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.
The Red Stars hadn’t defeated the Thorns since 2013, until today.
The third seeded Portland Thorns FC traveled to the midwest to play the second seed Chicago Red Stars in the semifinals of the NWSL Playoffs. In the win-or-go-home match, the Red Stars scored early off a long run by forward and NSWL’s leading scorer Sam Kerr in the eighth minute. Kerr’s goal proved to be the difference as Thorns FC was shut out in a 1-0 loss.
At halftime, Thorns FC coach Mark Parsons told the broadcast that his initial lineup “didn’t stretch” the Red Stars like he had anticipated so he substituted midfielder Elizabeth Ball for striker Haley Raso.
The substitution made a difference since Portland created much better chances in the second half. In the 63rd minute Raso made a run in the box but her shot was saved to keep Thorns FC scoreless. Three minutes later, a Portland free kick was on goal but was also saved by Red Star goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Then, in the 67th minute Parsons substituted off midfielder Andressa Cavalari Machry for midfielder Margaret Purce. But it wasn’t enough as the Thorns could not put one in the net.
Only four points differentiated the teams in the standings, but head to head matchups have been dominated by Portland including two 3-0 victories over the Red Stars at home. But, this game was played on the road where the teams tied 4-4 early in the regular season.
Portland Thorns FC entered the playoffs in a slump highlighted by a 6-0 demolishing from the hands of the North Carolina Courage in Providence Park. Their poor play ultimately cost them a home semifinal game. By the game's end, Portland had surpassed over 300 minutes of gametime since their last goal.
The Red Stars will go on to play the NWSL Shield winners, the North Carolina Courage who defeated Seattle Reign FC 4-1 in extra time on Sunday.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Portland remains at home to host the Houston Dash. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm on Saturday, September 21st at Providence Park.
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:
Y’all what was this game????— Aggy (@ellalambio) September 7, 2019
It started out bad, then good, then ended atrocious.— Good Brother (@SwantonBombing) September 7, 2019
Y’all really just lose to Utah? Played really well still :)— addisoncisternino4 (@Addison48374570) September 7, 2019
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:
Thorns really made Washington pay for their mistakes today. All three goals essentially came from players getting free after crosses. Positives to take from how well they executed their opprotunities #BAONPDX #NWSL #PORvWAS— Stumptown Footy (@StumptownFooty) August 18, 2019
Next up for the Thorns is a match vs. the Red Stars on the 25th.
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."
Always classy, @ThornsFC head coach @mparsons_1 ends his postgame press conference with a special get well message for @Toni_Deion. 🙏 @ORLPride @NWSL #BAONPDX #BiggerThanSoccer pic.twitter.com/r6EhgFRDw1— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) August 11, 2019
Portland remains at home to welcome the Washington Spirit to Providence Park on Saturday, August 17th. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm.