Portland Thorns

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 partner with Social CBD, a first for the NWSL

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Portland Thorns FC

Thorns partner with Social CBD, a first for the NWSL

Portland Thorns FC has partnered with Social CBD in a landmark sponsorship that will set a precedent for other teams to follow. They are the first team in the NWSL to be sponsored by a CBD company. 

Social CBD has a presence in over 10,000 locations nationwide. They aim to lead a global conversation on CBD and professional athletes with this partnership. The company promises product with 0.00% THC.

The President of Business for Thorns FC, Mike Golub had the following to say: 

"We are excited about the opportunity to be the first women's professional sports team to partner with a growing, Portland-based CBD brand, which has become a leader in the industry and look forward to collaborating on more elements in the near future,"

President of Social CBD, Angelo Lombardi also chimed in:

"We are excited to be the exclusive CBD partner of one of the most successful women's professional sports teams in the world. With a product promise of 0.0% THC and setting standards for testing and strength across the industry, Social CBD is honored to be the first and trusted CBD brand to partner with the Portland Thorns FC."

All kinds of intriguing storylines as the Portland Thorns enter the NWSL Playoffs as the #3 seed

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Portland Thorns

All kinds of intriguing storylines as the Portland Thorns enter the NWSL Playoffs as the #3 seed

Tonight's Portland Thorns game didn't mean anything for the playoff standings. With Seattle's draw earlier in the day, Portland locked into the #3 seed (four teams make the NWSL playoffs). 

The third seed means the Thorns play Chicago and avoid North Carolina. This is important for two reasons:

1) They avoid NC, a team that beat them 6-0 just a few weeks ago. It was the worst loss in Thorns history. 

2) If the Thorns win their semifinal game vs. Chicago, and NC beats Seattle, the two will meet in the championship game for the 3rd season in row. Portland won in 2017, NC won in 2018. Let's have the rubber match!

The Portland vs. Chicago match will take place at 12:30pm Pacific Time on October 20th. 

The NWSL Championship Match will be hosted in North Carolina, regardless of which teams advance to the finals, on 10/27 at 12:30pm Pacific Time. 

 

 

How the Portland Thorns' loss shapes up their playoff picture

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Portland Thorns twitter

How the Portland Thorns' loss shapes up their playoff picture

When the Thorns won their home game vs. the Houston Dash last week, it locked them into a spot in the NWSL playoffs. The two-time champions have high expectations for this postseason and securing a playoff berth was only the first step.

If Portland had won today, the #2 seed (and home field advantage in the semifinals) would have still been reachable. With the 2-0 loss, the Thorns have put themselves in a tough spot. The Reign now sit just two points behind the Thorns with one game each remaining. If Seattle wins their final game and Portland loses, the Thorns will drop the #4 seed and have to face the North Carolina Courage, who beat them badly just a few weeks ago by a score of 6-0, in the semifinals. 

The good news is Portland controls their own destiny. Win and they slot in as the #3 seed and take on #2 Chicago. 

A Portland draw opens up more possibilities depending on how Seattle’s final game plays out. Seattle could tie Portland with a win (but Portland loses that tie-breaker on head to head matchups) or Portland could hold on to the #3 seed if Seattle draws or loses. 

The NWSL playoff works as follows:

- It is a single elimination tournament. 

- Only four of the nine teams qualify.

- The top two teams host their first round (semifinal) games.

- If extra time is needed, two 15-minute extra periods are played followed by shootouts if needed. 

The 2019 NWSL Championship Game will be held in North Carolina (who is currently the #1 seeded team) and will be played on October 27th. 

Thorns rebound in a big way against Houston

Thorns rebound in a big way against Houston

How do you rebound from the worst loss in franchise history? By coming out and taking down a pesky Houston Dash team to lock in a trip the playoffs. It was a much-needed three points for Portland, and "much-needed" way be an understatement. After two straight losses, Portland found itself in search of its identity and in fear of falling out of the playoff race. A loss to Houston would have still left the door open for both Utah and Reign FC to jump the Thorns. Not anymore.

The win locks in the playoffs, and also keeps the Thorns in the hunt for a postseason home game. Portland (39pts) now sits just two points behind second-place Chicago (41pts). The Red Stars have just one game remaining, while the Thorns have two. All this means is that Portland controls its own destiny - Win out, and you're guaranteed to finish in second place (North Carolina has already locked in first place).

All of this is just a long way of saying this was a big, big win for the Thorns. 

Smaller score, bigger match:

Last match the Thorns and Courage combined to score six goals - too bad the Courage scored all six of them. On Saturday the Thorns wiped that bad taste out of their mouth and held Houston scoreless. Said Thorns' star Tobin Heath, who happened to score the only goal of the match, "the team came out with a lot of fire and character, and a good response from last week. That was really positive." 

