Portland Thorns

Tobin Heath brings 2016 to a close on a high note

Tobin Heath brings 2016 to a close on a high note

Written by John Stupak

It’s something we’ve known all throughout the year, whether we watched the Portland Thorns or the Women’s National Team, but it can now be declared with little doubt; we have the best women’s soccer player in the nation.

With little fanfare and minimal media coverage, Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath has been named the 2016 Soccer Female Player of the Year.

Tobin’s award marks a welcome high point in what has been an up and down year for sports in Oregon. The Oregon Ducks football program was atrocious most of the year. But, the Oregon State Beavers finally won a Civil War game. The Portland Trail Blazers had a promising 2016 but has underwhelmed going into 2017. The defending MLS Cup Champs, the Portland Timbers, saw its championship trophy being handed over to the Seattle Sounders (ouch!). Tobin’s own NWSL team, the Thorns, had a record-breaking regular-season but lost in the playoffs at home.

Tobin’s accomplishment, while individual, marks a final high note in 2016 for not only the Thorns, but for Oregon sports in general.

Heath had a NWSL-record 10 assists this season, which is amazing considering she missed a significant amount of time with the national team where she also recorded a career-best six goals and eight assists while playing the second most minutes on the team. She helped the Portland Thorns win the regular season title and was named to the NWSL Best XI. She also recorded two assists during the 2016 Olympic Games. Not a bad year by any stretch.

At only 28, Heath should still be entering her prime soccer years, which bolds well for the Thorns’ bid to win another championship. Heath was able to flourish under first-year coach Mark Parsons; she awed the Providence Park crowd with her footwork and perfect set-ups. Nearly a decade into her career, Heath can still dazzle amongst the best while embracing her new role as a leader among teammates. Without doubt, Heath is as much fun to watch as any soccer player on the planet, men’s or women’s.

So, let’s give some yuletide cheer to Heath as we wrap up this most uneven year. She deserves it. The fans deserve it. Portland deserves it. There will be no parades in downtown, they would all be canceled due to weather, anyway. 2016 was not the year we were have all hoping it was going to be for a variety of reasons. But, it should be said one last time before we close it out, we do have Tobin Heath.

 

Portland Thorns star Lindsey Horan kicks in a basket before Nuggets game

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Portland Thorns star Lindsey Horan kicks in a basket before Nuggets game

When she shoots, she scores, no matter what court or field Lindsey Horan is on.

The USWNT midfielder and Portland Thorns star recently took her soccer talents to the hardwood at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Before the Nuggets tipped off against the Los Angeles Lakers, Horan wanted to get in the first shot of the game. This shot, however, was different than those who have come before her.

Horan kicked in a basket from the free throw line, drawing the applause from the Nuggets crowd.

“After last time I did the first shot, @nuggets said I could only come back if I didn’t use my hands,” Horan said in a tweet containing the video.

Horan makes this look too easy. Here's another look at the jaw-dropping moment:  

If the Nuggets need another shooter, count on Horan to deliver some trick shot magic.

Portland Thorns star Lindsey Horan helps lead USWNT to Olympic qualifying win

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Portland Thorns star Lindsey Horan helps lead USWNT to Olympic qualifying win

The U.S. Women’s National Team national team are Concacaf champions again! 

With a 3-0 victory over Canada at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, the USWNT secured its fifth Olympic qualifying title.

Second half goals from Lynn Williams, Lindsey Horan and Megan Rapinoe helped extend the United States’ undefeated streak to 28 goals. The USWNT has not conceded a goal in five qualifying matches.

Horan, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, gave the U.S. a second goal in the 48th minute when she dribbled through two defenders and found the back of the net. Horan scored six goals total to finish second in scoring in the tournament.

Horan ran to her Thorns teammate, Tobin Health, to celebrate the moment. These two are the definition of friend goals. 

Up next, the USA will host England, Spain and Japan for the 2020 SheBelieves Cup from March 5-11.

Christine Sinclair nets 185th goal to become all-time international goal scoring record holder

Christine Sinclair nets 185th goal to become all-time international goal scoring record holder

Move over Abby Wambach, Christine Sinclair has just broken the all-time international record in goals.

The Portland Thorns forward and former University of Portland alum scored two goals in Canada’s Olympic qualifying match against St. Kitts and Nevis Tuesday in Edinburgh, Texas.

