Portland Thorns

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. 

Blazers, Thorns, Timbers, Winterhawks, and Hops combine disaster relief efforts

Blazers, Thorns, Timbers, Winterhawks, and Hops combine disaster relief efforts

The following is a joint press release from the Trail Blazers, Timbers, Thorns FC, Winterhawks and Hops

PORTLAND, Ore. (September 5, 2017) – With disaster response and relief efforts happening in their own communities and across the country, the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA), Portland Timbers (MLS), Portland Thorns FC (NWSL), Portland Winterhawks (Western Hockey League) and Hillsboro Hops (Northwest League) will band together to raise much-needed funds and blood donations to channel through the American Red Cross.  This is the first joint-philanthropic initiative among the five local professional franchises focusing on a specific cause – to bring aid to victims of Oregon’s wildfires; Hurricane Harvey in Texas; and the potential impact of Hurricane Irma in Florida.

“The destruction we’ve seen from the Oregon wildfires and Hurricane Harvey is heartbreaking,” said Chris McGowan, President & CEO of the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter.  “The journey to recovery will be a long one for all impacted areas. The professional sports community here in Portland is rallying our respective fan bases, employees and partners to contribute resources to assist in the effort where it’s needed most.”  

“Our hearts go out to the families and individuals affected by the devastating fires in Oregon and the communities in Southeast Texas as they begin the process to rebuild and heal,” said Mike Golub, President of Business for the Timbers and Thorns FC. “By working together with our local partners, we are able to maximize our collective impact in support of the communities affected by the devastation caused by these disasters."   

The first steps taken will be to hold individual blood drives starting tomorrow, with each team hosting its own specially-designated day at the headquarters for the Portland American Red Cross, located at 3131 North Vancouver Avenue.  The need for blood is constant and the American Red Cross is the largest supplier of blood and blood products to hospitals in the nation. 

Fundraising efforts by each team will take place in the coming weeks and months at select home games and events to be announced soon.  The Timbers, Thorns FC and Hops seasons are currently underway, with the Winterhawks and Trail Blazers beginning their 2017-18 seasons soon.  Additional information will be posted on each team’s website and through their social media channels.

“We’re pleased to be involved with the team effort to raise funds and support the relief efforts locally and nationally,” said K.L. Wombacher, President and General Manager of the Hillsboro Hops.  “Having two players on our roster that we care deeply about being from the Houston area, Hurricane Harvey hits home for us. Our hearts go out to all those who have lost so much over the last week. We hope to do everything we can to help them get their lives back.”

"Between the forest fires threatening the Northwest and the hurricanes causing catastrophic damage on the Gulf Coast, the resources of the American Red Cross are being stretched to the limits," said Doug Piper, President of the Portland Winterhawks.  "We are proud to stand with the Portland sports community and bring aid to those who so desperately need it.”

Red Cross blood donations can be conveniently scheduled online at www.redcrossblood.org for any of their blood drive locations throughout the region; or through the mobile app by texting BLOODAPP to 90999.  Here is the schedule of upcoming blood drives hosted by each Portland-area pro sports team (**Note:  Donors should use visitor parking for their vehicles, or dial (503) 528-5800 for parking guidance if visitor spaces are full):

  • Wednesday, September 6 – Hillsboro Hops; 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 7 – Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC; 80 appointment slots from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Friday, September 8 – Portland Winterhawks; 7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 9 – Portland Trail Blazers; 100 appointment slots from 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

For financial donations, text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps people affected by disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires and tornadoes.  Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Donors must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Message and Data Rates may apply. Text STOP to 90999 to STOP. Text HELP to 90999 for HELP. Full Terms and Privacy Policy: hmgf.org/t.

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.

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.

 

Thorns FC exercise 2017 contract options on 10 players

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Thorns FC

Thorns FC exercise 2017 contract options on 10 players

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC today announced that the club has exercised the 2017 contract options on 10 players. 

The players whose options were exercised for the 2017 season are: goalkeeper Adrianna Franch; defenders Meg Morris and Katherine Reynolds; midfielders Celeste Boureille, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Amandine Henry and Kendall Johnson; and forwards Nadia Nadim, Hayley Raso, and Mallory Weber.

Canada forward Christine Sinclair and USA midfielders Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Allie Long and defenders Meghan Klingenberg and Emily Sonnett will remain on the club’s roster as Federation Players. 

Goalkeeper Michelle Betos, defender Emily Menges and midfielder Mana Shim are out of contract and have been extended new contract offers. 

