NWSL

Thorns demolish Red Stars for first win in new Providence Park

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Chris Burkhardt

Thorns demolish Red Stars for first win in new Providence Park

For the second day in a row, the newly renovated Providence Park held a home opener. On Saturday night it was the Portland Timbers, and on Sunday it was time for the Portland Thorns to take center stage. 

Despite missing nine players to the FIFA Women's World Cup, the Thorns still managed to put on a show. 

In her first start of the season, Midge Purce did not disappoint. Just three minutes into action Purce had a wide open shot at the net but nailed the crossbar. Despite the miss, you could tell she was in great form and she showed it the rest of way.

Purce would score twice in the first half, and if not for an offsides call, she would have easily scored a third. Both of Purce's goals came via great assists from Simone Charley. The dynamic Thorns duo was a sight to behold on Sunday, leading the home town team to an impressive victory over the red stars. 

Final Score: Portland Thorns 3 - Chicago Red Stars 0

No Place Like Home: 

After starting the season with six straight road matches, the Thorns finally returned to Portland to the roar of 19,461 fans - A new attendance record for a Thorns' home opener.

Said head coach Mark Parsons, "I didn’t dream about this because I didn’t think it was possible when I got into coaching. I’m proud of what this city, club, community does to continue to set the standard to support female athletes, the best players in the world."

Added Purce, "It was one of the most wonderful experiences I think that a soccer player can have and it was beautiful to see all that support."

"It was just a surreal moment, honestly, just being out here on the field and just having so many supporters out there, like words can't describe like how much that means," said Simon Charley. "To just be on the field and having them just give us energy and pick us up when we're down."

The Thorns are good anywhere they play, but put nearly 20,000 supporters behind them and they can be unstoppable.  
 
The New Dynamic Duo:

Speaking of Purce and Charley - they don't often play together, but you wouldn't know that by watching Sunday's match. The two looked like they had a decade of chemistry together, it was truly fun to watch.

Purce said of the connection with Charley, "that was honestly the first time I've played major minutes with Simone ever. And it was, I think the both of us were like 'oh this thing, this is working.' And I think when you have, you know, 11 people working really, really hard, it makes it easier on any partnership."

Talking to the media, Charley gave a lot of credit for the connection to Purce. "We talked about it this week in practice, just working on working off of each other and just building that relationship. Midge is a phenomenal communicator and [has been] telling me where I need to go and just working together and so yeah, shout out to her"

Some Love for the Ducks:
Former Oregon Duck Marissa Everett subbed in for Charley in the 78th minute. Seven minutes later she scored the first goal of her professional career.

Parsons said of Everett, "I thought the goal summed up what she’s about. She’s got great movement and she reads the game. You give her a chance to put the ball in the back of the net and she showed it against Sky Blue, first movement to drop the shoulder and then burst and almost apart from a great save. It’s great and you look at the undrafted players that come into this environment and look for an opportunity to develop and put their heads down."

She nearly had a brace to rival Purce's, but he put a shot just a little wide right in stoppage time. She looked great off the bench, and it was a great showing for the former Oregon star.

Next Up:

The Thorns return to action on the road on Saturday, June 15 against the North Carolina Courage. Kickoff is set for 4:45 p.m.
 

Thorns, Timbers finally set for home debuts

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USA Today

Thorns, Timbers finally set for home debuts

The sound of construction crews at Providence Park will be replaced with the roar of Timbers and Thorns fans this weekend as the two teams that call the park home finally make their home debuts. 

The Thorns started their NWSL season with six straight matches on the road, while the Timbers played their first 12 away from home. Now, it's time to get back in some friendlier confines. 

Fans have been waiting for months to see their home teams and the new digs. The wait is finally over!

RCTID: The Timbers (4-6-2) are 12 games into their season and every single one has been on the road, making it the longest road trip in MLS history. However, starting the season on the road isn't all that bad. According to Forbes, since 2006 11 teams have started the season with at least a five-game road trip or eight of their first 10 on the road. 10 of those teams went on to make the playoffs. History aside, it will be nice to be home for the Timbers. Unfortunately, the task that awaits them is a matchup with the best team in MLS, LAFC (10-1-4). LAFC has a league-leading 34 points, six more than anyone else, and an incredible goal differential of +25. The next best goal differential in the league is +9 for the Philadelphia Union. This is the second match of the season between these two clubs, with LAFC beating the Timbers 4-1 back on March 10th. Portland is currently in 10th place in the Western Conference and in desperate need of points. 

