to Portland Thorns! It looks like the worst PE jersey of all time, this reminds me of the ugly St. Louis Athletic Jerseys with that ugly GRAY! Also why would they have the goalkeeper wear a training penny! Couldn’t they just use some WHITE Portlands tshirt, I thought that looked pathetic. No Goalie Jersey? I know this is just preason, but if the real Thorns outfit looks like that, it be horrible. Alex and Sinclair would look like every game is a training game.

    Also who is this Emilee O’Neil???? Over the past 5-7 years, I have followed Stanford extremely close, but who is this? I saw the picture and it didn’t ring a bell. She have a maiden name? Also found out Marian Doughtery is Marian Dalmy which is a huge thing that people are overlooking as well.

    I still think Portland has one of the strong defenses in the league, or the best even with Buehler’s starting partner in question. Marshall, Doughtery and Buehler? That’s strong already. Also didn’t Avant play outside, thought she was in starting 11. Who has even 3 top defenders like them? Frankly none.

    Might be missing some people, but honestly the defenses below don’t seem that strong compared to Portlands.
    WNY: Franch, Taylor, Mercado, Reynolds, Johnson
    DC: Toulouse, Gayle, Krieger, Harris, maybe Chapman
    SBFC: Johnson, Lisonbee, Rampone, Foord, Cameron
    SEAT: Zurrer, Reed, Barnes, Deines
    BOST: Wilkinson, Whitehill, McNeill, King, Whatever GK
    KCFC:Sauerbrunn, Sesselmann, Robinson, Henninger/Barnhart
    CHI: Moscato, Fowkles Hemmings, Quon, Wenino, GK Vancil/McLeod

    Even though people will always talk about the Sinclair/Morgan allocation, I can only think of that as a good thing for EVERY OTHER forward out there since it will give them way more playing time on other NWSL teams and chances to shine without being over shadowed if they were paired with Morgan or Sinclair.

    • Steglitz49

      Ms Foord, Johnson and Rampone look pretty good to me.

      • Kernel Thai

        Throw in Cutshall and they have probably the back line with the best upside in the league.

      • Michelle

        Not to mention O’Hara — she’s been playing up front but can obviously move back if needed.

        • Steglitz49

          Kelley O’Hara ought to be an attacking (left) wing-back like Aya Sameshima and the Magic Dwarf (who oddly enough is almost totally right-footed).

    • vert2013

      Those weren’t their official kits. It was their practice gear with numbers on the back.

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.ogawa.3 Craig Ogawa

    Nice article but I’d be careful about overstating the goal shortages in WPS. It was true their first year (no surprise there as all teams were “expansion teams”). The goals per game I think was around 2.17 The last figure I saw for 2010 (year 2) was about 2.5 goals per average, pretty close to MLS and Premier League. I can’t recall the figures for Year 3. In general, I believe soccer would benefit from a bit more scoring but, without some good evidence, I think it’s misleading to suggest that WPS was particularly deficient in that regard.

    • Steglitz49

      There used to be a time when 1-0 was considered a high-scoring game in Serie A. We have moved on from those dark days much owing to excellent, strong referees. Hopefully the refereeing in the NWSL will be top notch.

      Given that a goal is whole and indivisible, I am not persuaded that 2.17 goals per game is a meaningful statistic, not least when the NWSL only has 8 teams. Medians and inter-quartile ranges would seem more valid. If you go far enough back, the goal-ratio was used to determine the position in the English (and many other) league. Maybe it still is as a last resort.

    • StarCityFan

      2009 – 2.14
      2010 – 2.55
      2011 – 2.78

      WUSA did somewhat better (if you like scoring, at least)

      2001 – 2.80
      2002 – 3.32
      2003 – 2.99

      • Steglitz49

        It would be interesting to know what the medians and inter-quartile ranges were because a goal is a categorical event — it is either a goal or not, like dead or alive — so continuous statistics are not appropriate.

        The goal-ratio, the number of goals scored divided by the number conceded by each team might be interesting.

        • http://www.facebook.com/craig.ogawa.3 Craig Ogawa

          Thank you to StarCityFan and Steglitz for their comments although’ll be damned if I understand Steglitz’s foray into the world of higher math :) But given the reasonable amount of parity in WPS, the goals-per-game averages that StarCityFan posted bear out what I was saying – that with the exception of Year1, the goal-scoring in WPS was pretty typical for professional soccer.

          • Steglitz49

            Generally, scoring in ladies’ matches tends to be higher than in men’s. This is partly because women goalies are shorter than men. Another reason is that because so many ladies’ team are semi-amateur, they tire more than the fully professional teams, and a lot of goals come in the last 10-15 minutes of the match.

            Matches like Japan’s victory against Germany in the WC-11 QF with a fabulous goal taken at high speed in extra time are quite rare but speaks to the high level of fitness among modern top teams. Likewise in the final, there were two goals in extra time (as well as a red card — something Canada overlooked a year later).

  • Steglitz49

    One gets the impression that Portland will be the Lyon of the NWSL.

    I have had a soft spot for KCFC and carry a torch for Chicago.

    • http://twitter.com/hercircumstance hercircumstance

      Yeah. But at least with Lyon you can follow the money trail.

      • Steglitz49

        I expect that money trail to be wider each year — maybe even a veritable Interstate — because men’s teams have realized how cheap the PR from a good ladies side is.

        In (men’s) soccer terms, Lyon is pretty small beer that gets a huge exposure from having a top-notch ladies’ side — mostly homegrown to boot. Of the four CL semi-finalists only Juvisy does not benefit from a men’s club, though Juvisy gets help from the French federation who do not just want a league consisting of Lyon and PSG.

        As Lindsey Horan went to PSG and as Amber Brooks to Bayern, maybe with so many of the NWSL bases loaded, we can expect the foreign clubs to recruit from the pre-college as well as the NCAA assembly line. American girls of hispanic background may find spain to their liking.

    • vert2013

      I think in terms of dominance maybe, but I don’t think the skill level will be as drastic a drop off like in D1.

