Portland Thorns: Early Favorites For Inaugural NWSL Season

Following the prosperous weighted allocation of seven national team players from the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the Portland Thorns FC have added four additional players with professional and international experience.

With the supplemental draft scheduled for later today, the Thorn’s roster is nearing completion. Headlined by superstars Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair, and Tobin Heath, “Soccer City, U.S.A.” appears to be the early favorites to claim the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League Championship.

Familiar Faces

Having played for four seasons at the University of Portland between 2001 and 2005, with a redshirt season in 2003 to compete in the World Cup, Christine Sinclair has long been a household name in Portland.

While at the University of Portland, Sinclair saw unparalleled success while leading the Pilots to two national championships (2002, 2004). She scored a total of 110 goals throughout her career, and holds the Division I record for most tournament goals (25) and single season goals (39 in 2005). She was the West Coast Conference Player of the Year three times (2002, 2004, 2005) and won the MAC Hermann Trophy in back-to-back seasons (2004, 2005). The Hermann Trophy is awarded annually to the nation’s best male and female soccer players by the Missouri Athletic Club. Additionally, in 2005 she was awarded the Honda-Broderick Cup, given to the athlete of the year for all of women’s collegiate athletics.

Since her time in Portland, Sinclair has gone on to become a legend within the sport. She is currently third all-time in international goals for a female player with 143. She has played in three World Cups and two Olympic Games while becoming a nine-time Canadian Soccer Player of the Year and a six-time nominee for FIFA’s World Player of the Year.

Aside from Sinclair’s incredible skill, Portland has acquired significant talent from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Thorn’s Head Coach, Cindy Parlow Cone, served as assistant coach at UNC for a number of years, helping guide the Tar Heels to national titles in 2009 and 2012. In Portland Cone will be reunited with former pupils Tobin Heath and Allie Long.

Tobin Heath has been a vital part of the U.S. National Team’s mid-field since 2008 and is widely considered to be the team’s most technically skilled player. Allie Long (forward / midfield), signed January 17th, played two seasons for the Tar Hills and has since played for France’s Division I Feminine squad, Paris Saint-Germain FC, and numerous professional teams throughout the United States.

Unfortunately, Heath will not be joining Portland until May 23rd, as her current contract with Paris Saint-Germain will overlap with the start of the NWSL season.

American Superstar

Joining Sinclair on the attack will be former Western New York Flash teammate, Alex Morgan.

In the months following the 2012 London Olympics, there was perhaps no athlete more widely recognized or discussed than Alex Morgan. Through spectacular play and late game heroics, Morgan was launched into the international spotlight. In November of 2010, then relatively unknown Morgan scored a game winning goal against Italy in the 94th minute. The victory qualified the American team for the 2011 World Cup in Germany.

Last summer, the entire country watched in amazement as Morgan scored a game winner against Canada in the 123rd minute, the latest goal ever recorded by FIFA. Sinclair recorded a hat trick in the contest.

In fact, 17 of Morgan’s 28 goals last year came in the 60th minute or later.

Morgan isn’t just a clutch player that is reserved for game winning situations in the second half. Last year she joined the most exclusive club in women’s soccer by recording more than 20 goals and 20 assists in the same calendar year; a mark that has only ever been reached by American legend Mia Hamm.

Amazingly, with 28 goals and 21 assists last season, Morgan single handedly outscored the United States’ entire competition. In 32 games, the United States, as a team, conceded 21 goals and 12 assists.

Here in Portland, late last year, avid soccer fans watched Morgan record a hat trick in a friendly contest at Jeld-Wen Field against the Republic of Ireland.

Morgan will bring with her a high level of professionalism and talent that will undoubtedly draw massive crowds from an already soccer-rabid city.

Soccer City, U.S.A.

Jeld-Wen field, sunk beneath the city streets of Portland, has become the most personal soccer pitch in the entire country. With the crazed, singing sea of the Timbers’ Army breathing down opponents necks, Jeld-Wen Field in soccer-mode is truly a sight to behold. Beginning this April, the Thorns will join the timbers beneath the towering wall of Multnomah Athletic Club, but can they draw the same level of support?

Merritt Paulson, owner and president of both the Timbers and the Thorns, indicated last week that the support for the Thorns will massively exceed expectations. In fact, as of January 24th, the Thorns have already recorded 5,000 season ticket deposits. That is more than the Timbers accumulated in the 2010 season.

The city is primed and ready to give their unparalleled support to the Thorns in the upcoming season. With former University of Portland star Megan Rapinoe, and world-class goal keeper Hope Solo allocated to the Seattle Reign, perhaps the most competitive and exciting I-5 rivalry will be played in the NWSL.

Grab your scarves and get ready Portland.

*The Portland Thorns will be holding an open tryout this weekend, February 9th and 10th, at Jeld-Wen field. Players must be 18 years or older and pay a $75 dollar registration fee to participate. Registration is currently full, but a wait-list has been formed.

**Season tickets for the Thorns' 2013 season are still available and pricing has been announced:

            -$9 per game for general admission

            -$15 per game for touchline reserved seats

            -$22 per game for club level seats

About Arran Gimba