BAONPDX: The Thorns managed to go 3-1-2 on the road to start the season and their 11 points have them currently in third place in the NWSL standings. Portland welcomes the Chicago Red Star (3-2-2) to town on Sunday. Like Portland, Chicago has 11 points on the season and is tied with Portland in the standings. This is a pivotal game for both teams. The winner could sit alone in second place or even be in a tie for first place depending on the outcome of the Utah-Washington match. This is the second match between these two teams, with April 20th's match in Illinois ending in a 4-4 draw. The house should be packed on Sunday and the Thorns will be ready to defend the home pitch.

MATCH INFO:

Timbers vs LAFC - Saturday, June 1st. Kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. 

Thorns vs Red Stars - Sunday, June 2nd. Kickoff set for 3:00 p.m.

The Thorns are 2017 NWSL Champions

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Portland Thorns FC

The Thorns are 2017 NWSL Champions

The Portland Thorns FC have brought another championship back to Rose City.

With their 1-0 victory over the North Carolina Courage, the Thorns have reclaimed their title as National Women’s Soccer League champions. The winning goal by midfielder Lindsey Horan in the 50th minute sealed the deal for the Thorns, taking home their second NWSL title in five years.

Orlando City Stadium saw an ugly and physically brutal 90 minutes this Saturday. Early hard fouls on both teams set the tone for a scrappy and choppy match. The Thorns were given two yellow cards in the first half and their overall aggressive play led to the Courage calling for two substitutions in the first 39 minutes due to injuries. 

Despite this setback, North Carolina offensively dominated the match with 16 shots on goal, including a crossbar shot from Courage midfielder Sam Mewis in the 14th minute. Portland lost the numbers game with only four shots on goal, but luckily one got in. Off a free kick at about midfield, Horan used her powerful right foot from just outside the the six yard box to get the ball in the back of the net. She was later named the match’s MVP.

This win also poses as the end of an era for Thorns players Amandine Henry and Nadia Nadim as they are leaving the NWSL to compete in Europe. Henry will join Olympique Lyon in the D1 Feminine League in France, while Nadim will compete in the FA Women’s Super League in England with Manchester City. Both players have been with Portland for two seasons and have cited financial reasons for their departure. 

There will be a NWSL Championship rally this Sunday, Oct. 15, at Providence Park around 7 pm after the Timbers game. 

Sinclair’s brace helps put an end to Portland’s two-game skid

Sinclair’s brace helps put an end to Portland’s two-game skid

Portland, OR – The Portland Thorns came into Wednesday’s matchup in dire need of a victory. Portland had lost two matches in a row, including a 3-1 loss at home to Sky Blue FC on June 17. Losses in Providence Park just don’t happen. Including the loss to Sky Blue, the Thorns came in with am impressive home record of 13-2-3 since the start of the 2016 season and looked to add another on to the win column with FC Kansas City in town.

FC Kansas City came in winless in its previous three matches (0-1-2), and with an overall road record of 1-3-1. For a team that is struggling, and is poor on the road to boot, Providence Park is the last place you want to be.

Portland fed off the home crowd, as is usual, and dominated from the start. Any danger FCKC posed was because the Thorns made little mental errors, but nothing large enough to bite them. Portland had the occasional misplayed ball here, the occasional poor pass there, but largely looked to be playing a game of cat and mouse.

Before Kansas City could really get in any kind of groove they found themselves playing from behind.

Just fifteen minutes into the match Allie Long put a shot on goal from about 10-yards out. Her shot was blocked, but it bounced off the post and right to the feet of a wide-open Christine Sinclair. The Captain did what she does best, and put the Thorns up 1-0.

From that point on it never felt like much of a match. The question wasn’t if the Thorns would win, it was how many goals would they score before the final whistle?

The answer: Three

Hayley Raso added a goal in the in the 32’, and Sinclair added another goal in the 75’.

This was a great bounce back game for Portland, and much needed as their next two matches will be on the road.

