Portland Thorns

Thorns earn home semifinal playoff game with win over Western New York

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Thorns earn home semifinal playoff game with win over Western New York

Playing their final regular-season home match, Portland Thorns FC defeated the Western New York Flash 3-2 behind goals from forward Nadia Nadim, forward Christine Sinclair and midfielder Dagny Brynjarsdottir before a sellout crowd of 21,144 fans at Providence Park on Sunday night. With the win, Portland earned a home playoff game in the NWSL semifinals.

Thorns FC (11-3-5, 38pts) finished their 2016 home schedule with a record of 8-1-1 at Providence Park as they played in front of their third sellout crowd in team history. In 10 home matches this season, Portland set a new NWSL record for total (169,449) and average (16,945) attendance in the team’s fourth season.

While they still await their opponent and exact date for their home semifinal match, tickets for Thorns FC’s first-ever home playoff game go sale to the general public on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 10 a.m. Tickets will be available for purchase online at www.thornsfc.com, by phone at (888) 736-6849, or at the Providence Park box office. Thorns FC season ticket holders will receive information by email on how to purchase their tickets for the semifinal playoff match.

Thorns FC opened the scoring in the 27th minute following Nadim’s fourth converted penalty kick of the season. After midfielder Lindsey Horan played a long ball over the top that freed Nadim in behind the Western New York defense, the Denmark international was fouled inside the box. Nadim’s ensuing penalty attempt was placed into the lower left corner of the net for her team-leading ninth goal of the season.

Portland scored its second of the night from a counter-attacking play. After Nadim sent in a low-driven cross from the right wing that deflected off a Flash defender, Christine Sinclair took a touch and her left-footed shot struck the left post and went into the back of the net in the 37th minute. With her goal, Sinclair has now recorded a point in seven-consecutive games dating back to 2-0 win against Chicago on June 22, extending her team record. Just before halftime, Tobin Heath’s strike from outside the 18-yard box forced goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo into a save.

Second-half substitute Dagny Brynjarsdottir upped Portland’s lead to 3-0, with what would be the game-winning goal in the 69th minute. After midfielder Tobin Heath played the Iceland international through on goal, her right-footed strike from inside the penalty area beat an onrushing D’Angelo and found its way into the back of the net. The assist was Heath’s ninth of the year, which ranks first in the NWSL this season.

Down 3-0, Western New York (8-6-5, 29pts) threatened late in the match after forward Jess McDonald headed in defender Liz Eddy’s cross in the 77th minute to cut the lead to two. Three minutes later, McDonald found forward Lynn Williams, whose shot beat goalkeeper Michelle Betos in the 80th minute to set up a wild finish. In stoppage-time, a long-range shot from Williams forced Betos into an acrobatic tip save over her left post to preserve the win.

Following the international break, Thorns FC close out the 2016 NWSL regular season on the road against Sky Blue FC on Sunday, Sept. 25, at Yurcak Field; kickoff is set for 4 p.m. (Pacific) with a live web stream at www.thornsfc.com.  

  

Notes:

  • Thorns FC played in front of their first sellout crowd of the 2016 season (21,144) and third sellout overall in team history. Additionally, it marked the sixth time Portland has drawn a crowd of more than 18,000 for a game.
  • With the sellout, Thorns FC set a new NWSL overall (169,449) and average (16,945) attendance record in the team’s 10th game at home this season. Portland previously held the previous overall attendance record (160,341) set in 2014 in 12 games played at home, while it also held the previous average attendance record (15,639) set during the 2015 season in 10 games played at Providence Park.  
  • Midfielder Tobin Heath recorded her NWSL-leading ninth assist of the season. Additionally, Heath’s assist was the 13th of her career, which moves her past midfielder Allie Long for the most in Thorns FC history.
  • Forward Christine Sinclair scored in her third consecutive match and recorded a point in her seventh straight match, extending her team record for most consecutive games with a point.
  • With her goal, forward Nadia Nadim became the sixth player to record 20 or more career points for Thorns FC.
  • With the win, goalkeeper Michelle Betos recorded her 12th career win, which is the most in Thorns FC history.
  • Defender Emily Menges played in her 59th career match for Portland and is the only player this season to play every minute of every match.
  • Portland improved to 6-2-3 in the all-time series against Western New York, including a mark of 3-1-1 at Providence Park.
  • Thorns FC have outscored their opponents 23-8 at Providence Park this season.            