      • Steglitz49

        Good point. The skill level is a problem in most European leagues, except possibly, in the German ladies league. I think it is so in Japan also.

        • heremerawr

          Ali Krieger has said that that there is a definite drop off in the women’s Bundesliga. People can complain all they like about how Portland is overpowered, but the NWSL is still most likely to be the most balanced women’s league in the world, “shady allocations” or no.

          • Steglitz49

            This year the ladies DFB-Cup is played on 19 May between the She-Wolves of Wolfsburg (to practical purposes VW’s team) and the Turbines of Potsdam — flesh vs machine if you like.

            The current standings at the top of the ladies DFB is: — Wolfsburg 15 played, 38 points; Frankfurt 15 pl, 34 pts; Potsdam 14 pl, 31 pts; Bayern 15 pl, 27 pts and Freiburg 17 pl, 25 pts, but Potsdam has a better goal difference than Frankfurt. That is not so unbalanced but 3 teams are clearly out in front.

            To get high a skill level, all players have to be full-time professionals. This costs money. Lyon has a salary budget of 3-3.5m€, PSG’s is slighly less, Potsdam and Frankfurt have about 2m€. Wolfsburg’s is not known. It is no coincidence that Ms Rapinoe play for Lyon and PSG. Teams in the Nordic leagues cannot begin to match these budgets. Money talks.

          • vert2013

            Yeah but look at D1 for example. Points aside, there is a huge talent drop off after Lyon. PSG doesn’t even hold a candle to OL. When you have a 12 team league and there are 27 point difference between the 1st and 5th place teams like in D1, that’s not a balanced league in my opinion.

    • KT5000

      I can’t wait to see KCFC! They are very intriguing.

      • Steglitz49

        Absolutley. Let’s see that trophy in the Mid-West!! (KCFC probably more likely than the Windy City.)

    • Michelle

      I honestly think that even with all the “star power” in Portland, KCFC is the team to beat.

      Portland opening in Kansas City was initially a head-scratcher to me — now it’s the matchup I can’t wait to watch.

      • NYRick

        Is it just me or when you see KCFC, am I the only one who thinks Kentucky Fried Chicken? I know they got that boxing sponsor, but how great would it have been for KCFC to have KFC as their main sponsor? And a free Chicken Little voucher to the crowd after every KC win.

        As for the team, I do like the talent too. Especially if Casey N. has her act together. I look for Mewis to start emerging as a star too.

        • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

          And what does FCKC make you think of?

          • NYRick

            Nice one!

          • Steglitz49

            Fukushima Cooling Katastrofy Cascade — Miyama and Sameshima come from areas badly affected by the earthquake and tsunami though I expect all the Nadeshiko were involved. They certainly brought a rare ray of sunshine to a sorely tested people.

        • Steglitz49

          They ought to be KCLFC like Arsenal LFC and Chelsea LFC etc. They forgot the “ladies”. Compare: it is the LPGA and not WPGA.

        • Michelle

          I did not think of KFC, but I will now.

          I realized after posting that their official initials are FCKC, which is just horrible. I always do a double take when I see it written that way.

          • Steglitz49

            One of the most celebrated English ladies sides are the Doncaster Belles. Thus, the team could be the Kansas City Belles, shortened City Belles or simply the Bells, there being no other City team in the NWSL.Ring out the old; ring in the new.

            Maybe they could ask Man City if they could play in their light blue strip also. The fans could stand and chime cow bells the way that the Swiss support their skiers. Maybe Milka could even come in as a sponsor?

            Of course, generally English clubs put in a “Ladies” in the club name for their women — Arsenal Ladies, Chelsea Ladies, Liverpool Ladies etc. The tradition of “ladies” was adopted by the Nordic countries for all sports. Thus in Swedish it is Damallsvenskan for the ladies’ league, not Kvinnoallsvenskan.

            Another exception are the Lionesses of Millwall. Their ground is called the Den. Kobe Leonessa are in the same vein.

  • Kernel Thai

    Im not convinced everything is rosy in Portland. Have they overcome anything? No, but they have stumbled anywhere they needed to make decisions. Sure they got the gift of allocation and had no problem bringing in prime free agents. They didnt do as well in either draft however and that means their depth in the middle and back r suspect. To give them the championship u also have to believe in LeBlanc. Myself, Im not convinced Portland wins tough games by outscoring people.

    • vert2013

      Their midfield is stacked and that’s before Tobin gets back. Their back line needs some work but their midfield is not suspect by a long shot.

  • Anton

    Is it wrong for me to hope that this team falls flat on it’s face?

    • Steglitz49

      Maybe coming second in the NWSL would satisfy in the country where “coming second, that’s what we call losing” was coined.

    • Don B.

      I suppose every sports league needs a villain to root against, and if Portland is yours, go for it.

  • Don B.

    I’m a little confused about why all the criticism for player allocation choices is being directed at Morgan as though she manipulated the system. She was, like everyone else, given the opportunity to select three teams she would like to play for, and the teams were allowed to submit which players they would like. That’s two out of three determining factors, the third being some nebulous formula by an “outside” party to decide player placement. She had Portland as her first choice. Portland seemed to have her as their first choice (as well as almost every team). Who knows what the outside party thought? Anyway, she ended up in Portland. Now, she’s being criticised for not doing what is right for the league. Nowhere have I heard it even hinted that she would have refused to play elsewhere, or go overseas if she didn’t get what she wanted.

    Does this apply to other high profile players as well, or only her? Let’s look at four others.

    How about Hope Solo? She’s a huge draw, yet she chose Seattle, another team that would do just fine without her name attached to it. Everyone pretty much has said that she would not play anywhere else, and I’m guessing her three top choices were Seattle, Seattle and Seattle. I suppose she also decided not to do what’s best for the league and move to Chicago, for example. Did she manipulate the league and hold them over a barrel to play in Seattle?

