NWSL

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. 

 

Thorns rebound in a big way against Houston

Thorns rebound in a big way against Houston

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.

Next Up:

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. 

We've never seen the Portland Thorns dominated like this

We've never seen the Portland Thorns dominated like this

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. 

NEXT UP:
Portland remains at home to host the Houston Dash. Kickoff is set for 7:30 pm on Saturday, September 21st at Providence Park. 

Social media reacts to the Portland Thorns' loss to Utah

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Portland Thorns FC

Social media reacts to the Portland Thorns' loss to Utah

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:

https://twitter.com/hula5150/status/1170158944460972034 https://twitter.com/cmurphy_16/status/1170174742516699137 https://twitter.com/billnoesges/status/1170176131850485763

 

Goliath vs Goliath. Thorns victorious in championship rematch

Goliath vs Goliath. Thorns victorious in championship rematch

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."

Next Up:

Portland remains at home to welcome the Washington Spirit to Providence Park on Saturday, August 17th. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm.

Social Media Reacts: No Luck up north for the Thorns

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Portland Thorns

Social Media Reacts: No Luck up north for the Thorns

The Thorns traveled up north to Tacoma to take on rivals Reign FC but they didn't head back home with the result they wanted. Portland couldn't get the offense going and Reign FC picked up an important 1-0 victory to climb up the standings. Lauren Barnes was a force on defense for Reign FC. No matter who got into the box, and no matter how good a look they got, Barnes was able to slam the door shut. She frustrated the Thorns all night and her efforts handed Portland just its fourth loss of the season. 

Here is how social media reacted:

Thorns head to Seattle for clash with Reign

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Portland Thorns

Thorns head to Seattle for clash with Reign

Another matchup between two Pacific Northwest rivals is upon us. At 7 pm Pacific, the Portland Thorns and Seattle Reign FC face off against each other in what is likely to be a hotly contested game between two of the top teams in the NWSL. Every matchup is a battle both on and off the pitch, and tonight might have an increased importance.

The big storyline for tonight is the inclusion of a few notable players back into the fold. While the Reign defeated Portland in their last matchup, a 1-0 victory on July 5, that game did not feature any of the US World Cup players. Not only have they been busy winning their fourth World Cup, but also the subsequent obligations and celebrations that come with their victory. 

After spending such a long time playing on the same team, Adrianna French, Emily Sonnett, Lindsey Horan, and Tobin Heath (Portland) will try to gain some bragging rights over fellow national team members Allie Long and Megan Rapinoe (Seattle). It might take a minute getting used to these women in different uniforms, as they just played the first leg of their victory tour against Ireland last week. 

Tonight’s contest is even more important when you consider the implications that this game could have on the NWSL standings. Currently, the Thorns have a record of 7-2-6 with 27 points, and the Reign are not far behind with 23 points, sitting at 6-3-5. 

Portland is currently just one point behind the first place North Carolina Courage, and a win could jump the Thorns into the league’s top spot. On the other hand, a Seattle win would firmly entrench themselves into the top NWSL group. With only four teams given spots into the league playoffs, every point/game matters, especially between two teams fully in the mix of contention. 

To watch what is sure to be an exciting contest, fans can livestream the game on the Yahoo Sports App, which can be found on all major app store platforms. 

BRACE yourself: World Cup Thorns return to Providence pitch in grand fashion.

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Portland Thorns

BRACE yourself: World Cup Thorns return to Providence pitch in grand fashion.

Soccer City USA was on full display on Wednesday. For the first time since the World Cup ended earlier this month, a full-strength Thorns squad took to the pitch at Providence Park. 

Nine different Thorns represented their respective countries during the World Cup, including four on the championship United States squad. 

As they returned home they had quite the welcoming committee. A Portland Thorns record 22,329 fans filled Providence Park, the second-largest crowd in NWSL history.  "Unbelievable. On a Wednesday night, a new Thorns record and only 700-800 away from a new NWSL record," said head coach Mark Parson of the supporters. "Riveters, Portland Thorns fans, Portland as a city, this community... I feel like it's every couple of months they set a new standard and then they smash a new standard. 