FINAL SCORE: Portland Thorns 3 – FC Kansas City 0

Notes: Hayley Raso scored the first goal of her NWSL career. A beautiful shot from beyond the right side of the box that curled around the defense and just over the hand of the goalkeeper. She joked postgame, calling the shot “lucky” but it was one of the more impressive goals I have seen. Sinclair looked to score her second goal of the match in the 71', but a controversial handball call negated it. She got her revenge four minutes later when she scored the team's third goal of the game.

Next Up: Portland travels up north to take on rival Seattle Reign FC on Saturday, July 1. Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM at Memorial Stadium.

Sky Blue ends Portland's six-game unbeaten streak

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Sky Blue ends Portland's six-game unbeaten streak

Generally speaking thirty seconds isn’t a lot of time, but on Saturday it was all Sky Blue FC needed to take control vs. Portland.  Sky Blue got the ball to start the match and went right down the field to score the opening goal less than a minute into play.

The goal happened so fast I was still in the middle of the obligatory “and we are underway” tweet. Even if you weren’t paying attention you knew a goal had been scored thanks to the collective gasp of thousands of Thorns fans that had just been punched in the gut.

But this is the Portland Thorns: A team unbeaten in its previous six matchups (3-0-3) and a team with a 13-1-3 record over its last 17 home games. Those two facts, coupled with the fact that this team is always a threat to score, made it feel like the equalizer was coming at any moment. Patient as the Thorns faithful were, that equalizer never came.

Finding that game-tying goal became even harder in the 70’ when Sky Blue’s Samantha Kerr broke away from the pack just past midfield and the only thing between her and the net was Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch. Kerr shot the ball by a diving Franch and netted Sky Blue’s second goal of the match.

It looked like Portland had life, scoring a goal just seconds later, but an offside call would make sure the score remained 2-0 in favor of Sky Blue.

Portland tried as hard as it could as time ticked away, but as the old cliché goes, it was too little, too late.

Final Score: Portland Thorns1 – Sky Blue FC 3.

Next Up: Portland heads to the east coast to take on the Washington Spirit. Kickoff is set for 4:00 PM at Maryland Soccerplex.

Thorns FC re-sign defender Emily Menges, midfielder Mana Shim

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Craig Mitchelldyer/ Portland Thorns

Thorns FC re-sign defender Emily Menges, midfielder Mana Shim

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC have re-signed defender Emily Menges and midfielder Mana Shim, it was announced today.

Menges, 24, was a 2016 NWSL Best XI selection, starting all 20 games and playing every minute of every match, anchoring a defense that allowed the fewest goals in the league (19) during the regular season. In addition, Menges also earned her first call-up to the U.S. Women’s National Team in November 2016. A third-round pick by Portland in the 2014 NWSL College Draft, Menges currently ranks third in club history in games started (59) and minutes played (5,301), while ranking fourth in games played (60).

“Emily was one of the key reasons we had such a great defensive record last season,” said Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons. “She made great progress throughout 2016, and I look forward to supporting her on making big strides again this season.”

In 2016, Shim, 25, appeared in 14 games (9 starts), tallying one assist for Thorns FC. Originally signed by Portland on April 5, 2013, after an open tryout, the Honolulu, Hawaii, native helped guide Thorns FC to the 2013 NWSL Championship during her rookie campaign. In four seasons with the club, Shim has appeared in 68 career games (43 starts) for Portland, recording nine goals and nine assists.

“Mana showed her ability to link and create while also developing her game on the defensive side in 2016,” said Parsons. “I look forward to seeing her continue this work and be ready to help the team any way she can.”

Portland will open its preseason camp for the 2017 season on March 13. Fans interested in purchasing Thorns FC Annual Memberships for the 2017 season are encouraged to call the ticket office at (503) 553-5555 or email ticketsales@timbers.com. Additionally, tickets for the Thorns Spring Invitational presented by Tillamook at Providence Park March 26-April 1 are available for purchase online at www.thornsfc.com.

Thorns FC exercise 2017 contract options on 10 players

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Thorns FC

Thorns FC exercise 2017 contract options on 10 players

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.

Portland Thorns set new records in final (regular season) home game

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Portland Thorns

Portland Thorns set new records in final (regular season) home game

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The Portland Thorns finally delivered on what they have been wanting to achieve since the NWSL’s inaugural season in 2013. Even on that year, when the Thorns won the championship, it never happened. But, it is finally going to happen in 2016; the Thorns are going to host a playoff game at Providence Park.