    How about Pinoe? She decided to play in Europe instead of committing to a new league for a full season. And when she was allocated to Seattle rather than Portland, her first choice, she was vocal in expressing her feelings of disappointment. She didn’t sign up for the full program, and didn’t want to willingly sacrifice by playing somewhere other than her first choice. Sounds to me like she didn’t want to sacrifice anything. I will give her credit for not attempting to manipulate the league, because if that was her strategy, it failed miserably.

    What about Abby? She said that she wanted to play in Portland, and even has a home there. But she was allocated to NY, in her hometown no less. The Flash has a huge following, and has for many years, all without Abby. She could have said NY didn’t really need her and that she’d rather play in Kansas City, for the betterment of the league, but she didn’t. She got either her first or second choice, and yet no one is questioning that.

    Carli Lloyd. I can’t imagine that she didn’t pick Sky Blue as her first choice, but who knows? And maybe they didn’t pick her. But it remains that she was paired up with Abby in NY supposedly because the Flash was only going to get two national teamers. Now, for the good of the league, she could have said that having her and Abby together was too much for an already rabid soccer market, but she didn’t. I will give Carli credit for being perhaps the least vocal of all players on her allocation.

    Alex Morgan is arguably the most popular and well recognized female soccer player in the US. With over 1.1 million twitter followers, she has more than probably all the US men and women team players together. But why single her out as not making a sacrifice? If the league fails, will Morgan be solely responsible because she got what she wanted? On the other hand, if it succeeds, will she be solely reponsible for that? The answer is no, and no.

    Portland got a fantastic draw, that’s a given. But we still don’t know exactly how the allocations were decided with regard to the Canada and Mexico federations. I’m pretty sure that if Sinclair had not been offered Portland, she would be playing in Europe right now. She was ready to sign a contract as such, one day before the new league was announced. Did she manipulate the system as well?

    As an aside, regarding the Mexican players; Portland now has none of them. Mexico says they were pulled from the allocation because they were not up to Mexico’s team standards, but I’m betting that they weren’t going to make the team, and pulling them was a bit of face saving.

    • NYRick

      Hi Don,

      Hope all is well. First off, as it pertains to Alex you know how highly I always speak of her. At this moment in time, I think she is the most important female athlete in the world. That includes Sharapova and Serena. And the great news is that for the most part, she understands her place and importance to women’s soccer, the USWNT, Title IX, her potential legacy and young girls in this country. If the US Soccer Fed had to go into a lab and make the near perfect player/person to represent and grow their sport in this country, they could not have done it any better. She is literally a Powerball ticket stuck in one’s coat that you forgot about for US women’s soccer. That’s how lucky they are to have her.

      With all that said, I think she kind of missed the boat in this NWSL allocation process by ending up in Portland. Let me preface that by saying that I personally don’t know how it fully worked, other than what I heard (the players had 3 preferred choices etc.), so my opinion is merely just that, and not fact based as it pertains to this issue. But you bring up Pinoe, Hope, Abby and Carli. All good examples who probably also acted a bit selfishly too. However, the difference is that they are not Alex. She’s not just bigger than them, she is miles apart right now from any of them. She obviously had personal reasons for staying in the PNW and on the west coast in general. No one is faulting her for that. But this was a real opportunity for her to “manipulate” the system in a way a little out of her comfort zone. She could have easily went to the powers that be and insisted: put me in one of two places, Chicago or Sky Blue (for the NY market) for the good of the league. The PNW is experiencing a soccer boom, they don’t need me. Chicago and NY are where I could really help this league and in turn, grow the sport. That’s it. No big deal, just a lost opportunity in my opinion for the sport to utilize their number asset in a smart and positive way. Maybe she is still too young and it’s a bit unfair to put that on her. But she is the star of stars. It sometimes comes with the territory. Hence, the criticism.

      Also, aside from that, I don’t for the life of me understand why she would possibly want to play on the same team as Sinclair. Two years ago she had to play second fiddle to Sinc on the Flash. This is not two years ago. Why would she want to be in that position again, even if she fancies herself as the ultimate team player.

      • vert2013

        Let’s face it. NWSL needed Morgans participation, no matter what team she was playing for. If you look at ticket sales for the east coast teams, their ticket sales against Portland are well above average for any other opponent.

        She didn’t have to play NWSL, it’s pretty common knowledge that she had offers from European teams and the fact that she didn’t publicly commit to the league until the allocated players list was announced kinda shows me she was weighing her options. If letting her play where she wants to play was what they needed to do to keep her stateside, it would have been stupid to refuse. Plus, the allocation process was pretty cut and dry. Players made a list and teams made a list. I’m assuming Alex was most likely on the top of each teams list, therefore Alex most likely got her 1st choice.

        You’re right when you say Portland doesn’t need Alex for them to get butts in seats, but is it fair to punish Alex just because the place she wants to play doesn’t need a huge name to survive? She sacrificed pretty lucrative European contracts to play NWSL, why not give her a bone?

        • Anton

          Yes I agree, the NWSL needed Alex Morgan to make it legitimate, but it needed Alex Morgan the superstar moreso than Alex Morgan the player. But putting her in one of the two places that were selling no matter what is not smart business and wasting her starpower.

          To my knowledge she turned down Lyon and I think Arsenal (which is ironic, seeing as how they won’t spend big on a star men’s forward, but anyways), so yes, good on her for turning down bigger offers to stay stateside. But I doubt that the only thing she wanted was to play in either Portland or Seattle, there had to be more. And no, the allocation process is nowhere near that cut and dry, the lists only matter to the big stars and the team lists mean squat. After the stars get their way, competitive balance is the single most important thing (and basically the whole point) in allocations, and this one failed miserably.

          It’s not so much punishing Alex, it’s that you’re punishing the rest of the league to cater to her wants. Alex’s allocation gets singled out because it is so dumbfounding. Her placement on Portland unfairly stacked one team and didn’t sell one more ticket in PDX than Pinoe/Sinc would have.