She now has 185 goals total in her international career, passing Wambach as the most prolific scorer in international women’s soccer.

The five-time Women’s World Cup veteran converted a penalty kick in the seventh minute for Canada’s opening score. Then, in the 23rd minute, Sinclair finished from the center of the box to give her team a 4-0 lead.

Both the Thorns and Pilots took to Twitter to congratulate Sinclair on making history! Well done, G.O.A.T.

Portland Thorns draft first teenager in NWSL history

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USA Today Images

Portland Thorns draft first teenager in NWSL history

At 19, Sophia Smith has already accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime.

The forward out of Stanford has scored 24 goals and 11 assists across two seasons with the Cardinal. She has also spent time with the U.S. women’s national team, where she took part in training camp this month in Tampa, Florida. 

On Thursday, Smith accomplished another feat when she was selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Portland Thorns in the 2020 NWSL College Draft. She is the first teenager to be drafted in league history.

Moments after she was selected, Smith discussed her decision to go pro.

“I just felt like this was the best time for me to take the next chapter of my life and my career, and I think there’s no better time to do it than now,” Smith said in a video on the Thorns Twitter account. “I went for it and followed my heart.”

Smith will be joined by a familiar face, forward Morgan Weaver out of Washington State, who was taken with the No. 2 pick. Portland traded the No. 15 and 16 picks, plus allocation money to the Chicago Red Stars to pick Weaver.

The 22-year-old had 43 goals and 12 assists in 85 games for the Cougars and helped lead WSU to the semifinals of the 2019 College Cup.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to be in a position to acquire a player of Morgan’s quality,” head coach Mark Parsons said in a press release. “She’s had an incredible six to 12 months, showing the physical, technical and tactical qualities of someone that has an extremely bright future. We are getting someone who has no ceiling and brings an incredible mentality to how she plays the game.”

Defender Meaghan Nally was selected in the third round, No. 25 overall, out of Georgetown University. In four seasons, Nally made 88 appearances, scored eight goals and had six assists. She is considered one of the elite defenders in the Big East conference.

Another trade was announced in the final moments between the Thorns and Reign F.C. The deal will reportedly bring a Reign player to Portland in exchange for the 34th overall pick. Parsons teased the move on Twitter Thursday.

It is rumored that the Thorns have acquired defender Christen Westphal.

While it's still too early to determine how the latest draft class will impact the Thorns success this season, one thing is obvious: the additions are likely to improve Portland's attack. 

 

World Cup Champ and Portland Thorn Meghan Klingenberg joins The Bridge Podcast

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USATI

World Cup Champ and Portland Thorn Meghan Klingenberg joins The Bridge Podcast

Meghan Klingenberg came to the Portland Thorns in a very unique way. In what turned out to be a 'ping-pong' type adventure, Klingenberg was first traded from Houston to Seattle in 2015. Then in 2016 was traded to Orlando but then Orlando turned around and traded her to Portland (in the deal that involved Alex Morgan). She has appeared in 55 games as a defender for the Thorns and also logged seven years ('11-'17) on the US National Team with 74 appearances and three goals. 

Justin sits down with Klingenberg to talk about everything from the NWSL, to her time on the national team and one of Klingenberg's favorite moments while playing for Team USA. Klingenberg and Justin also talk their shared love for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the food network.

Klingenberg also has her own podcast, "Meghan Klingenberg is your BFF" where she talks about whatever is topical, "whatever that I would be shooting the sh** with my best friend about... that's what I want to talk about on my podcast." One of the many topics brought up as an example is the pay situation in the NWSL. 

Just recently, it got announced that the NWSL would be increasing player salaries and increase allocation money which is used to attract top players:

- Non-allocated player salaries will go up from $46,200 to $50,000 

- Minimum salaries will go up from $16,538 to $20,000

- Overall team salary caps were raised to $650,000 (a nearly 20% increase)

- $300,000 in additional allocation money was given to each team

According to an article by Anne Peterson, the allocation money is used for "...players with contracts larger than the league maximum who are not allocated. Other criteria must also be met, but it may help the league's teams attract high-profile international stars."

You can listen to the entire Bridge podcast below:

Thorns FC's struggles continue in postseason, fall in NWSL Semifinal

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Portland Thorns

Thorns FC's struggles continue in postseason, fall in NWSL Semifinal

 

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. 

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.