I keep going back to Vero Boquete in that presser after her first match in Portland. “It’s not good enough.”
And it isn’t. From either team.
The Thorns played to a 2-all draw at home yesterday afternoon. The first half was beautiful. Good pace, well-placed passes, and enough scrappy play to put two goals past Karina. With orders going into the second half to get that third goal and put the game away, they did pretty much the opposite.
The Timbers then played to a 2-all draw on the road at LA last night. They were scored on first, fought back, took the lead and then lost it to an own goal.
Not good enough.
We’ve spent the season – both seasons – hearing the same talking points from both coaches, all the stuff about keeping the lows high and the highs low, about motivation not being an issue, about this thing and that thing and never actually getting to the root of the problem.
Both clubs are lacking leadership.
I love Will Johnson. I really do. He’s tough, he’s hard-nosed, he’s not afraid of a challenge. But somehow, he’s just not himself this season. He gets caught in awkward situations and has acquired a hesitation when he finds the ball at his feet. Do I go this way? Do I go that way? Do I spin around in a circle?
And while he’s trying to figure out which direction to go, he’s not leading. It pains me to say it. He was the captain the Timbers needed in 2013. I’m not sure he’s the one they need in 2014.
With a new coach and a new direction, former captain Jack Jewsbury was asked to step back and it seemed a weight was lifted from his shoulders. Since giving up the armband, Jack has been dependable, focused and a reliable option when called on. I can’t help but wonder if a few games on the bench wouldn’t do something the same for Will.
I’m asking a similar question about Christine Sinclair. When the first roster additions were announced for the Thorns last year, it wasn’t Alex Morgan who got my attention, it was Christine Sinclair. I was thrilled when she was appointed captain but, with the team faltering, I don’t see her leadership on the field. I understand that she isn’t perhaps as demonstrative as others who’ve been charged with captaining their squads, and I get that she lives a dual life as the Canadian WNT captain, but she has not been as effective with the Thorns as she should be.
When watching the Thorns, I don’t see that passion, that fire from her that I expect from a captain who is trying to drive her side forward. I see it elsewhere on the field, but I don’t see it from her. With Paul Riley’s post-match comments yesterday about Sinc not starting because of issues with fatigue and a tightly-packed schedule over the next few weeks, maybe it’s time to move in a different direction.
It is, as was reiterated in a somewhat tipsy fashion to me last night by someone who has far greater knowledge than I, a simple thing to place blame on the coaching, but at a certain point, we have to look to the players to take things into their own hands. If you occupy that position of leadership on the field, you have to use it. It isn’t enough to drop “brain of a goldfish” in a post-match interview or to shrug and say the team has to work harder. You have to be the difference. You have to be the motivator. You have to be the captain both on and off the field.
Without changes, I won’t be surprised to see both teams miss out on the playoffs this year. I won’t be surprised because, though I love them deeply and despite having rosters that can and should get them there, they’re just not good enough.