          Pinoe/Winters to PDX, Morgan to CHI, and Tobin to SEA would have made 100x more sense from both a competitive and marketing perspective.

          • futbolista

            Thorns middies are stock. Edwards is rock solid looking forward to hear a national call up for her. The backline need more dept.

            In regards to the allocation people are pointing on the direction that other players are free to choose where they want to play but her why not tell Sinc and Hope to play other than SEA & PDX.

            Let AM be and fans should just support the league.We should also be reminded that PDX don’t have Tobin and Mexican allocations.

          • Anton

            Because Hope and Sinc have been warriors for their respective national teams for over a decade now and deserved to get their first choices. They also have deep roots in Seattle and Portland respectively, unlike Alex.

            I’m going to support the league, I just don’t like how it started. PDX won’t even notice Tobin’s absence in the first few games. They’ll just bowl over everyone with two of the top 5 players in the world.

          • heremerawr

            It’s a little disheartening that you’re so convinced Portland will destroy the other teams. Are they likely to be a strong team? Absolutely. But throwing out such predictions before the first match seems to be a bit hasty. Wait and see how all the teams gel together in actual GAMES, and not just on paper, before throwing matches to Portland. Many have pointed out that KCFC looks strong. I personally think both SBFC and WNY will be great as well, but there could easily be an unexpected team that does great. My point is, we can speculate and gripe all we want, but until teams start playing actual matches, we can’t be positive how anything will turn out.

        • soccerlove101

          I just can’t seems to put into perspective why people are only pointing Alex out in regards to the allocation. As far as we all know she only did what the other players did and that is to choose 3 teams. Her 1st choice is Portland and Portland wants her. She is understandably is the most recognizable figure among all the other players but she had work hard for it.

          Pointing her out as a selfish person for choosing a team in PNW seems harsh.

          • Anton

            Absolutely nobody’s calling Alex selfish for wanting to play for Portland/Seattle, as NYRick said, she has her personal reasons for wanting to play in the PNW, there’s nothing wrong with that. Plenty of players certainly wanted certain teams due to personal reasons (ie.. Hope, HAO, Rampone etc..). People are calling her ‘selfish’ (might be the wrong word) because Alex and her camp most definitely pulled strings behind the scenes to get what she wanted.

          • necron99

            Nobody is calling her selfish?? NYRick has directly stated that the league is going to fail because of her choices.

            There is no proof that she “definitely pulled strings behind the scenes to get what she wanted” Clearly the rules for allocations gave her the best possible chance to get the team she wanted. I repeat. All teams pick Alex Morgan for their first choice, Alex Morgan picks a team as her first choice. OOoOoh we have a match. Alex Morgan goes to the team she picked.
            People are forgetting that along with the NWSL allocation process being up in the air, the USWNT CBA was also up in the air. Many players did not commit or speak publicly about the NWSL until long after the allocation process. Morgan actually spoke about the CBA more than she spoke about the NWSL. She was one of the people who was described as highly involved in the CBA negotiations. It is just as likely that her keeping quiet on the NWSL commitment front was related to the CBA negotiations.
            Do I think it is fair for Portland to have both Sinclair and Morgan? No I don’t. But I don’t think that Alex Morgan cheated the system any more than I think anyone else did. Seems like a lapse in judgement by the allocators to me.

          • NYRick

            Where exactly did I say the league is going to fail because of HER choices? Where exactly did I even say the league is going to fail period? How the heck do I know what’s going to happen? Anything any of us say is just pure speculation and opinion as fans and observers.

            And my opinion, and really the whole point was that I feel having the players dictate where they want to play could be a recipe for disaster. That includes AM, Hope, Abby and the rest going forward. It’s never a good thing when players could then potentially hold teams hostage due to their star power. I get the whole big, bad owner thing too. And the poor players (star players are not poor) have to make whatever they can and work the best situation for themselves possible blah blah blah. With any sport I follow, I’m a fan first, so I try to separate myself from the interest of both parties. It really has no bearing on my life, and I bet any of us unless you know them personally or are involved in their lives.

            As for AM, if you think I’m being harsh and critical of her on this issue too bad. No one on these boards, other than Don B., lauds and praises her as a player and a role model more than me. But she is the star of stars on the US team and the current face of women’s soccer in general. Whatever she does, good or bad, will be magnified by fans and media more than anyone else. It comes with the territory, and let’s be fair here, the girl gets 99.9% praise and adulation constantly. Where she was allocated certainly will affect the league. Her team will sell out their games because of her. Yes, she is free (in the system they set up) to play where she wanted. I just feel the league lost a chance to place their most marketable asset in a better place to grow the sport (Chicago or NY). It also should be noted that there is no way she would have played her club soccer overseas, regardless of the rumors. Her bread is buttered in the states with endorsements. She would be a fool to play anywhere else and lose any type of exposure. She owns the US soccer market .

          • necron99

            It doesn’t matter if you are being harsh or critical. As you say too bad. Each time you spout this stuff I will continue to point out rational arguments to refute it.

            Alex Morgan earned her endorsements without playing in a USA league last year. She makes her money in both salary and drawing endorsements from the USWNT. She could have played whereever she wanted. And while you do give her praise. You are the person who was arguing that it might not be a good thing that she is the face of the team, and wanted Press to be instead. Please see the “Press scores a brace in debut thread”.

            As for the where did you say the league was going to fail and it would be Alex’s fault. I will quote your own statements.

            “For me, it means the inmates (players) can’t run the asylum. I don’t care how nice they are (Morgan), how deserving they may be (Morgan) or how much you have to cater to them (Morgan). It doesn’t work. Never has and never will. History has proven that in all pro sports. ”

            “If AM doesn’t like it, she could go play in Europe. The thing is she never will. She’s not stupid. She’s as a big a female athlete star as you can be in this country. So the NWSL has her over a barrel, not the other way around. . It’s not about KC or Chicago being good. It looks like they might be. It’s about the “players” not controlling the league. That is a recipe for disaster. Might not be this year, but it could be then next year or the following. Just watch.”

