Soccer City USA was on full display on Wednesday. For the first time since the World Cup ended earlier this month, a full-strength Thorns squad took to the pitch at Providence Park.
Nine different Thorns represented their respective countries during the World Cup, including four on the championship United States squad.
As they returned home they had quite the welcoming committee. A Portland Thorns record 22,329 fans filled Providence Park, the second-largest crowd in NWSL history. "Unbelievable. On a Wednesday night, a new Thorns record and only 700-800 away from a new NWSL record," said head coach Mark Parson of the supporters. "Riveters, Portland Thorns fans, Portland as a city, this community... I feel like it's every couple of months they set a new standard and then they smash a new standard.
Chants of "equal pay" rang through the stadium and the crowd got louder and louder as the opening kick approached. The chants turned to roars as the returning national players were honored during a pregame ceremony. The electric atmosphere in the stands was somehow surpassed by the electric play on the field.
A full-strength squad for the Thorns is a force to be reckoned with and on this night the Houston Dash played the role of the sacrificial lamb.
Goals came and they came fast. Just 23 minutes into the action Portland had not one goal, but four. That's right - FOUR! Scoring four goals in an entire game is impressive enough, but to see it in just more than 20 minutes of action is unreal. It was like watching a video game. The Thorns scored goals at will. Haley Raso, fresh off representing Australia in the World Cup, tallied a brace, scoring the team's second and fourth goals of the match.
"That first 25-30 minutes was full-throttle Thorns. Electric football." said Parsons, "I feel bad for Houston in the sense they were facing a Thorns team that was flying on all cylinders"
The team was flying both figuratively and literally. Lindsay Horan flew threw the air for a spectacular bicycle kick that was just inches away from scoring the best goal of the NWSL season. Even as a near-miss the attempt was a jaw-dropper.
"We haven't all been home together in so long," said Horan, "We just wanted to come out and put on a show."
Horan wasn't the only returner turning heads. Tobin Heath played her first game back with the Thorns and along with Team Canada's Christine Sinclair, helped anchor the Thorns attack.
"I think that was the best half of football that Tobin (Heath) and Sinc (Christine Sinclair) had between the lines... great night for everyone being back together, " said Parson.
Speaking to Thorns' announcer Ann Schatz after the game, Heath said of her and Sinclair's performance, "Mark (Parsons) was saying something about Sinc and I, and we were just like, 'we just missed each other, that's all it was.' It's just great to be back."
They miss each other, we missed them, and a 5-0 victory over the Dash was a great return gift.
It was a great night for the players to be back and it was a great night to have them back. However, the return will be short-lived. The four players representing Team USA - Heath, Horan, Emily Sonnett, and Adrianna Franch - will miss the Thorns' next match while Team USA plays a friendly against Ireland at the Rose Bowl.