Posted by John Stupak
On Sunday against the Seattle Reign, the Portland Thorns were without a plethora of players due to international commitments. Going up against an archrival wasn’t great timing for a slew of quality players to be missing, but the Thorns did get back one key component to their roster: Michelle Betos. Wait, that’s 2015 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Michelle Betos to you.
Betos’ return from a right shoulder nerve injury came at just the right time and will only make the Thorns that much better for the rest of the season, assuming her shoulder holds up the rest of the year. And, if the Thorns offense can’t always find a way to produce goals, as it failed to do in a 0-0 draw against the Reign, they can always call upon Betos to step up in that department as well.
Betos was greeted with the loudest cheers from the 18,000-plus in attendance when her name was announced during the starting lineups and she instantly reminded fans of why she won the coveted goalkeeper award. On her first game back since week two, she was everywhere around the box, making a host of saves while playing through some obvious discomfort at times in her right shoulder, her two prolonged pauses during the game as she tended to her shoulder was enough to give fans a reason to squirm in their seats. She played thought it, however, and was a big reason why the Thorns were still able to gain a point despite the offense being nearly non-existent without the likes of assist leader Tobin Heath and leading goal scorer Lindsey Horan. Betos showcased everything that has made her successful in every level of the game she has been a part of while flying completely under the radar for most of her career.
The road has not been a short one for Betos, however, to finally land where she is today. Born in Queens, New York, she attended the University of Georgia (2006-2009) where she ranks third all-time in saves and second all-time in shutouts and wins. Not being a NWSL before 2013, she traveled frequently through the years since 2009. From playing in her home state of New York for a semi-professional team, to Cyprus for a Champions League squad, to Seattle when the NWSL formed and finally to Portland (and Sydney, Australia); Betos has traveled a great many miles, literally and figuratively, to get where she is today.
Before 2015, Betos was just good enough to be a backup to some of the best goalkeepers in the game, playing behind Hope Solo when she was with the Seattle Reign and then former Thorns keeper Nadine Angerer. Last year, the first season after Angerer retired, she proved she was good enough to deserve her own backup, earning her keep as a starter while setting career highs in minutes, wins, saves, shutouts, and SportsCenter top ten plays. Hopefully, she has found a home of sorts here in the Rose City. She has put her stamp on this organization after just one, albeit really good, year.
The Thorns will need Betos to be in top form for their next game against the Chicago Red Stars, the top team in the league, on the road. Portland also needs to show they can win consistently away from home. While a 1-0-3 start away from Providence Park is a measurable improvement from last year, they still need to be better in order to be seen as an elite team in the NWSL. They can take a huge step in gunning for that top spot in the standings with a win or draw against the Red Stars on June 12. With Betos back protecting the goal and with Heath, Horan, and the rest of the team scheduled to be back as well (hopefully), we should finally see this Thorns team at full strength.