The Thorns are 2017 NWSL Champions

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Portland Thorns FC

The Thorns are 2017 NWSL Champions

The Portland Thorns FC have brought another championship back to Rose City.

With their 1-0 victory over the North Carolina Courage, the Thorns have reclaimed their title as National Women’s Soccer League champions. The winning goal by midfielder Lindsey Horan in the 50th minute sealed the deal for the Thorns, taking home their second NWSL title in five years.

Orlando City Stadium saw an ugly and physically brutal 90 minutes this Saturday. Early hard fouls on both teams set the tone for a scrappy and choppy match. The Thorns were given two yellow cards in the first half and their overall aggressive play led to the Courage calling for two substitutions in the first 39 minutes due to injuries. 

Despite this setback, North Carolina offensively dominated the match with 16 shots on goal, including a crossbar shot from Courage midfielder Sam Mewis in the 14th minute. Portland lost the numbers game with only four shots on goal, but luckily one got in. Off a free kick at about midfield, Horan used her powerful right foot from just outside the the six yard box to get the ball in the back of the net. She was later named the match’s MVP.

This win also poses as the end of an era for Thorns players Amandine Henry and Nadia Nadim as they are leaving the NWSL to compete in Europe. Henry will join Olympique Lyon in the D1 Feminine League in France, while Nadim will compete in the FA Women’s Super League in England with Manchester City. Both players have been with Portland for two seasons and have cited financial reasons for their departure. 

There will be a NWSL Championship rally this Sunday, Oct. 15, at Providence Park around 7 pm after the Timbers game. 

The Thorns seek revenge in this weekend's NWSL Championship

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The Thorns seek revenge in this weekend's NWSL Championship

By JOHN STUPAK
The Portland Thorns are playing for the NWSL Championship tomorrow.

For the first time since 2013, the Thorns will be playing for all the marbles against this year’s regular season Shield winners, the North Carolina Courage.

Portland dispatched the Orlando Pride on October 7, 4-1, to move on to the final test of the season in what has been a four-year mission to get back to the mountain top.

The Thorns will be facing a team that, minus the name, is almost exactly the same team that ousted Portland in last year’s playoffs. The North Carolina Courage were the Western New York Flash in 2016 before changing ownership and location.

It was Lynn Williams who broke Portland’s heart last year, scoring two goals in overtime that ousted the Thorns. The Flash eventually won the title and now seek to become repeat champions.

Williams will back on the field for the Courage and the Thorns will have to find some way to contain her, not an easy task given how explosive a scorer she has proven to be. Portland, however, has a top-notch defense behind defender Meghan Klingenberg and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.

The Thorns should have every body and weapon available to them, sporting one of the deepest teams in the league. During last week’s semi-final game, Allie Long, Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Nadia Nadim all came off the bench for Portland, something that would seem unfathomable for other teams in a playoff game, given the kind of talent those players possess.

The key to victory for the Thorns is to get out to a solid start and jump ahead. The Thorns are at their best when they are aggressive and smell blood. However, they have been known for the occasional slow starts and lapses in play that have cost them victories in the past. If Portland jumps ahead early and keeps the pressure on, it will be awfully difficult for the Courage to counter an equal attack.

The Thorns couldn’t have asked for a better matchup to wipe away the disappointment of last October. What better way to exercise the ghosts of 2016 than to cast out the very demons responsible for haunting you since the end of last year.

On a more downbeat note, this will also be the last game for both Nadia Nadim and Amandine Henry, both of whom will be playing in Europe next year. What a fitting farewell a NWSL title would be for those two players who have played like champions during their time in Portland.

So get out your Thorns scarves, your good luck charms, and all the good vibes you can send towards Orlando. Take a break from all the politics and downer news in the world and settle in for what should be a fantastic match on Saturday afternoon. If the Thorns compete at the level they are capable of playing, then expect another championship in Soccer City, USA this weekend.

NWSL Championship Game

Portland Thorns vs. North Carolina Courage
1:30pm on the Lifetime channel.

Thorns headed back to NWSL Championship

Thorns headed back to NWSL Championship

The Portland Thorns FC will face the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League Championship this Saturday, Oct. 14, at Orlando City Stadium.

The Thorns earned a spot in the finals after defeating the Orlando Pride over the weekend. Goals by Amadine Henry, Emily Sonnett, Hayley Raso, and Christine Sinclair helped the Thorns reach a 4-1 victory over the Alex Morgan and Marta led Orlando team.