After that loss to North Carolina, Coach Parsons talked about how his squad needed to find its identity. They needed to remember what it meant to be a Thorn. It's something he says his team did on Saturday. "We can build and look to improve our quality and look to improve our strengths, and how we can play a little bit better while taking care of the most important thing, which was fight and work like Thorns. I thought we did that tonight."

Bigger than Soccer:

Prior to Saturday's match, the team sported special "I'm not done yet," t-shirts to support teammate Emily Menges. Menges and her family started the Bobby Menges "'I'm Not Done Yet" Foundation after her younger brother Bobby lost his battle with cancer. The foundation raises funds to help "adolescent patients with serious, long-term, and chronic illnesses transition from pediatrics to adulthood." The Thorns showed their support by wearing these specially designed shirts during warm-ups. Fans can purchase them as well, with 30% of all sales going to support the foundation. Unfortunately, the shirts are sold out right now but may be restocked in the near future. You can find where to purchase them HERE.

Next Up:

The Thorns return to the pitch on Sunday, on the road in Tacoma. This could be one of the tougher matches of the season, with Reign FC likely needing a victory to hold on to hopes of making the playoffs. You don't want to miss it. Kickoff is set for 11:00 am at Cheney Stadium. 

We've never seen the Portland Thorns dominated like this

We've never seen the Portland Thorns dominated like this

Five goals. That was the most goals the Thorns had ever lost by. It happened twice in the 2014 season: Once to the Western New York Flash and once to the Seattle Reign. 

But now those 5-0 losses are just footnotes to the debacle Portland had at Providence Park on Wednesday. The defending champion North Carolina Courage came to town and handed the Thorns a 6-0 smackdown. 

It was the worst loss in the history of the franchise, and for a team that has long been the torchbearer for the league, it was something no one in attendance was used to seeing. 

Coach Parsons simply put it, "we were probably at our worst."

Portland looked sluggish from the get-go. A step behind the Courage at every corner of the pitch. North Carolina outshot the Thorns 22-11, with 17 of those 22 shots coming from inside the box. Adrianna Franch, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, looked nothing like herself. 

No one wearing a Portland kit was playing with fire in their eyes, and Parsons said it all started with how the team approached the match. 

"It starts and ends with me. Tactical and game prep. Through physical, through mental, through emotional, it was probably down there at the very, very worst."

Portland started the week atop the standings but two straight losses saw them fall to second place in the NWSL, just a point above third-place Chicago. How does Parsons plan to get the Thorns back to form?

"Fortunately we have a bit of time before our next game to be able to first identify who we are," said Parsons. "Find that. Remind ourselves of that. We know who we are. Put that right at the top of the list and say this is who we are and this is what we're fighting for, this is what we're working for. On the good nights, and on the bad nights like this, that will guide us. That will be our shining light."

Hopefully, that light shines brighter than ever before. Because following a 6-0 loss, the Thorns are in a pretty dark place. But if you know Coach Parsons and you know the Thorns, this is just a minor bump in the road. 

NEXT UP:
Portland remains at home to host the Houston Dash. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm on Saturday, September 21st at Providence Park. 

Social media reacts to the Portland Thorns' loss to Utah

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Portland Thorns FC

Social media reacts to the Portland Thorns' loss to Utah

The Thorns came into Friday's match atop the NWSL table, with the Utah Royals in third place and looking to make up some ground. Unfortunately for Portland, Utah did just that. Utah's Becky Sauerbrunn scored the game's only goal in the 36', giving the Royals the 1-0 lead and the eventual victory. The loss stings, but the Thorns had enough of a cushion that they are still in first place in the NWSL. Utah's victory allowed them to leapfrog the North Carolina Courage in the standings. 

The Thorns return to action on Wednesday, September 11th to take on North Carolina. In the meantime, fans took to social media to react to tonight's tough loss:

https://twitter.com/cmurphy_16/status/1170174742516699137

 

20,000+ watch as Thorns chase the Shield with 3-1 win over Washington

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Portland Thorns Twitter

20,000+ watch as Thorns chase the Shield with 3-1 win over Washington

More than 20,000 fans once again packed Providence Park for tonight's Thorns game, this time to see them host the Washington Spirit. 

Portland played at the level we have come to expect of the #1 ranked team in the NWSL (currently with 33 points). You can watch all three of the goals here:

The Thorns are chasing their first NWSL Shield since 2016, which is awarded to the team with the best regular season record. 

If you missed the game, or just want to watch it again, you can check it out over at Yahoo Sports. 

