Backline Chat: Press Trade 2.0 and Some Goalkeeper Talk

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Charles Olney (@olneyce): Alright, first things first: the big trade finally went down this week, sending Christen Press and Sam Johnson to Utah, Sofia Huerta and Taylor Comeau to Houston, and Brooke Elby (plus approximately 13 draft picks) to Chicago. What do people think about the deal? Winners, losers? Things that make you excited?

I’ll start by saying that I think this is basically a win-win-win. Utah probably came out the best, but I think it helped everyone.

RJ Allen (@TheSoccerCritic): I have said it all week but I am really looking forward to seeing Press play with ARod. They are so different from each other it’s unlikely they will step on each other’s cleats and that will be fun to see them complement each other instead of both having to change what they are best at.

Blasian (@BlasianSays): Whether it helps Huerta is a question. It was just her first game of course, but she isn’t playing as a fullback.

Charles Olney: As I think I’ve made clear in numerous forums here, Press is one of my all-time favorite players to watch. And ARod isn’t far behind. So I wholeheartedly agree, RJ.

RJ Allen: I understand wanting a shot at the national team. But is a shot at the national team both worth 1) changing your position to someone you are bad at 2) making your club career suffer in the meantime

Blasian: I’m with you, Charles. She’s the biggest winner of the players involved. This is fully on Jill Ellis, by the way.

Charles Olney: I do think the Huerta thing is weird. The reporting from John Hallorhan makes clear that this trade was engineered to get her a chance at fullback, except Houston doesn’t seem to want to play her there. I feel bad for her, and it’s another sign that communication in trades (especially involving Chicago and Houston) isn’t the greatest.

I feel bad for Huerta, obviously. At the same time, I feel like the fullback thing had mostly run its course by now. She hasn’t been getting any better in the role, and I’m not sure more time was really going to change that.

RJ Allen: Honestly is any team in the league going to be willing to play Huerta at outside back that has over 14 points right now?

Luis Hernandez (@radioactivclown):I said it earlier the big losers of the trade are the teams not in the trade, mostly Orlando and Portland. I’m not sure Utah can hold on to make the playoffs but the move goes a long way in that direction in the short term

Charles Olney: I think Huerta would make a perfectly good (maybe even great) wingback. But I just haven’t seen anything in her play so far to suggest that she’s really taken to the fullback role.

Becky Schoenecker(@Beckster20): I still think there are too many players better ahead of her to really make it a solid case.

Charles Olney: I was a skeptic about Utah going into the season–thought they’d be fine, but not great–but they’ve already beat my expectations AND just added the piece they were desperately missing. I’m not sure I’d BET on them to make the playoffs now, but I certainly wouldn’t be against it.

RJ Allen: They have one of the two best defenses in the league. I will never stop talking about how happy seeing Corsie and Sauerbrunn together makes me. They are truly a best of league paring.

Charles Olney: To get Press without having to sacrifice almost any present value is a huge coup. They’ll miss Elby, but not that badly. I still think they’re midfield is only so-so, but they’re very good everywhere else.

RJ Allen: You can’t have everything all at once always.

Charles Olney: True. Even North Carolina finally lost!

RJ Allen: At the last possible second.

 


Charles Olney: Alright, jumping slightly off the conversation about the trade: we’ve already seen one of these teams in action. Last night, Houston lost at home to Portland. Thoughts about the game? Thoughts about what it tells us about these teams going forward?

RJ Allen: What fountain of youth has Sinclair found and will she share it? Because she is having herself a season that I don’t think maybe predicted.

Blasian: If she could slip Becky Sauerbrunn a little before the World Cup, that’d be cool.

Becky Schoenecker: Houston has wonderful moments, and I think they’re getting better, but their defense and goalkeeping has been more than just a little rough.

Charles Olney: Portland once again seem poised to break out from a slow start and really kick things into gear. I still don’t think they’re fully loaded, but this was a more composed performance from them, for sure.

Becky Schoenecker: I just don’t understand the decision making on the backline most times (ie Van Wyk). For every goal saving play she has three where she gets flat out beat.

Charles Olney: For Houston, I thought it was one of the more coherent performances they’ve had for the season. Sure, the result didn’t work out. But they played pretty well on the whole. In a season where they’ve had a lot go right despite poor performances, this felt a bit like reversion to the mean. But I agree with Becky that Van Wyk had a dreadful game. We talked last week about whether Pauw would be willing to bench her. I think the case for that move was pretty clear last night.

