#OrphanBlack: Sex, Drugs, Genetic Programming
In honor of Orphan Black’s Season 2 premiere, we present you with the first part of a three-part overview of Season 1. Part 2 (Orphan Black: Literary Themes, Structure, and Genre TV) and Part 3 (Orphan Black: Performance, Production, and Post) are coming over the next two weeks, and we’ll also be doing episode reviews.
The Clones and Nature v Nurture v Programming
The endless debate about Nature…
5 Things from Last Night’s Houston Dash v Portland Thorns game
This was a first game with a team with a lot of new personnel. Lots of rust, a little bit of experimenting, maybe some questions about match fitness, and only the smallest fragments of chemistry. They had to make some quick defensive adjustments after Beuhler/Van Hollebeck came up limping on Thursday’s friendly [just a sprain]. So, deep breaths, people. Everything is going to be ok, especially when you factor in the number and quality of the players who aren’t with the team yet.
That said, the Thorns have plenty to improve on. They didn’t have an incredible amount of possession in the first place, played lots of boomball, not a ton of compactness or discipline through the midfield, and Sinc really didn’t get the quality or the quantity of looks that she deserves; seeing her drop into the midfield so often, as well as making several defensive headers in Portland’s box, was reminiscent of how she was used much of last season. She’s physically capable (obviously) of playing the whole field for 90 minutes, but that play wears on a person by the end of the season, and it detracts from what she should be doing: scoring, scoring, scoring.
The Dash came out without a lot of cohesiveness, but that was definitely expected. Their defense let a lot of plays get far too close to the net before stepping to, and they’re lucky the Thorns didn’t capitalize on that more often (and that they have a world-class keeper who’s not afraid to tell people when they fucked up and how to fix it). They possessed the ball a lot, but didn’t always *do* much with it. They need all the things a new team needs: better communication during the run of play; better passing and intentional buildup instead of playing to a spot and hoping a player gets there (something the Thorns were also quite guilty of); a better sense of everyone’s job at any given time.
They made up for it with hustle and a lot of individual talent. Stephanie Ochs was absolutely everywhere, and defenses are going to have to find a way to match her speed, especially if the Dash’s midfield starts consistently sending her through balls up the middle. Washington wasn’t making the sort of offensive runs up the line she was making at the end of last year, but she was helping defensively, challenging for a lot of 50/50 balls, and contributing to the Thorn’s struggle to get the ball cleanly through midfield. Masar was a physical presence (she earned the game’s second yellow after Long earned the first), and it’s easy to imagine her physicality combining with Ochs’ speed to make for a formidable combination, especially if they develop a midfield player who’ll shoot from distance early and often to keep teams off-balance. This is not going to be a team who get steamrolled, they just need to get more time together on the pitch to put their pieces together.
That said, if you save her ass, she’ll give you a well-deserved hug, as she did Nikki Marshall.
She’s very high risk, high reward; in when she decides to come out, in how long she sits with the ball at her feet before playing to a defender, in throwing herself into existing 1v1 situations. It makes for some heartstopping soccer, for sure.
4. We know that “No blood, no foul” is one of CONCACAF’s two inviolable tenets (the other being “Who gives a shit about playing surfaces?”), but the officiating needs to tighten up quite a bit. The NWSL is positioning itself as The League for the top players in the game, but the officiating could have a real impact on that. Allowing physical play is one thing, but lax/inconsistent officiating makes for sloppy gameplay and potential injuries.
5. Overall, Positive Looks. The fact the Thorns came out in a 3-4-3 (a sign of both versatility and the fact Riley would be perfectly fine giving up three goals if they can score five) and the Dash came out in a 4-3-3 means we’re likely going to see a lot more tinkering with formation around the league this season. This will help grow the game, but also shows the NWSL’s place as a feeding tube for the USWNT, which is also pushing to move away from the US’s darling 4-4-2. Players are going to be more comfortable playing in different formations, but also more comfortable playing against different formations; key for international matches such as the upcoming World Cup and Olympics.
This game was between two teams finding their feet, and it showed, but it’s an encouraging sign for the league and the women’s game overall.
6 Things From Last Night’s USWNT Friendly:
1. This is still a team that is dealing with a lot of transition and turmoil. That was the case before this week, that was obviously the case this week, and that will continue to be the case for some time. Beyond the obvious drama involved with US Soccer’s surprising and abrupt (but we would argue justified) coaching change, and beyond even the transition towards a more tactical, sophisticated style that Sermanni was (rightly) trying to push, this is a team that is at times struggling to sort through and integrate the younger generation of players. The USWNT has an embarrassingly large talent pool to sift through, and the conversation about playing style and tactics must also take into consideration the strengths of these younger players.
2. Speaking of style/tactics, the USWNT can play a not-4-4-2 and be effective! Yay!!! Now if only they can start using some sort of controlled buildup from the back through the midfield, even once or twice a game!! But srsly, last night was a great demonstration of how formation and style can influence each other, or they can be completely irrelevant to each other. Even in the 4-3-3, almost all of the initial attack was based in long passes and direct play. That said, last night did show evidence of improved possession and ball movement. When direct play didn’t immediately lead to a chance on goal, they looked very comfortable moving the ball and using possession to create chances and exploit defensive vulnerabilities in the attacking third. But it still isn’t the type of tactical sophistication that Sermanni was trying to develop or anything that will help them against more challenging competition.
3. Play Carli Lloyd in the middle. Full stop. All of the times. The end.
3a. The reality is that, even beyond Lloyd, personnel is going to dictate quite a bit of style/tactics. Abby is one of the greatest forwards in the history of the women’s game, and any time she’s on the pitch, it would be a waste not to build the offensive strategy around her. Case and point, Leroux’s goal in the opening seconds of the second half. But ignoring the midfield because Abby has her back to the goal isn’t a viable game plan, not for next year’s WC and not for the future. And this isn’t just about Abby: Leroux, Press, and Morgan (when she gets back) all have metric fuck tons of pace, and any game plan that leaves them static is a waste. Holliday needs more space than playing up top can offer. Pinoe is fantastic anywhere, but thrives along the touchline. Carli should have to list “center of the pitch” as her address of record. The challenge is putting all of these pieces together in a functional, coherent way.
4. The back line is still uncomfortably fluid. Granted, last night’s performance began with an injury substitution, but there still isn’t a ton of stability. Krieger was god-like and magisterial, and O’Hara was fantastic after being subbed in, but no one has really stepped up to manage the defense in Rampone’s absence. Some structure and leadership there will go a long way to making sure that Solo is protected, happy, and at the top of her game.
5. Set pieces continue to be a strong point for the USWNT, but mostly from players with European experience. It’s possible that it’s just a coincidence that Pinoe and Tobin are magnificent from free kicks, but it’s something to keep in mind as the NWSL evolves as a league. As dominant as the USWNT is/can be, and as much as the NWSL is quickly cementing itself as The Premier League of the women’s game, the two WNT players who have spent significant time in France are markedly better at some of the more technical skills.
6. Overall, last night was a huge step up from the impotent passing drill that was Sunday night’s friendly. The team showed more passion, more aggression, and were noticeably more dominant. However, there is still plenty to work on. There was very little cohesion between the defense and midfield or the midfield and attack, very little controlled build up, and goddamn it would be nice if someone could crash the fucking net every once in a while. But this is the attitude and the aggression that we should expect (and demand) to see from the most talented team in the world.
Reason 4,502 I love writing with Dale: “Krieger was god-like and magisterial.”