Portland Thorns Open 2017 With High Expectations And A Win

Six months after their heartbreaking loss in the playoffs, the Portland Thorns opened the 2017 season at Providence Park on Saturday with renewed expectations and higher hopes.

On an exceptionally sunny, albeit chilly, spring afternoon, the Thorns scored a lot of goals. Two of them actually counted. That was enough to send 16,145 fans home happy as the Thorns won their season and home opener 2-0 over the Orlando Pride.

Nadia Nadim struck first for the Thorns, scoring in the 32nd minute. It was a welcome sight after Nadim went down with a serious injury in the Thorns’ playoff game last season. Nadim was Portland’s leading scorer last year and it was especially comforting to see her score the first goal of the new season.

Thorns captain Christine Sinclair was next, putting the Thorns up 2-0 in the 67th minute. Allie Long appeared to have scored at least twice thereafter, but both goals were called back to offsides whistles.

Defensively, new full-time goalkeeper Adrianna Franch was stellar for the Thorns. She was tested early and often, saving Portland from a couple defensive lapses in the first half. Franch proved to the home crowd that she is more than up to the task in filling in for the vacated gloves of former goalkeeper of the year Michelle Betos, who bolted for Norway earlier this year.

Both teams were playing at less than full strength. Tobin Heath was out for the Thorns, resting a sore back. The Pride were without Alex Morgan and newly acquired superstar Marta from Brazil, who is awaiting her p-1 visa and international transfer certificate. Marta is expected to be back for the Pride’s home opener later this week.

The Pride will be a formidable team once Marta arrives and when Morgan returns from France. They could very well join the Thorns in being a top contender this season. While Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris had a tough go on Saturday, she was voted Goalkeeper of the Year for 2016 and is no slouch guarding the net. Look for the Pride to win a lot of games this season.

The Thorns, meanwhile, are trying to repeat as winners of the NWSL Shield and return to the post-season to complete some unfinished business. The sting of losing in the playoffs last season still haunts the Thorns, but on Saturday they took the first steps in exorcising the disappointing end to 2016. With the christening of a new year and the brandishing of a new look, the Thorns began 2017 on the right track.

About John Stupak 44 Articles
John Stupak is a senior writer for Oregon Sports News since 2014. John has followed Oregon sports for nearly 30 years. He is a life-long Portland Trail Blazers fan and has had the privilege of covering the Portland Thorns of the NWSL. Along with everything sports, he is fan of movies and of quality television (sorry CBS) in his spare time. John has a beautiful wife, Amanda, along with one soccer-loving, intelligent, and artistic daughter. John is an electrical tech designer by day and a writer by nights and weekends. You can follow John and all his musings on Twitter (@Stupak77).