Thorns FC declined the 2017 contract option on defender Jen Skogerboe and she has signed with South Korean side Suwon FMC of the WK League. 

Following the conclusion of the 2016 season, defender Kat Williamson announced her retirement as a professional soccer player.

Portland Thorns set new records in final (regular season) home game

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Portland Thorns

Portland Thorns set new records in final (regular season) home game

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The Portland Thorns finally delivered on what they have been wanting to achieve since the NWSL’s inaugural season in 2013. Even on that year, when the Thorns won the championship, it never happened. But, it is finally going to happen in 2016; the Thorns are going to host a playoff game at Providence Park.

After two straight, dominating performances by the Thorns, the Western New York Flash came into Portland on Sunday night and presented the toughest challenge to the Thorns since back-to-back Seattle Reign matches over a month ago. In front of a nationally televised, sold-out Providence Park crowd, the Thorns won a game that looked like it might be another easy three points but turned in a matter of minutes into a nail biter to the final whistle.

The Flash looked entirely game to try and spoil the night’s jovial mood from the outset, giving the Thorns fits early and often by getting some quality looks at the goal and dominating offensively. The Flash, sitting fourth in the standings and just two points ahead of the fifth place Reign, came out like their playoff lives depended on it. That, along with some defensive giveaways by the Thorns, had the home crowd on edge with Michelle Betos and the Portland defenders being the busiest Thorns during the first 25 minutes of the match.

The home team finally caught a break in the 27th minute when Nada Nadim earned a penalty kick when the Flash’s Jaelene Hinkle earned a yellow card for knocking Nadim down on a breakaway near the goal. Nadim capitalized on the opportunity, giving the Thorns the first lead of the night.

Christine Sinclair, who has been on a tear since coming back from the Olympics, scored in the 37th minute to give the Thorns a 2-0 advantage at halftime and things were looking especially rosy in Portland on a beautiful, clear evening.

For much of the second half, The Thorns defense remained air tight while Dagny Brynjarsdottir joined the scoring party for the Thorns in the 69th minute, giving Portland a 3-0 lead. However, things were about to get a lot more interesting soon after.

The Flash brought the crowd back to the edge of their seats when they scored two quick goals late. The ball finally got past Betos in the 77th minute when Jess McDonald knocked in a header to give Western New York some life. Then, just three minutes later, Lynn Williams found herself open on a breakaway, nicely finishing a perfectly placed kick that cut the lead to 3-2.

The Thorns, having found themselves in a competitive match again, had to sweat out the remaining ten minutes plus stoppage time. The Flash had one last chance in the final few seconds to draw even on a corner kick, but Betos snared the ball in mid-air to secure three points for the Thorns and home field advantage for the semifinals of the playoffs. For the fans in attendance who were loud, chanting and standing all night long, maybe no more so than those final few minutes, the Thorns gave back with a gift of victory.

Sunday night’s game also set new NWSL records for total and average home attendance in a season. The sell-out crowd boosted Portland’s total attendance to 169,449 for the season, breaking the old Thorns record of 160,341 in 2014. It boosted the average attendance to 16,945, beating the old record of 15,639, also set by the Thorns in 2015.

There is one more regular season game remaining for the Thorns, a road game against Sky Blue FC on September 25. There is also still the possibility for the Thorns to take over first place in the NWSL standings, if they can get some help from the Washington Spirit to miss out on a few points. But, Thorns fans can finally rejoice and begin to get ready for the match they have all been waiting for, a home playoff game at Providence Park. After four record breaking seasons, the players and the fans have earned it.

After the Olympics, Portland Thorns will have high expectations

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After the Olympics, Portland Thorns will have high expectations

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The Portland Thorns came into last Saturday night’s game against rival Seattle Reign losers of two straight. After 12 consecutive games without a loss, the Thorns unprecedented streak was not only over, but their grip on first place in the NWSL standings was in jeopardy as well. A season of high expectations was becoming precariously close to falling off an Olympic sized chasm.

In what may be seen as one of the biggest games of the year when all is said and done, the Thorns eked out a 1-0 victory in front of 19,000-plus at Providence Park. Behind a shrewd coaching move by Thorns coach Mark Parsons to go with a back line that was five deep, six saves from goalkeeper Michelle Betos, a standout performance from Nadia Nadim and one big save by Katherine Reynolds, the Thorns gained three points to remain at the top of the standings heading into a month long break.

The Thorns have survived their toughest stretch of the season relatively unscathed. When they return to action in late August, there will be no excuses, not that there ever has been with this team, for the Thorns to be heavy favorites to win it all. One thing is clear; with a team this talented and deep, an appearance in the NWSL Championship should be the primary goal.