This is the Thorns’ fourth time in the NWSL postseason, making their second finals appearance. They won the inaugural NWSL Championship back in 2013.

What is bound to be an exciting game is also one full of history. Prior to relocating and rebranding, the Courage competed in the NWSL as the Western New York Flash for four seasons. The Thorns defeated the Flash in the inaugural championship in 2013 and lost to them in the semi-finals last season. The Thorns and the Courage have a 1-1-0 record this season.

This is also the fifth season of the NWSL, marking it as the longest running professional women’s soccer league in the US.

The Thorns finished second overall in the 10-team league with a record of 14-5-5. Led by all-time leading scorer and Portland Pilots legend Sinclair, the Thorns hope to take the championship crown for the second time on Saturday in Orlando.

Kick-off is at 1:30 p.m. PT (4:30 ET) and can be watched live on Lifetime.

Sinclair’s brace helps put an end to Portland’s two-game skid

Sinclair’s brace helps put an end to Portland’s two-game skid

Portland, OR – The Portland Thorns came into Wednesday’s matchup in dire need of a victory. Portland had lost two matches in a row, including a 3-1 loss at home to Sky Blue FC on June 17. Losses in Providence Park just don’t happen. Including the loss to Sky Blue, the Thorns came in with am impressive home record of 13-2-3 since the start of the 2016 season and looked to add another on to the win column with FC Kansas City in town.

FC Kansas City came in winless in its previous three matches (0-1-2), and with an overall road record of 1-3-1. For a team that is struggling, and is poor on the road to boot, Providence Park is the last place you want to be.

Portland fed off the home crowd, as is usual, and dominated from the start. Any danger FCKC posed was because the Thorns made little mental errors, but nothing large enough to bite them. Portland had the occasional misplayed ball here, the occasional poor pass there, but largely looked to be playing a game of cat and mouse.

Before Kansas City could really get in any kind of groove they found themselves playing from behind.

Just fifteen minutes into the match Allie Long put a shot on goal from about 10-yards out. Her shot was blocked, but it bounced off the post and right to the feet of a wide-open Christine Sinclair. The Captain did what she does best, and put the Thorns up 1-0.

From that point on it never felt like much of a match. The question wasn’t if the Thorns would win, it was how many goals would they score before the final whistle?

The answer: Three

Hayley Raso added a goal in the in the 32’, and Sinclair added another goal in the 75’.

This was a great bounce back game for Portland, and much needed as their next two matches will be on the road.

FINAL SCORE: Portland Thorns 3 – FC Kansas City 0

Notes: Hayley Raso scored the first goal of her NWSL career. A beautiful shot from beyond the right side of the box that curled around the defense and just over the hand of the goalkeeper. She joked postgame, calling the shot “lucky” but it was one of the more impressive goals I have seen. Sinclair looked to score her second goal of the match in the 71', but a controversial handball call negated it. She got her revenge four minutes later when she scored the team's third goal of the game.

Next Up: Portland travels up north to take on rival Seattle Reign FC on Saturday, July 1. Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM at Memorial Stadium.

Sky Blue ends Portland's six-game unbeaten streak

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Sky Blue ends Portland's six-game unbeaten streak

Generally speaking thirty seconds isn’t a lot of time, but on Saturday it was all Sky Blue FC needed to take control vs. Portland.  Sky Blue got the ball to start the match and went right down the field to score the opening goal less than a minute into play.

The goal happened so fast I was still in the middle of the obligatory “and we are underway” tweet. Even if you weren’t paying attention you knew a goal had been scored thanks to the collective gasp of thousands of Thorns fans that had just been punched in the gut.

But this is the Portland Thorns: A team unbeaten in its previous six matchups (3-0-3) and a team with a 13-1-3 record over its last 17 home games. Those two facts, coupled with the fact that this team is always a threat to score, made it feel like the equalizer was coming at any moment. Patient as the Thorns faithful were, that equalizer never came.

Finding that game-tying goal became even harder in the 70’ when Sky Blue’s Samantha Kerr broke away from the pack just past midfield and the only thing between her and the net was Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch. Kerr shot the ball by a diving Franch and netted Sky Blue’s second goal of the match.

It looked like Portland had life, scoring a goal just seconds later, but an offside call would make sure the score remained 2-0 in favor of Sky Blue.