          • NYRick

            Wow, listing some of my old quotes. I’m flattered. As I read them, I still don’t see where I said the league will fail because of her decision. I merely said the “players”, with her of course being the most important and visible, should not have that kind of power. I do believe that is a recipe for disaster and it remains to be seen.

            As for Press maybe being the better “face of the team.” That is of course, pure conjucture and opinion on my part. Did I say something so wrong there? Aren’t we all entitled on these boards of our opinions as long as we are not using profanity, saying ridiculously inappropriate or sexual things etc. I’m sure any of us would be monitored or banned if we did so. I said that about Press because I personally feel that she would be the better lead choice for the team for a variety of reasons. I say that because I think the pub that surrounds Alex focuses too much on her looks and she may be a little too Hollywood for my liking. I could be totally off base on that. Purely my opinion. Not fact based in any manner. But I’m entitled to it. If you read many of the other things I’ve said about Alex there is nothing but praise. And as for “face of the team” I’ve started to rethink that and feel she may well be positioned to be just that for the good of the program.

          • Anton

            Wait, NYRick and heremerawr are the same person? I’m so confused right now, I feel like I’m trying to piece together one of Steg’s posts.

          • heremerawr

            No, we’re different. Why would you think otherwise?

          • Anton

            Because NYRick’s post above originally had your name attached to it before. Now it doesn’t, hence the confusion.

          • Anton

            Yes, there is no ‘proof’ that Alex pulled strings behind the scenes. But c’mon it’s pretty damn obvious that she got more than just her choice of location. If it were just Alex and Sinclair, people would still complain, but when they were given Tobin also, it was pretty clear that Alex had a say. Only the blind loyalists to Alex would debate that.

            Seriously? There was no ‘lapse in judgement by the allocators’ at all. Nobody is that oblivious to put two of the top strikers in the world, perhaps the U.S.’ best playmaker and one of the U.S.’ better defenders on the same team while another gets a 35 year old, a 31 year old with a torn ACL and Keelin Winters. Something was done behind the scenes to keep Alex in the league, if they had to unfairly stack one team, they were going to do it.

            Of course Merritt Paulson could have paid someone off just to troll Seattle, but that’s just the conspiracy theorist in me.

          • necron99

            All of this post is the conspiracy theorist in you.

          • Anton

            So you really think Sinclair, Alex and Tobin all ended up in Portland by accident?

          • Steglitz49

            Ms Sinclair is Canadian and would have been allocated as part of the Canadian contingent.

            As for Ms Heath, it took Benstiti to sign her, for her to be much noticed. The simplest explanation is that Portland was Ms Heath’s first choice and she was the Thorn’s #2 (after Alex), while no other team had Tobin as their #1 choice.

            No conspiracy theories are needed. Just a simple matching scheme. And, she will always have Paris …

          • vert2013

            It wouldn’t really surprise me if strings were pulled. I think more in the inclusion of Heath than Sinc and location (she seemed to put pdx at the top of her list so she would have gotten it anyway, same with Sinc), but if strings were pulled, US Soccer/NWSL had to agree with it in order for it to happen.

            At the end of the day though, the league needed Alex’s participation. If letting allowing her to play where she wants and bringing along her friend who they knew was going to be late to report anyway is all she asked for it would have been stupid to deny her that.

          • Steglitz49

            Sinclair being Canadian would have been allocated separately from Alex Morgan, who is American. Why should Alex not get her first choice if her first choice wanted her? Seems fair to me.

            If Tobin Heath put Thorns as her #1 and the Thorns put her #2 and no other team put Tobin as their #1, why should Ms Heath not go where she asked for? Seems fair also.

            OK, once Benstiti used a bit of the Emir’s war-chest to bring Tobin to Paris everyone started to notice her. Well done Benstiti, the man who signed Lotta Schelin at 24, the same age as Tobin.

            The NWSL is what it is. Roll on the kick-off.

          • Anton

            Each team didn’t submit a list of top 5 Americans, top 5 Canadians and top 5 Mexicans, it was just top 5 players on your wishlist. So while yes, they probably allocated each country separately, the lists weren’t.

            Tobin quite possibly had Portland #1 (I doubt PDX had her #2 over Sinc/Pinoe), fine that’s fair for her to get her choice. But with Morgan already there and Sinclair surely joining her/there already, it’s not fair to the rest of the league. That’s where the ‘Alex had a say’ theories come from.

          • Steglitz49

            I would have had Ms Heath ahead of Ms Sinclair and Rapinoe, but if I could get Sinclair anyway on account of her being Canadian I would not decline.

            What is the opinion about the Mexican allocated players the Thorns picked up?

          • Anton

            They’re not there anymore. The FMF said something like they weren’t ready or something, which is odd because one of them was like 30.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Hatch/100000866335934 Ken Hatch

            As posted on StumptownFooty, according to FMF, Saucedo (with 102 caps) “was not yet ready to play at this level and needs to improve…” Sandoval was removed due to injury.

          • Steglitz49

            Is the Mexican FA naming replacements or are they letting it slide?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Hatch/100000866335934 Ken Hatch

            Evidently letting it slide. Thorns are filing roster as if no FMF players will be available. (With, evidently, a hit to the salary outlay: i.e. two players out-of-pocket.)

          • stephy_paola

            You honestly think that no other team had Tobin as #1? Kind of sounds crazy to me.

          • Steglitz49

            They might have had Ms Morgan, Sinclair, Wambach, Solo and Leroux as number one. Many probably had Tobin as #2,

          • NYRick

            With all due respect, I can’t help but laugh when people say “to keep Alex’s participation in the league.” She was absolutely not going to Europe this year or in the foreseeable future. Certainly not with a US league forming this year. That was only if there was no NWSL.

            She would have played in the US, albeit maybe kicking and screaming, in any NWSL city if the rules dictated she had no preference before playing in Europe. Let’s at least call it what it is. That would have been pure stupidity on her part. And she looks to be a very smart girl.