RJ Allen: Bench her and move who to her spot? Brooks?

Charles Olney: In her postgame comments, Pauw said that Polkinghorne isn’t really match fit yet, and my impression is that once she’s fully ready to go, she slots into the backline. That said, I really liked how Houston looked in that 4-1-4-1. Polks did a nice job occupying the space between the two lines, and provided some of the shield that Houston has been missing all year.

Becky Schoenecker: What about Campbell?

RJ Allen: She frustrates me. Campbell that is. Because you can see how much talent she has but she makes some really odd choices and she needs more coaching that doesn’t look like it’s happening.

Charles Olney: I have no issues with Campbell. She made a bad mistake on the Sinclair goal, and didn’t exactly cover herself with glory elsewhere. But she’s a perfectly good keeper now, and still has a lot of room for improvement.

Luis Hernandez: To me, both teams looked better than what they had early in the season. Houston has come a long way but Campbell just isn’t helping her cause in the national team picture nor with the Dash. Teams seem to be scoring on her from easy chances that she needs to do better on.

Blasian: I know it makes sense for non-Naeher and Harris goalkeepers to get NT call-ups, but it doesn’t seem to me that she’s earned it.

Becky Schoenecker: Do you think it’s a lack of confidence at this point? She’s a capable goalkeeper, but compared to the other keepers in the league she’s sliding fast.

RJ Allen: I think it’s coaching.

Charles Olney: Keepers just have so few chances to make a difference that the noise can easily drown out the signal. It could easily just be a normal bad stretch and not really signify much of anything. I’d wait a lot longer to decide that there’s something fundamentally wrong.

Luis Hernandez: Portland is seeming to be getting healthier than they have been in a while and that was the performance they needed on the road to keep their playoff hopes alive, so they can defend their championship.

RJ Allen: You also hate goalkeepers, Charles.

Blasian: I could see it if it’s just in her decision-making, but to allow a goal like Portland’s third seems to just be about fundamentals

Luis Hernandez: Sinc is just amazing with what she’s been able to do, and now she’s got everyone else around her contributing so that’s going to make Portland dangerous going forward. The Thorns just need to keep pace with the rest of the pace and overtake one of those teams ahead of them in the standings.

RJ Allen: I think Campbell coming right out of college and starting so quickly was an issue.

Becky Schoenecker: To me that’s a defeating goal, she was already making questionable decisions, but I think the next game will be huge for her. If she’s able to recover and make some good saves it might start an upward swing and get her confidence back.

RJ Allen: She didn’t have time to warm in to the league and steps were missed in the move between college and the pros. She has to go back to basics and no coach seemingly is taking her there.

Becky Schoenecker: And you’re right, coming out of college I doubt Houston – and a lot of these teams – have quality goalkeeping coaches. How can anyone expect to get better if it’s just shooting practice with an assistant.

Blasian: That next game is @ Orlando…not an attack I’d want to face in that scenario

RJ Allen: No. Marta, Morgan, Syd and Hill can eat people alive in they want.

Charles Olney: Speaking of goalkeepers and the US pool, anyone have thoughts on Adi Franch’s return?

RJ Allen: Becky is right. Goalkeeping coaches are lacking league wide with very few exceptions.

Becky Schoenecker: I’m not looking for her to get Houston a win, just for her not to make it so easy for them to lose.

RJ Allen: Welcome back. She is one of my favorites in the league even if she’s good for a WTF now and then.

Becky Schoenecker: People are so quick to blame goalies, but no resources are set aside to improve them.

Luis Hernandez: To me, Franch needs more performances this season to be seriously considered back into the WNT picture.

RJ Allen: Let’s be real though. NWSL play has very little to do with who gets called up *after* Ellis has put them on her radar.

Becky Schoenecker: I agree, but I think she can get there her improvement from last year to this year has been amazing to see (and crazy enough wasn’t Angerer coaching her?)

Luis Hernandez: But I’d put AD ahead of Campbell for sure. I think we should just turn the page on Campbell for a while.

RJ Allen: I would say that good NWSL play can get you on her radar but after? It has almost no connection.