Portland tried as hard as it could as time ticked away, but as the old cliché goes, it was too little, too late.

Final Score: Portland Thorns1 – Sky Blue FC 3.

Next Up: Portland heads to the east coast to take on the Washington Spirit. Kickoff is set for 4:00 PM at Maryland Soccerplex.

Henry, Thorns dominate Breakers

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Henry, Thorns dominate Breakers

With the temperature hovering around 90 degrees Saturday night, the Portland Thorns returned home, desperately seeking a morale boost - and, perhaps, a victory.

It took them 37 seconds to lock both of those down, with an Own Goal from the Breakers, giving the Thorns all the cushion they would need en route a 2-0 win.

Amandine Henry would score for the Thorns four minutes later, cementing the Thorns' first victory in their last three matches, as they dominated - from literally the opening minute - the Boston Breakers, providing a bit of payback after the teams had a 2-2 draw last Friday in Boston. Henry's goal, her first in a Thorns uniform, came off a beautiful left-footed shot that just snuck past Breakers' goalkeeper Abby Smith into the left corner of the goal, igniting a raucous and semi-unfathomable reaction from the nearly 19,000 fans in attendance. 

"I think we've continued to get better each week," head coach Mark Parsons said after the game. "The results haven't always shown, but performance-wise, we've been really happy. We talked about attacking with purpose, and defending with urgency, and you saw that in the first ten minutes when we could have had three or four goals."

The Thorns were the aggressor early and often, finishing with 17 shots on goal - nearly three times that of the Breakers - and no player better exemplified that than Henry.

"Amandine is a player of the highest level," said Parsons. "Unfortunately, because of our position, sometimes it's hard to see the class and the quality that she has. She does a lot of important things for our team. I think (her goal) will give her the confidence to keep shooting."

She agrees.

"I feel very good," said Henry, unable to control her smile. "I'm very happy, and tonight, the most important thing is the three points we won. I'm so happy for my first goal here. I'm not used to shooting a lot, but when I shoot, I want to score."

For Portland (3-1-3 on the season), Saturday's win broke a two-game draw streak and could be the jump start they have been looking for as the season begins to ramp up.

"Boston is a really good team, and I thought the game (back in Boston last Friday) was one of the hardest," said Parsons."But it's lovely being back home, in this place. They love to play the game, and they know they needed to represent the community here, tonight, and go out and show what it's all about when we get the chance to play at home."

The Thorns play at Sky Blue FC next Saturday, before the return game of the home-and-home on Saturday, June 17th. 

Thorns get late goal, tie Reign 2-2

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Thorns get late goal, tie Reign 2-2

For nearly 93 minutes, the Portland Thorns and Seattle Reign showed why their rivalry is the most ferocious in all of the NWSL. Unfortunately, for both sides, they don't have any bragging rights to show for it. After Allie Long's header in the 81st minute, the teams would engage in 12 minutes of wild, back-and-forth action, with the Thorns squandering numerous opportunities before the teams settled for a 2-2 tie on Saturday night in front of nearly 16,000 fans at Providence Park.

"I had to fight to get up and get that ball. I didn't even know if it went in or not, but I was really happy when I saw it crossed the line," said Long. 

Allie's goal, in a random set of events, was the only goal truly kicked in by the Thorns; the team's first goal, which was credited to Hayley Ruso, went in after it ricocheted off the leg of Jessica Fishlock of the Reign, igniting a fever-pitch reaction from the stunned home crowd. Fishlock, a member of the Wales Olympic team, scored the match's first goal less than a minute in, which Thorns coach Mark Parsons said threw his squad off.

"When you concede in the first minute - and it was a great strike - but it was weird how it came about, and it shakes most teams. I thought we actually managed it well, but it took our foot off the gas a bit. We didn't have as much pressure on the ball that we would have liked to have. And we were a little cautious with our passing in the first half.

"In the second half, I felt like it was in third, fourth, fifth gear. We turned it on." 

Every time the Thorns threatened to steal momentum, however, the Reign went right back to work. No time was more of a blow than after Ruso's goal, when the Reign's Merritt Mathias scored less than three minutes later, grabbing a 2-1 halftime lead.

When Long tied the game late, and when the Thorns didn't back down from the rugged - and sometimes dirty - play of the Reign, it sent a message loud and clear to their coach.