After two straight, dominating performances by the Thorns, the Western New York Flash came into Portland on Sunday night and presented the toughest challenge to the Thorns since back-to-back Seattle Reign matches over a month ago. In front of a nationally televised, sold-out Providence Park crowd, the Thorns won a game that looked like it might be another easy three points but turned in a matter of minutes into a nail biter to the final whistle.

The Flash looked entirely game to try and spoil the night’s jovial mood from the outset, giving the Thorns fits early and often by getting some quality looks at the goal and dominating offensively. The Flash, sitting fourth in the standings and just two points ahead of the fifth place Reign, came out like their playoff lives depended on it. That, along with some defensive giveaways by the Thorns, had the home crowd on edge with Michelle Betos and the Portland defenders being the busiest Thorns during the first 25 minutes of the match.

The home team finally caught a break in the 27th minute when Nada Nadim earned a penalty kick when the Flash’s Jaelene Hinkle earned a yellow card for knocking Nadim down on a breakaway near the goal. Nadim capitalized on the opportunity, giving the Thorns the first lead of the night.

Christine Sinclair, who has been on a tear since coming back from the Olympics, scored in the 37th minute to give the Thorns a 2-0 advantage at halftime and things were looking especially rosy in Portland on a beautiful, clear evening.

For much of the second half, The Thorns defense remained air tight while Dagny Brynjarsdottir joined the scoring party for the Thorns in the 69th minute, giving Portland a 3-0 lead. However, things were about to get a lot more interesting soon after.

The Flash brought the crowd back to the edge of their seats when they scored two quick goals late. The ball finally got past Betos in the 77th minute when Jess McDonald knocked in a header to give Western New York some life. Then, just three minutes later, Lynn Williams found herself open on a breakaway, nicely finishing a perfectly placed kick that cut the lead to 3-2.

The Thorns, having found themselves in a competitive match again, had to sweat out the remaining ten minutes plus stoppage time. The Flash had one last chance in the final few seconds to draw even on a corner kick, but Betos snared the ball in mid-air to secure three points for the Thorns and home field advantage for the semifinals of the playoffs. For the fans in attendance who were loud, chanting and standing all night long, maybe no more so than those final few minutes, the Thorns gave back with a gift of victory.

Sunday night’s game also set new NWSL records for total and average home attendance in a season. The sell-out crowd boosted Portland’s total attendance to 169,449 for the season, breaking the old Thorns record of 160,341 in 2014. It boosted the average attendance to 16,945, beating the old record of 15,639, also set by the Thorns in 2015.

There is one more regular season game remaining for the Thorns, a road game against Sky Blue FC on September 25. There is also still the possibility for the Thorns to take over first place in the NWSL standings, if they can get some help from the Washington Spirit to miss out on a few points. But, Thorns fans can finally rejoice and begin to get ready for the match they have all been waiting for, a home playoff game at Providence Park. After four record breaking seasons, the players and the fans have earned it.

After the Olympics, Portland Thorns will have high expectations

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After the Olympics, Portland Thorns will have high expectations

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The Portland Thorns came into last Saturday night’s game against rival Seattle Reign losers of two straight. After 12 consecutive games without a loss, the Thorns unprecedented streak was not only over, but their grip on first place in the NWSL standings was in jeopardy as well. A season of high expectations was becoming precariously close to falling off an Olympic sized chasm.

In what may be seen as one of the biggest games of the year when all is said and done, the Thorns eked out a 1-0 victory in front of 19,000-plus at Providence Park. Behind a shrewd coaching move by Thorns coach Mark Parsons to go with a back line that was five deep, six saves from goalkeeper Michelle Betos, a standout performance from Nadia Nadim and one big save by Katherine Reynolds, the Thorns gained three points to remain at the top of the standings heading into a month long break.

The Thorns have survived their toughest stretch of the season relatively unscathed. When they return to action in late August, there will be no excuses, not that there ever has been with this team, for the Thorns to be heavy favorites to win it all. One thing is clear; with a team this talented and deep, an appearance in the NWSL Championship should be the primary goal.