          • vert2013

            See I’m not as sure about that as you are. She’s always been a big supporter of building the game here, no denying that, but woso leagues haven’t exactly proven sustainable here. As late as December, over a month after NWSL was announced, she was saying she still needed to look into the business end of it before committing.

          • Don B.

            You are correct, partly. She said that she would choose to play here above going outside the country, but the league needed to be sustainable, with professional coaching staffs, training facilities, and venues. To that end, she has worked within the league to not only make sure that is reality, but that the bargaining agreements are fair and beneficial to not only the national teamers but the rest of the players as well. She didn’t sit around waiting for it, but rolled up her sleeves and worked to make it happen. She certainly wasn’t the only one, but as a true professional, she saw the opportunity to create something lasting and committed to herself it.

          • Anton

            I’m not faulting Alex for wanting certain demands, it’s more US Soccer/NWSL I have the problem with. No league should be pushed around by any player or a player’s agent, no matter how fragile financially/new the league may be.

        • NYRick

          She wasn’t playing in Europe under any circumstances this year. That was just leverage. Playing her club soccer in the US has long term benefits for her, and her handlers know it. Plus, I do think she is committed to trying to help foster in the new US league.

          Her lucrative money will come from endorsements (even outside of soccer such as fashion, cosmetics, women’s clothing and handbags). The best deals she is going to get in those areas are in the US, where she is iconic to young girls in this country. That would far override any better contract she could get in France, Sweden or Germany by playing club soccer.

          • Steglitz49

            Your point is well taken. There is no lucrative endorsement money in women’s soccer in Europe. If you want to make money as a sports-woman in Europe, apart from tennis and golf, you have to excel at one of the winter-sports.

            Alex’s place on earth is to play soccer in USA and create the California division. That would make her an icon. Alexandra the Great.

        • heremerawr

          Alex Morgan has said in multiple interviews that she’d much prefer to play in a league in the US, and that was before the NWSL was even formed. While endorsements certainly play a part, I also think that Alex wants to stay in the states, where she can be near her friends and family. Also, to roughly paraphrase a quote of hers, it has always been her dream to play pro soccer in the US. Alex going overseas would’ve been a last resort, no-league-formed, sort of thing.

      • Don B.

        Hi Rick. Life is good, thanks.

        This whole conversation has certainly gotten the juices flowing, eh? The allocations, as well as player and team choices, have created so many ‘what ifs’. I think the only way to avoid any controversy whatsoever would have been to allocate players based on a totally random draw, and let the chips fall where they might, but the fallout from teams and especially players would have been another can of worms. We could very well have had four or six Eli Manning moments.

        I can understand Alex wanting to play with Sincy. Yes, she was second (or third) fiddle in WNY, but she was also a top draft pick rookie committed first and foremost to the USWNT and world cup. Alex has said several times that she thinks Sincy is the most well rounded forward in the world and that she can learn so much from her. Alex is great, but playing with Sincy on a daily basis will make her even better, if that can be imagined. She wants to be the best she can be, and if that means playing second fiddle for a bit longer, then I think she’s willing to do that. Besides, she’s played second fiddle to Abby for the past year, and who has really noticed that? Pretty interesting that the second fiddle is the biggest name on the team.

        • NYRick

          Alex may say that about Sinc because she is humble, but the hands-down best, most well-rounded forward (and player for that matter) in the world in the women’s game is Alex. IMO, it really isn’t even close anymore.

          I think Sinc needs to learn from her at this point. Hope she doesn’t learn too much because her hat trick at the Olympics nearly cost the US even a bronze.

          • heremerawr

            Alex is fantastic but she is still young and has yet to peak. All she really needs to become the perfect striker is experience, which is something that, if garnered alongside an expert, veteran striker such as Sinclair, will serve to make her unstoppable (moreso than she already is, at least). I agree that Alex is the more talented forward, but I think there is much Sinclair can still teach her.

          • Don B.

            DISQUS won’t let me post links today, so here is an article from Oregon Live about Morgan and Sinclair and their thoughts on each other:

            Portland Thorns’ Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair look to win another title

            With high-scoring forwards Alex Morgan (right) and Christine Sinclair (left) on the roster, the Portland Thorns are the favorites to win the National Women’s Soccer League championship in 2013. Photo by Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian

            Alex Morgan had hoped that she would be reunited with Christine Sinclair after the two won a professional soccer league title together two years ago.

            Morgan’s hope materialized into reality when the two players were allocated to the Portland Thorns as part of the new National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Now a little older, the high-scoring duo understands what it takes to win a title and want to duplicate their effort in Portland.

            “I definitely hoped we would be playing together,” Morgan said. “She helped me so much in my first year and I don’t even know if she knows that.”

            Many soccer watchers see the combination of Morgan and Sinclair at forward and figure Thorns games will be a season-long clinic in goal-scoring. The question isn’t whether the Thorns will win, but how many goals will Sinclair and Morgan score on the way to capturing the title.

            “The natural thing to say is ‘Oh my gosh, you’re with Alex. You guys are going to be such a dangerous attacking team,’ ” Sinclair said.

            On paper, the Thorns look formidable, but Sinclair isn’t about to pronounce the Portland Thorns NWSL champion before they open the regular season at Kansas City April 13.

            “We’re not going to win the championship today,” Sinclair said. “We’re building towards our first game and we go from there.”

            Using their experience as teammates with the Western New York Flash (2011 Women’s Professional Soccer League) as a guide, the 23-year-old Morgan says the two can help the Thorns achieve great accomplishments in 2013.

            Sinclair, 29, was a member of the Flash when the team selected Morgan with the first overall pick of the 2011 WPS Draft. Sinclair tied for the team lead with 10 goals and Morgan scored four goals as the Flash posted a record of 13-2-3 to win the regular season championship. Sinclair was selected as the most valuable player of the WPS championship game after scoring Western New York’s only goal in the 64th minute. The game was decided on penalty kicks with the Flash winning 5-4 to capture the 2011 title.

