Portland Thorns FC
The Portland Thorns FC is an American professional women's soccer team based in Portland, Oregon. Established in 2012, the team began play in 2013 in the then-eight-team National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), which receives support from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), and formerly the Mexican Football Federation (FMF). The Portland franchise is owned by Peregrine Sports LLC, which also owns the Portland Timbers. The Thorns, the Houston Dash, the Orlando Pride, and the Utah Royals are other NWSL teams with Major League Soccer affiliations.
|Full name||Portland Thorns FC|
|Head Coach||Mark Parsons|
|League||National Women's Soccer League|
In its inaugural season, the Portland Thorns FC placed third during the regular season and, in the playoffs, won the first ever NWSL championship. The club won the NWSL Shield in 2016 and a second NWSL Championship in 2017.
The Thorns have had the highest average attendance in the league in each of their first seven seasons, and set a league attendance record of 25,218 at an August 11, 2019 match against the North Carolina Courage.
The first professional women's soccer team in Portland was started by the Portland Timbers in 2001, competing alongside teams formed by the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps in the USL W-League's W-1 division. In Portland the team was christened the Portland Rain and played the 2000 season in the Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL). The team played the 2001 season in the W-League before returning to the PCSL until 2003 when the team folded. Women's soccer was also well-supported via the University of Portland Pilots.
The Portland Rain were re-founded in 2009 when they joined the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL). On May 2, 2012 the Portland Timbers partnered with the Portland Rain and the Oregon Youth Soccer Association's (OYSA) Girls Olympic Development (ODP) program. This precursor to the NWSL announcement the following November was to facilitate an integrated development structure for Oregon's girls youth soccer to elite women's competition. After the start of the NWSL, in the 2013 WPSL the Portland Rain's spot was replaced by a Timbers Alliance club Westside Timbers and Tualatin Hills United Soccer Club (THUSC) Diamonds. These two teams join the Oregon Rush (2011), now Bend FC Timbers, and Eugene Metro Futbol Club (EMFC in 2012) so Oregon has a total of four WPSL teams at this level of the American soccer pyramid.
The formation of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) was announced on November 21, 2012, with Portland selected as a host for one of the eight teams. At that time it was announced by Portland Timbers' owner Merritt Paulson that the Timbers would own the team. The team name was announced as the Portland Thorns FC on December 13, 2012, with a logo also unveiled. Both the name and logo were intended to invoke Portland's nickname of the Rose City.
Cindy Parlow Cone was announced as the first head coach on December 19, 2012. On January 11, 2013, the league held its player allocation for the national team players, with Portland receiving seven players, including former University of Portland Pilots star Christine Sinclair. The other players assigned to the Thorns were Rachel Buehler, Tobin Heath, Karina LeBlanc, Alex Morgan, Marlene Sandoval, and Luz Saucedo.
"We are thrilled with today's allocation, and I see this group of seven players as a terrific foundation for this club," said Parlow Cone. Seattle Reign FC general manager Amy Carnell reaction to the NWSL allocation and Morgan's placement was, "I think generally speaking, I could speak for all the clubs when I say I'm extremely surprised they would place (Christine) Sinclair and (Alex) Morgan in the same city. Two of the best strikers in the world in the same city." Carnell said Seattle Reign FC "were a little surprised" they didn't get Morgan, considering that she had spent the previous spring with the Seattle Sounders Women. This reunited Sinclair and Morgan as club mates since winning the regular season and championship title with the Western New York Flash in Women's Professional Soccer's final season.
Under head coach Cindy Parlow Cone, the Thorns played in the new league's inaugural game on April 13, 2013 against host team FC Kansas City, which ended in a 1–1 draw in which Christine Sinclair scored the club's first goal on a penalty kick. The team's first home match on April 21 provided the club its first victory, a 2–1 win over Seattle Reign FC. Beyond setting a new league record, the opening day crowd of 16,479 at Jeld-Wen Field eclipsed any single-game attendance from Women's Professional Soccer. Subsequently, the team's regular-season home finale of 17,619 topped the previous mark of 16,479 and also ranks among the top single-game marks in women's professional soccer history in the United States.
On the road, Thorns FC also seem to be an attendance draw. Portland's road games have been witnessed by season-high attendance figures or sellout crowds, including a record-setting crowd at the Maryland SoccerPlex against the Washington Spirit on May 4. A total of 5,011 fans were present, besting the previous record for a women's game at the Soccerplex by more than 300 and about 500 more than normal capacity.