Chants of "equal pay" rang through the stadium and the crowd got louder and louder as the opening kick approached. The chants turned to roars as the returning national players were honored during a pregame ceremony. The electric atmosphere in the stands was somehow surpassed by the electric play on the field. 

A full-strength squad for the Thorns is a force to be reckoned with and on this night the Houston Dash played the role of the sacrificial lamb. 

Goals came and they came fast. Just 23 minutes into the action Portland had not one goal, but four. That's right - FOUR! Scoring four goals in an entire game is impressive enough, but to see it in just more than 20 minutes of action is unreal. It was like watching a video game. The Thorns scored goals at will. Haley Raso, fresh off representing Australia in the World Cup, tallied a brace, scoring the team's second and fourth goals of the match. 

"That first 25-30 minutes was full-throttle Thorns. Electric football." said Parsons, "I feel bad for Houston in the sense they were facing a Thorns team that was flying on all cylinders" 

The team was flying both figuratively and literally. Lindsay Horan flew threw the air for a spectacular bicycle kick that was just inches away from scoring the best goal of the NWSL season. Even as a near-miss the attempt was a jaw-dropper. 

"We haven't all been home together in so long," said Horan, "We just wanted to come out and put on a show."

Horan wasn't the only returner turning heads. Tobin Heath played her first game back with the Thorns and along with Team Canada's Christine Sinclair, helped anchor the Thorns attack. 

"I think that was the best half of football that Tobin (Heath) and Sinc (Christine Sinclair) had between the lines... great night for everyone being back together, " said Parson. 

Speaking to Thorns' announcer Ann Schatz after the game, Heath said of her and Sinclair's performance, "Mark (Parsons) was saying something about Sinc and I, and we were just like, 'we just missed each other, that's all it was.' It's just great to be back."

They miss each other, we missed them, and a 5-0 victory over the Dash was a great return gift. 

It was a great night for the players to be back and it was a great night to have them back. However, the return will be short-lived. The four players representing Team USA - Heath, Horan, Emily Sonnett, and Adrianna Franch -  will miss the Thorns' next match while Team USA plays a friendly against Ireland at the Rose Bowl. 

Christine Sinclair scores the goal of the week, or month, or season, but Portland Thorns, Utah Royals play to 2-2 draw

Christine Sinclair scores the goal of the week, or month, or season, but Portland Thorns, Utah Royals play to 2-2 draw

What. A. Game.

Adrianna Franch made incredible saves. Christine Sinclair had a sweet volley from 20 yards out. Lindsey Horan’s go-ahead goal almost locked in three points for the road team.

But Friday’s meeting between the Portland Thorns and Utah Royals was spoiled with a 90th minute equalizer from Rachel Corsie, who gave Utah its second goal of the night and a 2-2 tie at the final whistle.

The old adage holds true: it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Let’s take a look back at the best moments from Friday’s matchup, which fell nothing short of the thrills and spills we could have hoped for.

It all started in the 9th minute when Thorns captain Christine Sinclair found a rebounded ball and took one hit from outside the 18-yard box to give Portland a 1-0 lead. This piece of beauty has to be the goal of the week, or month…or season. Take a look:

Meanwhile, Christen Press had other plans for the Royals. The Utah forward caught NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, Adrianna Franch, and the Thorns defense sleeping, firing off a shot from the far post to level the match 1-1 during the 43rd minute. The internet was shook.

The second half was physical, and tough. Katie Stengel and Kelly O’Hara fueled the Royals, but Adrianna Franch was full of saves.

Just when the match looked over, Thorns defender Meghan Klingenburg found Lindsey Horan in the box, who took a spike to the ankle while scoring in the 86th minute.

When it looked like Horan’s goal had locked in three points on the road for the Thorns, Rachel Corsie had other plans. In the opening minute of stoppage, Utah came back with a thrilling goal from the Royals centerback. 

The match ended in a 2-2 draw and both teams walked away with one point. Up next, the Thorns take on the Houston Dash on Wednesday at Providence Park. 

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.