Last season, the Portland Timbers made a remarkable run to the MSL Cup, winning the first major title in Portland since the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977 Portland Thorns in 2013. The Thorns have the opportunity to deliver another title to the Rose City. It should be the expectation of this town. It should be the expectation of the Thorns. The Timbers are looking less and less likely to repeat as MLS champs, so it may be up to the Thorns to keep this parade routine going into 2016.

Come late August and early September there will be a flurry of games to close out the season. Of the five remaining games left, only two are against a top five opponent with two more against the cellar dwellers of the NWSL. The Thorns, barring any Olympic injury (knock on wood), should be a complete team by then. Having proved earlier in the season that they are the best team in the league when everyone is assembled, the soccer version of The Avengers if ever there was one, the Thorns should march into the playoffs with their sights set on Houston.

Back in the fold will be Tobin Heath (already making her presence felt in the Olympics), Lindsey Horan, and Allie Long. Back will be Christine Sinclair (see Tobin Heath parenthesis), Amandine Henry, Meghan Klingenberg, and Emily Sonnet. They will fortify a squad that was admirably held down by Nadim, Betos, Reynolds and newcomers like Dagny Brynjarsdottir. The Thorns should have nothing short of title aspirations when September arrives.

If the Thorns should require any smaller goals to help achieve their ultimate end game, it should be this: The Thorns have yet to host a playoff game. How great would it be to give the fans something they have been waiting to see and experience since 2013? Over 19,000 fans showed up to a home game when most of the more well know names were absent. The vibe and energy in the stadium was nothing short of a typical, dynamic Thorns game. Can you imagine what a playoff game in Portland would be like? It might just give Timbers fans a moment of appreciation and adoration.

August will be a long month for the Thorns fans. The next game isn’t until August 27 and the next home game is not until September 4. That’s a long wait for fans of a team with visions of confetti and a trophy dancing in their heads. But, good things come to those who wait. So, enjoy the Olympics, Thorns fans. Feel the pride of watching a team bursting with Thorns players compete for our country (and Canada, and France). Take a deep breath and relish the break, because exciting things are on the horizon.

Thorns end losing streak with 1-0 win over Reign

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Thorns end losing streak with 1-0 win over Reign

The Portland Thorns, the best team in the NWSL, came into Saturday’s game looking to get back on track. After starting the season with a team record 12-game undefeated streak, Portland was in the midst of a two-game losing streak. The early streak had them high in the standings, but the recent losing efforts had them wanting more. 

They got it on Saturday.

With rival Seattle in town you knew you were in for a treat. However, the Thorns (and the Reign for that matter) were a shell of their normal selves. With seven players, all of which are everyday starters, out to represent their respective nations in the Olympics, the Thorns had to rely on depth to get them through.

For much of the match Seattle looked like the stronger team. Seattle’s offense was controlling possession, and controlling the game. On the other side, the Thorns defense was doing everything it needed to do to make sure the Reign wouldn’t do any damage.

Time after time Michelle Betos was able to stop Seattle in its tracks, and keep the Reign at bay. With so many familiar names out of the lineup, this familiar named stepped up and hit one out of the park.

Her counterpart in the other net, Haley Kopmeyer, was no slouch either. She continually stopped the Thorns, and her defenders up front helped slam the door on the Thorns most of the match. That is, until Nadia Nadim stepped up.

Nadim busted down that door in the late stages of the game with a goal that seemingly came out of nowhere. In minute 74, Mana Shim sent a high arching pass into the box that looked to be an easy clear for Seattle. However, Nadim, sandwiched between two Reign defenders, would out jump the defense and send a header past the Seattle goalkeeper. Kopmeyer never had a chance.  The goal was met with a thunderous roar from the Portland faithful.

Fans were looking at a 0-0 tie, instead an improbable header gave them a 1-0 win.

Final Score: Portland Thorns 1 – Seattle Reign 0

Standout Thorns: No one played a better, or a more consistent game than Michelle Betos. The Thorns’ Goalkeeper was in total control of the box, and made sure to stop anything the Reign sent her way. Some saves were easy, some saves took quite a bit of effort. Betos was ready for all of them. At the end of the day, it was simply a very strong game from a very strong keeper.

Next Up: The Thorns get a very nice break from the pitch while the Olympics are going on, and don’t return to game action until August 27th. Their next opponent: The Seattle Reign, this time up in their neck of the woods. Kickoff for that match is set for 2:00 PM at Memorial Stadium in Seattle.