On August 28, 2013, NWSL announced Thorns FC forwards Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan and defender Rachel Buehler were named to the National Women's Soccer League Best XI Second Team. The club finished in a three-way tie atop the league in the regular season standings, but by virtue of goal differential tiebreaker the club claimed the No. 3 seed in the NWSL playoffs. In the first round of playoffs on August 24, the Thorns beat FC Kansas City 3–2 in a dramatic overtime game. A week later they beat the Western New York Flash 2–0 in the championship game to become the first NWSL Champions.
After the end of the season, Cindy Parlow Cone resigned as head coach on December 5, 2013. She cited personal reasons, particularly the desire of her and her husband, Portland Timbers director of sports science John Cone (who also resigned around the same time), to be together more.
The Thorns kicked off their 2014 season with the announcement of a new head coach, Paul Riley, formerly of the Long Island Fury of the Women's Premier Soccer League. Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc was traded to the Chicago Red Stars and was replaced with 2013 FIFA World Player of the Year recipient Nadine Angerer. A new NWSL attendance record of 19,123 was set at Providence Park on August 3 in a game between Portland and Houston, breaking the previous record of 17,619 set in the same stadium in 2013. The Thorns finished third in the regular season and were knocked out in the playoff semi-final by FC Kansas City.
The Thorns made a number of roster moves in the offseason. In November 2014 the Thorns traded for defender Kat Williamson and midfielder McCall Zerboni from the Western New York Flash in exchange for midfielder Amber Brooks. Williamson appeared in 21 matches (20 starts) during the 2014 regular season for the Western New York Flash. Williamson was traded to the Flash on April 5 as part of a move that granted Portland the right to midfielder Vero Boquete. The eighth overall pick by Portland in the first round of the 2013 National Women's Soccer League College (NWSL) Draft from the University of Florida, Williamson made her professional debut with Thorns FC in 2013 and ranked second on the team in minutes (1,944) during her rookie campaign. A native of McKinney, Texas, Williamson was one of three players to start all 24 matches during the 2013 season as she helped guide Portland to the 2013 NWSL Championship. Zerboni played three professional seasons with the Western New York Flash in both the NWSL and Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), helping guide the Flash to the 2011 WPS title and the championship match of the 2013 NWSL Playoffs.
As part of the National Team player allocation process for the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), Portland Thorns received Canada Women's National Team midfielder Kaylyn Kyle and defender Rhian Wilkinson. Kyle, 26, has 89 international caps with the Canada Women's National Team. A native of Saskatoon, Sask., Kyle won a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics and competed at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup with Canada. Wilkinson, 32, has earned 152 international caps since making her senior debut with the Canada Women's National Team in 2003 at age 20. A native of Baie D’Urfe, Quebec, Wilkinson helped guide Canada to a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics and has competed in three consecutive FIFA Women's World Cups (2003, 2007, 2011).
Portland acquired defender Kendall Johnson from Sky Blue FC in exchange for the 25th and 34th overall selections in the 2015 National Women's Soccer League College Draft. A native of Portland and former University of Portland standout, Johnson, 23, appeared in 15 matches (12 starts) for Sky Blue FC during the 2014 regular season, her second season with the team.
Portland acquired forward Jodie Taylor from the Washington Spirit in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick (No. 13 overall) and two second-round picks in 2016. A standout at Oregon State, Taylor, 28, was one of the top goal scorers in the NWSL in 2014. An England international, Taylor had earned three caps with the England Women's National Team, making her debut in an international friendly against Sweden in August 2014.
Defender Nikki Marshall announced her retirement from professional soccer. Marshall retired after playing four professional seasons, including the last two with the Thorns. In her two seasons with the club, Marshall, 26, appeared in a club-record 46 consecutive regular-season matches, playing 3,943 minutes.
Portland signed international forward Genoveva Añonma. The Equatorial Guinea international was the 10th-ranked goal scorer all-time in Frauen Bundesliga history and the 2012 African Women Footballer of the Year. Añonma, who goes by Ayo, had played professionally in Germany since 2009. Añonma had appeared in 122 matches in the German league, recording 95 goals during her time with FF USV Jena and 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam.
Portland signed midfielder Sarah Robbins. Robbins appeared in 14 matches, recording three goals and seven assists, for Finnish club Åland United in 2014. The midfielder logged 1,189 minutes for the Naisten Liiga side, and competed in the qualifying round of the 2014–15 UEFA Women's Champions League.
The Thorns finished the 2015 season with 23 points from 20 games and did not reach the playoffs, the first (and to date only) season in which they have failed to do this. At the end of the season, head coach Paul Riley stepped down from the position and former Washington Spirit head coach Mark Parsons took over as head coach for 2016.
