Reign vs Thorns: Three Questions

USA TODAY Sports

Warm up to the uncorking of the NWSL Cascadia rivalry with a little Q&A between Sounder at Heart and Stumptown Footy.

We're not likely to do a prematch three questions for many NWSL matches, but the Cascadia teams are kind of a big deal in the league and both Seattle and Portland have coverage on SBNation, so when JonannaW of Stumptown Footy suggested it I thought it was a great idea.

Outbound

The Thorns have the best forward tandem in the league (and likely the world) so opponents will be trying to cut off service to Morgan and Sinclair to hold them in check. It looked like FCKC was able to do that pretty effectively, especially in the first half. Is that a concern going forward or is it just a matter of the team gelling together before those two start getting more of the ball?

That's the $54,000 question right now, and it's a bit early to say definitively, but if pressed I'd say it's a concern that can be addressed with time and adjustments. I'd be more worried about it if the Thorns' midfield had struggled against a lesser team last week, but FCKC has a fantastic midfield and backline, and they matched up very well against the Thorns players. Overall, statistically, the Thorns midfield didn't play all that badly last week, either, so that's a bright spot. Another bright spot: head coach Cindy Parlow Cone seems to be both willing and able to make proper adjustments.

Who other than the superstar strikers should we watch out for this weekend as a potential impact player?

Allie Long. The midfielder comes to play, was one of the few bright spots of consistency in last week's match, and has a cannon for a foot. She seems really locked in right now. She scored the game-winning goal in the Thorns only public preseason match (against the University of Portland Pilots), and many Stumptown Footy writers chose her as last week's Woman of the Match.

The Sounders and the Timbers have an established, ancient rivalry and it seems like NWSL is trying to bank on there being a Thorns/Reign rivalry out of the gate. Is that a realistic expectation for two clubs that have never faced each other before? Is it being Seattle and Portland enough to create a rivalry?

I think it being Seattle and Portland is enough to plant the seed, and I also know that the Thorns' SG --the Rose City Riveters-- already has a solid core of passionate and dedicated fans who are chomping at the bit to cheer on their team. That said, both Portland and Seattle are soccer-savvy enough to know that this prospective rivalry needs more than just geography and other teams' histories. This rivalry needs some intense play and some good soccer to get off the ground. Hopefully, that starts Sunday.

Inbound

It’s well documented how the Reign suffered a barrage of bad luck after the team’s roster was named, losing Hope Solo (to injury) and Amy Rodriguez (to pregnancy), plus the oddly timed retirement of GM Amy Carnall. To an outsider, it looks like this team is in a bit of disarray. In what ways is that assessment accurate or inaccurate?

The bad 'luck' really goes back to the initial allocation, when Seattle fans were (probably inappropriately) pretty confident that Alex Morgan and/or Sydney Leroux would be on the team based on their time with the Sounders Women last season. Then we became comfortable with the idea of ARod up top just in time for her to be lost for the season. And I think it's fair to say there's some disarray in the front office. The GM leaving a week before the season opener makes that undeniable. Owner Bill Predmore doesn't have any background in owning a team and there's clearly some learning on the job going on. On the other hand, I think it's easy to exaggerate how much that could affect the team on the field. Despite the injuries and Megan Rapinoe being gone until midseason, Carnell and Laura Harvey assembled a team that's talented and deep, especially in the midfield. Harvey made personnel decisions for Arsenal, as is usual for managers in European soccer, so she should be comfortable handling GM responsibilities. I think once the team and the fans settle into the week to week rhythm of the season, most of the preseason turmoil will be forgotten.

At this point, how would you assess the benefit (or detriment) of the Keelin Winters trade?

We can't know the full cost until we see where the Reign's traded pick falls in next year's draft. And there's the odd 'US allocation player to be named later' to be resolved as well. But in the short term it was an important move for the club. The team has a ton of midfielders, but most are attackers or box-to-box players and they needed someone to sit deep and protect a pretty inexperienced back line. Winters fits that role, is a rotational national team player, and can be a leader on the team (she was the captain in game one). I think there's a feeling inside the organization that the team needs to be competitive in year one despite all of the preseason challenges and they were willing to pay a pretty high price for Winters to help make that happen.

Who is your dark horse for an impact player that may have slipped under the radar?

Depending on how the radar is calibrated, it could be Kaylyn Kyle. She can run all over the midfield, tackle, distribute and score and is the key to linking up the Reign's two more defensive midfielders with the attack. If Kyle's already on the radar as a CanWNT starter, it could be Jessica Fishlock. She's a Welsh national teamer who Harvey was familiar with and invited over. Based on game one she's a very physical player (she earned the Reign's first ever yellow card) and teamed up with Winters can provide a pretty daunting defensive wall. Even further under the radar is Portlander Kate Deines, who had a long and glorious career as a midfielder and forward for the University of Washington and occasionally youth national teams, but has converted to central defense for her pro career. She's tall and good on the ball and can be part of the foundation of the team if her defensive skills can catch up to this level.

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