            Sinclair remembers Morgan was a polished player when she joined the Flash.

            “She was a professional when she stepped on the field with the team in her first year,” Sinclair said. “She had gone through her learning curve with the national team already and that’s a bigger adjustment than playing professionally.”

            What impressed Morgan was Sinclair’s leadership qualities.

            “She helped me out a lot just by leading by example. She’s quiet when she needs to be and she speaks up when she needs to,” Morgan said. “She listens really well and she gets to know her teammates.”

            Opposing defenses will gameplan to slow the two players from scoring – they scored a combined 51 goals in 53 international games during the 2012 calendar year – but what could pose problems for the opposition is their ability to find open teammates.

            Sinclair has scored 145 goals in international play during her career, third all-time behind Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm, but Morgan said Sinclair is much more than just a pure striker.

            ” ‘Sinc’ is probably one of the most complete players in the game, because she can do so many things,” Morgan said. “She has great awareness of the game and her teammates. She makes her teammates look good. I think that’s what defines a great player.”

            Morgan posted 21 assists in 31 games during the 2012 calendar year, becoming just the second U.S. women’s national team player (Mia Hamm) to have at least 20 goals and 20 assists in a calendar year.

            “Alex is a tremendous passer of the ball. She understands where her teammates need the ball and when she needs to give up the ball. Her final pass is remarkable,” Sinclair said. “Very few players have just as many assists as they do goals in a year.”

            Their time with the Thorns won’t be the first time Morgan and Sinclair will be on the same field since winning the WPS championship. The two were on opposite sides of the field when the United States faced Canada in a memorable semifinal game during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

            Morgan scored the game-winning goal in extra time in the United States’ 4-3 win. Sinclair scored all of Canada’s goals in the game, but her post-game comments accusing the referee of a bias towards the United States resulted in Sinclair being fined and suspended for four games by FIFA.

            “We’ve never talked in depth about that game,” Morgan said. “I don’t know if we ever will.”

            That game is in the past and the two are looking toward a long run as teammates with the Thorns.

            “I feel like we really anticipate each other and really complement each other with our different runs and our different personalities on the field,” Morgan said. “We haven’t had too many practices together, but I think we’ll definitely get a good rhythm after a couple of games.”

            Sinclair said the chemistry between her and Morgan will take some time, particularly with the two players being in and out of training because of national team responsibilities.

            “It’s still coming together, but Alex and I have played together before and we know how to work with each other,” Sinclair said. “With the team’s help, we were able to bring a championship to Western New York Flash. We’re looking to try and do the same thing (in Portland).”

            – Geoffrey C. Arnold

          • Steglitz49

            Please do not post links. It is a pernicious habit. Synposize instead: 500 words into 32, please.

          • Don B.

            I prefer to link to or post the entire article so the reader has opportunity to experience the author’s full thought process from beginning to end.

          • Steglitz49

            Alex is not sooo young in women’s soccer terms. She will be 24 this year and ought to be at her peak in Canada in 2015. As ladies’ football matures the vast majority of players will be aged 18-28 and very few will be above 30. ARod will be the rule, not the exception.

            The Japanese team that played in the final in 2011 had a median age of 25 with an inter-quartile range of 24-27 but it was a skewed distribution because the mode age was 24 years. Two players were >28 years.

          • necron99

            This is a farce. As long as the NCAA is the feeder for US Women’s Soccer players the average age of players on the USWNT will be higher then other countries. Most players will get their experience in the NCAA and hence be in their early twenties when they get their start with the senior team.

            Other countries do not have a similar college system and their top players play on semi-pro/pro teams at an earlier age. This option is not the standard here. Players can’t play on those teams or they lose their NCAA eligibility and chance at a scholarship. Horan was the first to take that road, and with pro salaries being what they are she will be an outlier for years to come.

          • Steglitz49

            Your point is well taken. The NCAA assembly line is why the USWNT has been at the top for 20+ years and why the Olympic tournament cannot be a U-23, as the men’s is, because it would be a walkover for USA.

            As you type, Ms Horan represents a new line in USA women’s soccer. The top women’s soccer universities are also outstanding academically: Stanford, Berkeley, Duke, UNC etc. Once the NWSL can offer decent money, excellent 18:years olds will be knocking at the gates (+ the European and Japanese scouts will find them).

            How did PSG connect with Ms Horan? She was due to go to UNC, Tobin Heath’s alma mater, and suddenly there was the Emir opening his wallet. Then PSG acquired Ms Asllani and now Heath. Vow! What a place to play football — and in Paris and being paid for the pleasure.

  • gnarly

    I know the intent of your article was to focus on the new team in town, but the real story of the friendly was the play of UP and their tough “not backing down” play against a team of composted of ex-college allstars. (Take Angie Woznuk Kerr for example, in the 2005 championship game over UCLA she could have easily been the MVP, scoring the first goal 90 seconds into the game and feeding Sinc and Rapinoe for goals). Three of UP’s starters Saturday night are probably 18 year old frosh who didn’t even start regularly last fall (Bindl in central D was a seldom used sub last fall, while DeGrood and La Provotte had a few starts when regular starters were injured.

    Frisbie really took it to the back line scoring the first goal, and on a separate play knocked a thorn defender on their backside with a wicked body check. She almost scored on a 40 yarder when they put her in a left back. Capelle almost scored with a minute left and the Thorns were lucky to escape with a win. For that matter, the thorns goals were scored on UP second string GK who came in at the half.

    Yeah, it would have been different had Sinc and other NT players been there. However, how many other college teams even have scored a goal against one of the pro teams.

    We’re lucky in Portland to have two good women’s teams.

    Watch out next fall for the Pilots when they have this group plus 8 new recruits (4 are NT players to boot)

    Go Pilots

  • PDXSOCCER

    Thorns midfielders are just fantastic. Long, Edwards, Washington and Kerr are just pure class. Go THORNS!