In Parsons's first season in charge, the Thorns acquired several players including French defensive midfielder Amandine Henry and Danish striker Nadia Nadim. They placed first in the regular season with 41 points, winning the NWSL Shield. In a physical playoff semi-final, they tied Western New York 2–2 during regulation, fell behind 4–2 in overtime, and could score only one more goal to end their season with a 4–3 loss.
After a 14–5–5 league record for 47 points and a second-place finish, the Thorns defeated the Orlando Pride 4–1 in a playoff semi-final. In the championship match, Portland faced the NWSL Shield-winning North Carolina Courage, successor to the Western New York Flash team that had beaten them in the final the year before. Portland defeated the Courage at Orlando City Stadium in a physical 1–0 match to win their second NWSL championship. Following the victory, the team held a victory rally in their home stadium.
The Thorns announced that midfielder Amandine Henry and forward Nadia Nadim would not be returning to the team for the 2018 season. The moves were made for financial reasons, as the NWSL has a strict salary cap of $315,000 for each team and the Thorns could not compete with offers made by Lyon and Manchester City. On January 11, 2018, the team announced a trade that would send midfielder Allie Long to the Seattle Reign. Long had been with the team since its inaugural season, and was one of the first players to reach 100 NWSL appearances with one club. With Long's departure, Tobin Heath and Christine Sinclair would be the only remaining players from the first Thorns season. The Thorns would finish with a regular season record of 12–6–6 and match their second-place finish from the previous season. The team would defeat the Seattle Reign 2–1 in the Semi-final round and would face the shield-winning North Carolina Courage in a rematch of the previous seasons final. The Thorns would lose a lopsided 3–0 to the Courage, who became the first team to win the NWSL Shield and the NWSL Playoffs in the same season.
Prior to the start of the season, it was announced that the Thorns would play their first six games on the road due to ongoing renovation at Providence Park. The Thorns would start the season strong, losing only one of their first six games before going on a run that would see them lose once in a nine-game stretch that spanned June and July. This run included the return of several key players who had missed time for the FIFA Women's World Cup, including Lindsey Horan, the reigning NWSL MVP, and team captain Christine Sinclair. The Thorns fine form was encapsulated by a 5–0 rout of the Houston Dash on July 24. Beginning the month of September at the top of the table and contenders for the NWSL Shield, the team entered what would be the worst run of form since Mark Parsons was named head coach. Portland would lose three of their final five games, including an embarrassing 6–0 loss to the North Carolina Courage which would end up as the most lopsided loss in team history. After finishing the season with a scoreless draw against the Washington Spirit, the Thorns finished third in the league, meaning they would not host a playoff game for the first time since 2015. The Thorns would be knocked out of the playoffs after a 1–0 defeat to the Chicago Red Stars.
Colors and crest
The team's colors were announced as red, green, and black. The team crest was designed by artist and Timbers Army member Brent Diskin. Its design features the team colors of red and white "with a protective wreath of thorns surrounding a familiar, stylized rose in the center." The design also includes a pair of four-pointed stars, or hypocycloids, that house the letters "F" and "C" and anchor the sides of the badge, and resemble the star prominent on Portland's official city flag. The team's home kit is rose red with a white stripe, while the road kit is white. The club unveiled their home and away kits on April 9, 2013. Both uniforms feature sponsorships by Providence Health & Services and Parklane Mattresses, and are made by Nike.
|Season||NWSL regular season||Position||NWSL|
DNQ = Did not qualify
|Defender||Rachel Van Hollebeke||2013–2015||45||3||48|
|Defender||Kat Williamson||2013, 2015–2016||46||2||48|
|9||Midfielder||Dagný Brynjarsdóttir||2016–2017, 2019–||5||0||5|
The Portland Thorns play at Providence Park located in the Goose Hollow neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Providence Park was the third-largest stadium in the NWSL, after the Boston Breakers' Harvard Stadium and the 2014 expansion Houston Dash's BBVA Compass Stadium. However, the Dash closed sections to seat only 7,000 spectators per game in 2014, and in 2015, the Breakers moved to the smaller Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium (now named Jordan Field). This made the 21,144-capacity Providence Park the largest stadium by NWSL-specific capacity until the opening of 25,500-capacity Orlando City Stadium in 2017. The Thorns also share the stadium with the Portland Timbers and the Portland State University Vikings.
As of April 2017, Thorns games are streamed exclusively by Go90 for American audiences and via the NWSL website for international viewers. For the 2017 season, the Thorns were featured in six nationally televised Lifetime NWSL Game of the Week broadcasts on April 15, April 29, July 15, August 5, August 26, and September 30, 2017.
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