Last season, the Portland Timbers made a remarkable run to the MSL Cup, winning the first major title in Portland since the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977 Portland Thorns in 2013. The Thorns have the opportunity to deliver another title to the Rose City. It should be the expectation of this town. It should be the expectation of the Thorns. The Timbers are looking less and less likely to repeat as MLS champs, so it may be up to the Thorns to keep this parade routine going into 2016.

Come late August and early September there will be a flurry of games to close out the season. Of the five remaining games left, only two are against a top five opponent with two more against the cellar dwellers of the NWSL. The Thorns, barring any Olympic injury (knock on wood), should be a complete team by then. Having proved earlier in the season that they are the best team in the league when everyone is assembled, the soccer version of The Avengers if ever there was one, the Thorns should march into the playoffs with their sights set on Houston.

Back in the fold will be Tobin Heath (already making her presence felt in the Olympics), Lindsey Horan, and Allie Long. Back will be Christine Sinclair (see Tobin Heath parenthesis), Amandine Henry, Meghan Klingenberg, and Emily Sonnet. They will fortify a squad that was admirably held down by Nadim, Betos, Reynolds and newcomers like Dagny Brynjarsdottir. The Thorns should have nothing short of title aspirations when September arrives.

If the Thorns should require any smaller goals to help achieve their ultimate end game, it should be this: The Thorns have yet to host a playoff game. How great would it be to give the fans something they have been waiting to see and experience since 2013? Over 19,000 fans showed up to a home game when most of the more well know names were absent. The vibe and energy in the stadium was nothing short of a typical, dynamic Thorns game. Can you imagine what a playoff game in Portland would be like? It might just give Timbers fans a moment of appreciation and adoration.

August will be a long month for the Thorns fans. The next game isn’t until August 27 and the next home game is not until September 4. That’s a long wait for fans of a team with visions of confetti and a trophy dancing in their heads. But, good things come to those who wait. So, enjoy the Olympics, Thorns fans. Feel the pride of watching a team bursting with Thorns players compete for our country (and Canada, and France). Take a deep breath and relish the break, because exciting things are on the horizon.

Thorns end losing streak with 1-0 win over Reign

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Thorns end losing streak with 1-0 win over Reign

The Portland Thorns, the best team in the NWSL, came into Saturday’s game looking to get back on track. After starting the season with a team record 12-game undefeated streak, Portland was in the midst of a two-game losing streak. The early streak had them high in the standings, but the recent losing efforts had them wanting more. 

They got it on Saturday.

With rival Seattle in town you knew you were in for a treat. However, the Thorns (and the Reign for that matter) were a shell of their normal selves. With seven players, all of which are everyday starters, out to represent their respective nations in the Olympics, the Thorns had to rely on depth to get them through.

For much of the match Seattle looked like the stronger team. Seattle’s offense was controlling possession, and controlling the game. On the other side, the Thorns defense was doing everything it needed to do to make sure the Reign wouldn’t do any damage.

Time after time Michelle Betos was able to stop Seattle in its tracks, and keep the Reign at bay. With so many familiar names out of the lineup, this familiar named stepped up and hit one out of the park.

Her counterpart in the other net, Haley Kopmeyer, was no slouch either. She continually stopped the Thorns, and her defenders up front helped slam the door on the Thorns most of the match. That is, until Nadia Nadim stepped up.

Nadim busted down that door in the late stages of the game with a goal that seemingly came out of nowhere. In minute 74, Mana Shim sent a high arching pass into the box that looked to be an easy clear for Seattle. However, Nadim, sandwiched between two Reign defenders, would out jump the defense and send a header past the Seattle goalkeeper. Kopmeyer never had a chance.  The goal was met with a thunderous roar from the Portland faithful.

Fans were looking at a 0-0 tie, instead an improbable header gave them a 1-0 win.

Final Score: Portland Thorns 1 – Seattle Reign 0

Standout Thorns: No one played a better, or a more consistent game than Michelle Betos. The Thorns’ Goalkeeper was in total control of the box, and made sure to stop anything the Reign sent her way. Some saves were easy, some saves took quite a bit of effort. Betos was ready for all of them. At the end of the day, it was simply a very strong game from a very strong keeper.

Next Up: The Thorns get a very nice break from the pitch while the Olympics are going on, and don’t return to game action until August 27th. Their next opponent: The Seattle Reign, this time up in their neck of the woods. Kickoff for that match is set for 2:00 PM at Memorial Stadium in Seattle.