  • gocard

    Stop being so paranoid people, if something real shady was up here, the Thorns would have gotten O’Hara instead of Buehler. But they didn’t, do move along.

  • EC

    Who thinks this league will be more competitive than any other women’s league? I’m excited because of the parity in this league. I doubt we’ll have blowouts like they do in Europe (france)..

    • Anton

      Right now, I think this league will feel similar to the French league. One power team like Lyon (Portland), two ‘good but not great’ teams like PSG and Juvisy (Kansas City and WNY) and then the other ones who seem pretty equal (Sky Blue, Boston, Chicago, D.C. and then Seattle). FYI, that’s how I feel the teams will finish leading into the playoffs.

      Based on the overall talent in the league, I don’t think you’ll see the blowouts like you see in France, but I unfortunately think a team like Seattle will be the victim of some laughers in the early going. The drop off from Portland to KC and WNY is nowhere near the drop off from Lyon to PSG, but I feel there’s a substantial gap there.

      • heremerawr

        You really think the NWSL will be like the French league? No way. Not even close. Lyon crushed PSG, the second place team, 3-0, and dominated play. Even if Portland looks great so far, the amount of depth in the US will surely help to even the field. I refuse to believe Portland will dominate in such a fashion. It will spell the end of the league, as Americans (and anyone, really, but Americans especially have this mentality) prefer to watch matches that are actually comptetitive. I know you say the gap (if there even is a gap, which I don’t believe there will be) is not as substantial, but still. The comparison is alarming.

        • Anton

          I could easily see Portland beating Kansas City 3-0, especially at home. They’re better, on paper mind you, than KC in every facet of the game except goaltending.

          That’s why I’m very critical of the allocation, it made one team head and shoulders better than everyone else. Allocations are supposed to make everyone as equal as possible.

          • heremerawr

            Eh, I dunno. A 3-0 victory at home, I could see, but not easily. But I suppose that’s the optimist in me. I think Portland is going to be very good, but not “head and shoulders” above everyone else. I also agree that Portland seems better on paper (I suppose an argument could be made for the defense), but that’s just it, it’s on paper. I seem to recall an anecdote from the time of WUSA, where one of the teams that seemed destined to win the championship flopped completely. Not saying that will happen to Portland, but I firmly believe, and will continue to believe until Portland proves me otherwise, that this league will be far more competetive than the French league is at the moment.

  • http://twitter.com/JeffKassouf Jeff Kassouf

    It’s great that there is a lot of chatter here, but the amount of misinformation is concerning. We’ll have to more formally address this in a proper post at some point, but the theme here of ‘shady’ or ‘rigged’ Portland allocations is ludicrous. Yes, Portland got two of the best players in the world, plus Tobin Heath. But if this were a free market, Portland would have been an offshoot of the USWNT. A very large number of national teamers and top free agents want(ed) to be in Portland. You’d all be even more outraged by further talent in Portland. To address each post individually would take a long time, but there are clearly a lot of misconceptions out there. People will hate Portland for getting so much talent — that’s natural fandom — but it doesn’t make conspiracy theories correct. The ‘league should be fair and balanced’ point is being looked at far too much more than ‘where will players play.’

    • Anton

      Sorry, but it’s extremely hard for me to believe that Alex, Tobin and to a lesser degree, Sinclair all ended up in Portland by accident. It’s not just because it’s in Portland either, the three of them could have ended up in Chicago, Sky Blue or KC and I’d still question it. There’s no way to justify one team getting two superstars when there aren’t that many to go around. That’s my main gripe.

      Yeah, if there was no allocation Alex, Sinclair, Hope and Pinoe would have all ended up in PDX/SEA anyways, so did the allocation really do it’s job? All it did was affect those two teams from getting at least 5-6 WNT players, it obviously didn’t stop them from getting multiple top players.

      • http://twitter.com/JeffKassouf Jeff Kassouf

        Didn’t say they got their by accident. They went to Portland on purpose. They wanted the Thorns and the Thorns wanted them. And they all got what they wanted. Plenty of other teams and players got what they wanted across the league, too.

        • Anton

          I’m aware that other teams/players got what they wanted. But would you agree that it’s ridiculously unfair to the other 7 teams that the Thorns were allocated two of the top 5 players (at the same position no less) in the world?

          Again, my problem is not that Alex, Tobin and Sinclair all wanted to play in the PNW, like any player, they’re free to choose any team they’d like. It’s that it should have been impossible for Alex/Sinclair (or Alex/Hope, Alex/Abby, Sinc/Abby etc..) to end up in the same city.

          • Steglitz49

            Jeff’s points are well taken. Let’s leave it to The Equalizer to ferret out more facts and present them in a simple and understandable form.

            I note the curious fact that two former top Germans will play for Chicago. Till 8 Germans are willing to come to the NWSL should we forbid teams to sign Germans? Should there be a foreign player draft like the NHL has?

            I think Jeff should close this discussion forum now.

    • NYRick

      Jeff,

      That would be a great future article to explain the allocation as you, and maybe some other insiders know better, to further clarify for all of us. Conspiracy theories aside, you do have to admit that it is kind of strange that Morgan and Sinclair ended up on the same team, and for kicks Heath gets “put’ there as well. Even though Tobin is playing a good part of the season at PSG, it seems pretty obvious that Alex wanted her in Portland with her to further develop their games together. I’m down with that, because it is certainly to the benefit of the USWNT. I just wish Press would leave Sweden next year, Sinclair would go and play in Europe where she wanted to be, and Press comes to Portland to play together as forwards with AM. If these two played their club soccer together as forwards till WC15, look out for the NWSL and more importantly, for the USWNT.

      As for me, I’m a Sky Blue fan and am quite happy with KO and Rampone. Plus, they have filled in the pieces pretty well too. I think they may be the surprise team. And I don’t think people are necessarily hating on Portland for the allocation. It would probably have been a similar reaction if those three went to Seattle, Chicago or Boston. It just doesn’t feel right, but the league is going to go through some growing pains to get it right in the end. Hopefully.