Social Media was abuzz after the game as the excitment builds towards the postseason as well as a milestone night for Tobin Heath:

https://twitter.com/GregFawver/status/1162945856779120641

Next up for the Thorns is a match vs. the Red Stars on the 25th. 

Goliath vs Goliath. Thorns victorious in championship rematch

Goliath vs Goliath. Thorns victorious in championship rematch

In sports we always talk about the battle of David vs Goliath. Can the heavy underdog come out and upset the monster favorite. Well, what we had at Providence Park on Sunday was the opposite of that cliché storyline.

Instead, it was Goliath vs Goliath. Two monsters of the NWSL going at it for a chance to jump to the top of the league standings. The matchup between North Carolina and Portland has quickly become a marquee main event, not just in the NWSL, but in American soccer.

Including North Carolina's time as the Western New York Flash, (they moved to North Carolina in 2017) the Courage and Thorns have combined to win four the NWSL's six league championships. No other team outside of these two has won the championship since 2015. In fact, no other team has even played in the championship match since 2016.

Portland beat North Carolina in the championship match in 2017, and North Carolina won the championship rematch in 2018. The two could be on a crash course for a third championship matchup in as many seasons, but first, they had some regular-season business to take care of.

In front of a Thorns and new NSWL record crowd of 25,218, the Thorns pulled off the 2-1 victory over the Courage. Unfortunately for the Courage it was two own goals that gave Portland the victory. Well, two own goals and an incredible home-field advantage.

Fans fill Providence Park:

The home-field advantage was on full display Sunday. 25,000 plus sold-out Providence Park to watch the to best teams in the league go at. It seems like every week the NWSL is setting an attendance record, the league at an all-time high following the Women's World Cup. But Providence Park has always been at the head of the pack.

Courage head coach Paul Riley, who coached the Thorns from 2014-2015 said of the attendance, "it's a fabulous place. The atmosphere was fantastic. We didn't keep the crowd quiet enough... It's a pleasure to play here, to be honest with you. If every game could be played here it would be great for the league."

Current Thorns head coach Mark Parsons gets to experience this home crowd for half of the season, but it hasn't lost its luster. "the advantage of being in the best place in the world with the best fans paid off today," said Parsons. "We're grateful on a record-setting day that we have, on all sides of the stadium, people coming here and supporting these players and setting a new high standard on how to support."

Portland is a special place for women's soccer, and it showed itself off on Sunday.

No match bigger:

When you think Portland rivalries it always takes you on a quick drive up I-5. You think The Timbers vs Sounders. You think Thorns vs Reign. But perhaps the biggest rivalry in women's soccer in 2019 takes place with opponents nearly 3,000 miles apart. Portland and North Carolina have long been the gold standard for the NWSL and their record of excellence has made each match between them must-watch television. Back-to-back meetings in the championship game will do that.

Even Parsons compared it to the rivalry with Reign FC. Said Parson, "when Seattle and Reign come play in this stadium, and that epic rivalry, it's absolutely huge. The fact that Thorns and Courage have developed a similar (rivalry) is a complement to what they've done over the last couple of years."

Riley also loves where the rivalry is going because it's great for the league. "A little bit of...not so much love between the two teams. I think that's good, it's an important part. Rivalry is important in women's sports. We've got a great rivalry with the Thorns and hopefully it can continue."

Bigger Than Soccer:

The NWSL family is sending its best wishes to Toni Pressley of the Orlando Pride. It was announced early in the week that Pressley had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The Pride defender underwent surgery on Friday and was placed on the 45-day disabled list as she begins her treatment and recovery.

Following his team's big win over North Carolina, Parsons took the time so send a special message to Pressley:

"One last thing. All of us at Thorns give our love to Toni Pressley, who obviously got some bad news this week. Amazing athlete. Amazing person. All the best to Orlando and Toni as she goes through her fight through cancer. We know she'll crush it and we know that she'll be back causing us problems in the future."

Next Up:

Portland remains at home to welcome the Washington Spirit to Providence Park on Saturday, August 17th. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm.

Social Media Reacts: No Luck up north for the Thorns

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Portland Thorns

Social Media Reacts: No Luck up north for the Thorns

The Thorns traveled up north to Tacoma to take on rivals Reign FC but they didn't head back home with the result they wanted. Portland couldn't get the offense going and Reign FC picked up an important 1-0 victory to climb up the standings. Lauren Barnes was a force on defense for Reign FC. No matter who got into the box, and no matter how good a look they got, Barnes was able to slam the door shut. She frustrated the Thorns all night and her efforts handed Portland just its fourth loss of the season. 

Here is how social media reacted:

https://twitter.com/BlazersBySagar/status/1159310091041964036