"(The second half) started to feel like some of the good soccer we played last year when we were full throttle. I think it's going to take us another 2-3 games to kind of reach the stride we did in the second half, but that's just the way this league works. It's great that we saw that."

The tie drops the Thorns to 2-1-1 on the year, second place in the NWSL. The Reign move to 1-1-2 and are currently in 6th. The Thorns will play at FC Kansas City next Saturday, before returning home to face the Boston Breakers the following Friday.

Thorns FC re-sign defender Emily Menges, midfielder Mana Shim

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Craig Mitchelldyer/ Portland Thorns

Thorns FC re-sign defender Emily Menges, midfielder Mana Shim

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC have re-signed defender Emily Menges and midfielder Mana Shim, it was announced today.

Menges, 24, was a 2016 NWSL Best XI selection, starting all 20 games and playing every minute of every match, anchoring a defense that allowed the fewest goals in the league (19) during the regular season. In addition, Menges also earned her first call-up to the U.S. Women’s National Team in November 2016. A third-round pick by Portland in the 2014 NWSL College Draft, Menges currently ranks third in club history in games started (59) and minutes played (5,301), while ranking fourth in games played (60).

“Emily was one of the key reasons we had such a great defensive record last season,” said Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons. “She made great progress throughout 2016, and I look forward to supporting her on making big strides again this season.”

In 2016, Shim, 25, appeared in 14 games (9 starts), tallying one assist for Thorns FC. Originally signed by Portland on April 5, 2013, after an open tryout, the Honolulu, Hawaii, native helped guide Thorns FC to the 2013 NWSL Championship during her rookie campaign. In four seasons with the club, Shim has appeared in 68 career games (43 starts) for Portland, recording nine goals and nine assists.

“Mana showed her ability to link and create while also developing her game on the defensive side in 2016,” said Parsons. “I look forward to seeing her continue this work and be ready to help the team any way she can.”

Portland will open its preseason camp for the 2017 season on March 13. Fans interested in purchasing Thorns FC Annual Memberships for the 2017 season are encouraged to call the ticket office at (503) 553-5555 or email ticketsales@timbers.com. Additionally, tickets for the Thorns Spring Invitational presented by Tillamook at Providence Park March 26-April 1 are available for purchase online at www.thornsfc.com.

Tobin Heath brings 2016 to a close on a high note

Tobin Heath brings 2016 to a close on a high note

Written by John Stupak

It’s something we’ve known all throughout the year, whether we watched the Portland Thorns or the Women’s National Team, but it can now be declared with little doubt; we have the best women’s soccer player in the nation.

With little fanfare and minimal media coverage, Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath has been named the 2016 Soccer Female Player of the Year.

Tobin’s award marks a welcome high point in what has been an up and down year for sports in Oregon. The Oregon Ducks football program was atrocious most of the year. But, the Oregon State Beavers finally won a Civil War game. The Portland Trail Blazers had a promising 2016 but has underwhelmed going into 2017. The defending MLS Cup Champs, the Portland Timbers, saw its championship trophy being handed over to the Seattle Sounders (ouch!). Tobin’s own NWSL team, the Thorns, had a record-breaking regular-season but lost in the playoffs at home.

Tobin’s accomplishment, while individual, marks a final high note in 2016 for not only the Thorns, but for Oregon sports in general.

Heath had a NWSL-record 10 assists this season, which is amazing considering she missed a significant amount of time with the national team where she also recorded a career-best six goals and eight assists while playing the second most minutes on the team. She helped the Portland Thorns win the regular season title and was named to the NWSL Best XI. She also recorded two assists during the 2016 Olympic Games. Not a bad year by any stretch.

At only 28, Heath should still be entering her prime soccer years, which bolds well for the Thorns’ bid to win another championship. Heath was able to flourish under first-year coach Mark Parsons; she awed the Providence Park crowd with her footwork and perfect set-ups. Nearly a decade into her career, Heath can still dazzle amongst the best while embracing her new role as a leader among teammates. Without doubt, Heath is as much fun to watch as any soccer player on the planet, men’s or women’s.

So, let’s give some yuletide cheer to Heath as we wrap up this most uneven year. She deserves it. The fans deserve it. Portland deserves it. There will be no parades in downtown, they would all be canceled due to weather, anyway. 2016 was not the year we were have all hoping it was going to be for a variety of reasons. But, it should be said one last time before we close it out, we do have Tobin Heath.