Charles Olney: She had one or two scary moments trying to play the ball with her feet, but I thought was otherwise pretty solid. Portland have to be happy to have her back. Eckerstrom provided some nice cover, but is clearly a step below the top keepers in the league.

Luis Hernandez: I’d like to see Bledsoe get a camp call-up

Becky Schoenecker: Yes to Bledsoe

RJ Allen: I would be happy with a Naeher, Bledsoe, Smith camp.

Blasian: I am not as high on Bledsoe as y’all are.

Luis Hernandez: She occasionally makes a bonehead decision but is mostly solid.

RJ Allen: The goalkeeper pool is as deep as a thimble long term right now.

Luis Hernandez: I’d like to Bledsoe over Smith

Charles Olney: I don’t really know her game at all, and maybe it’s just a case of the grass always being greener, but I’m certainly curious about what Casey Murphy can do.

Becky Schoenecker: Well with the number of times she’s forced to see the ball I can understand that haha

RJ Allen: Casey Murphy I doubt gets a real shot until she is state side.

Blasian: Within the Spirit team, I think we might be having this conversation about Kelsey Wys had she not thrown away the title and then got injured in Australia.

Luis Hernandez: Murphy has a problem being under the radar. Who’s really watching her matches and is she convincing enough to break into the team?

RJ Allen: There are NWSL players who should have gone up 2 or 3 years ago than Ellis just won’t call up. I do wonder at what point either they get calls up or we (media types) just move on from them.

Charles Olney: [Cough] Colaprico and DiBernardo [Cough]

Blasian: Absolutely, both of them.

RJ Allen: But would Ellis know how to use them if she had them? What good is having Colaprico on the bench?

Blasian: She doesn’t know how to use most of her current players

Charles Olney: I do think that we often fixate too much on these marginal decisions. I’m the biggest DiBernardo fan you’ll find, but even I don’t think she’s a starter or anything. Same with Colaprico. Could be a nice bench player, but it’s not likely to make a huge difference either way.

I will say, though, that DiBernardo is precisely the TYPE of player that the US needs. Whether she’s quite at the level needed to make that sort of player useful is a fair question. But Ellis could certainly make it work, even given her tactical limitations.

Luis Hernandez: I’m just waiting for Ellis to be out of the picture. I’d like to think the federation is looking for the women’s general manager, but I doubt it.

RJ Allen: 2021 for sure the USWNT has a new coach. And Ellis as the GM because this timeline sucks. They have said they are looking for a GM. The problem is it will be someone Ellis approves of or advises them on.

Luis Hernandez: I know I’m beating a dead horse when I say this but at this point the only evaluation for a player on the WNT is “can this player win us a World Cup?” If the answer is anything but yes, then move on.

Blasian: Spain’s men’s team has shown it’s never too late to change managers.

RJ Allen: I am pretty happy about Zerboni coming up, TBH. I thin the US leaning in to the “punch the other team in the mouth” thing she and Horan can pull off is at least fun.

Luis Hernandez: I agree with RJ here. That’s the value of having USSF backing the NWSL


Charles Olney: Alright: final question. We’ve got a few games coming up this afternoon. What are people looking forward to?

RJ Allen: Seattle vs North Carolina should be a hoot.

Luis Hernandez: I’m looking forward to the Courage’s response to the loss last week

RJ Allen: And even if Press isn’t playing I think Utah vs Chicago will be something to keep an eye on.

Blasian: I’m staying up for the 1 am Spirit kickoff to experience the sadness live.

Luis Hernandez: The Pride attack if they all show up. And I think the best match this week is going to be Red Stars/Royals. I also want to say that Dani Weatherholt who is going to miss this week’s game should be considered for the national team and is extremely underrated.

Becky Schoenecker: I’m excited for the Chicago Utah game.

Charles Olney: I agree with folks hyping Chicago-Utah. Has a lot of potential to be a super interesting game, and also is a HUGE match for its playoff implications

RJ Allen: Can I bring up one thing unrelated to the games today that I really love? I am really loving seeing players – a lot of USWNT players but also NWSL players – using #MensWorldCup as a hashtag.

Becky Schoenecker: That’s great!

RJ Allen: There are two World Cups. A men’s and a women’s. Only using a gender term with one is silly. Either both are just the World Cup with the year, or it’s men’s and women’s. I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them.

Image courtesy of Corri Goates