All good things must come to an end.
After shocking the NWSL when upsetting two-time defending champion North Carolina Courage in the quarterfinals, Portland Thorns FC (1-3-2) fell 1-0 to the Houston Dash in the semifinals of the NWSL Challenge Cup.
However, all along, head coach Mark Parsons has stressed that the 2020 season will be a developmental season for his squad with the team.
Mission accomplished for the Thorns, but Mark Parsons and the club are not done yet. The Thorns FC head coach cannot wait to get back to work, building the franchise back into a title contender.
I can't wait. I cannot wait... [I] just want to get everyone back healthy and ready.... The improtant thing is that the belief is so real in what we're doing right now. - Mark Parsons
It was quite the turnaround from how Parsons felt after the conclusion of the 2019 season, that ended with Portland being shut out five of its final six games, despite entering the final stretch of the season as the NWSL's top team.
"We finished last year and I just wanted to climb into a hole," recalled Parsons. "Previously, we had been a bit short-sighted - I was last year... and we fizzled out. We were very short-term, outcome-based. We got in a good position but that's not going to be effective in the medium or longterm."
The franchise shifted its priority towards building for the future during the 2020 NWSL College Draft, where they traded up to select Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver, at first and second-overall respectively.
The team didn't get to see their prized selection, however, after a knee injury sidelined Sophia Smith for the entirety of the tournament.
Second-overall pick Morgan Weaver scored the game-winning goal against the Courage in the team's lone win of the 2020 season, but Portland was close to winning many of their three ties, dominating possession in a number of games with a poorly-timed defensive lapse leading to the tie against Washington.
When it's all said and done, the team has grown exponentially during the 2020 shortened season. Parsons has claimed time and time again that no team worked harder during the pandemic when the season was up in the air whether it would happen, and the results showed in Utah where they showed they can compete with anyone.
This was a very important two or three months for us. We made more progress than we had previously for a long, long time. We felt that before we got here. We felt that even more during and then we've seen that this team is capable of. - Mark Parsons
In 2021, with a healthy Lindsey Horan, Sophia Smith, and a returning Tobin Heath, the NWSL better watch out because Portland wants the path to the NWSL Championship to run through the Rose City once again.