2018 Preview: Portland Thorns FC
Reigning NWSL Champions welcome back 14 players
Horan was named the 2017 NWSL Championship MVP. Photo credit: Brad Smith/ isiphotos.com
Horan was named the 2017 NWSL Championship MVP. Photo credit: Brad Smith/ isiphotos.com

By Celia Balf

The reigning 2017 NWSL champions will chase after their third NWSL title this year. Mark Parsons welcomes back 14 players from last season, including 2017 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Adrianna Franch. The squad also features several key additions in midfielder Andressinha, defenderEllie Carpenter and forward Caitlin Foord.

Thorns FC were at the top of the charts defensively in 2017, only conceding a league-best 20 goals. The backline was anchored by Franch and her steady backline of Emily Sonnett, Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges and Katherine Reynolds.

Parsons will have options defensively once Carpenter joins the team after her international duties with Australia at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament, the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Carpenter is just 17 years old and has already distinguished herself as a consistent defender at the international level so will be sure to bolster an already promising defensive unit. Her contract is set to begin with Thorns FC on April 28, also her 18th birthday.

Moving up the field, Lindsey Horan is back after scoring the game-winning goal against the North Carolina Courage for the 2017 NWSL Championship. The attack will once again be consistent in Christine Sinclair, who scored a team-high eight goals last season, and Hayley Raso, who finished her 2017 campaign with six goals and three assists. Raso was also named to Australia’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup squad and will return to Portland following the qualifying matches.

The Thorns will travel to face a familiar foe on Saturday, March 24 when they play the North Carolina Courage to open up the 2018 season.

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Coach: Mark Parsons

Stadium: Providence Park

Key Additions

Andressinha, midfielder

Ellie Carpenter, defender

Caitlin Foord, forward

Midge Purce, defender

Ifeoma Onumonu, forward

In January, midfielder Andressinha was acquired by Portland from the Houston Dash in exchange for forward Savannah Jordan. The crafty, Brazilian national team player signed with the Dash in 2015 and made 38 appearances in orange. Last season she scored two goals and three assists, with 45 chances created.

Carpenter first made her international debut for Australia at 15 years old during the 2016 Rio Olympic qualifiers. At the Olympics that summer she became the youngest Australian Olympian at the Games.  Parsons calls Carpenter “a powerful, attacking fullback,” and surely sees her contributing to the attacking-defensive mindset that carried his team to the top last year.

In January, Portland Thorns FC parted ways with longtime midfielder Allie Long in a trade that sent Long to Seattle Reign FC in exchange for Australian forward Caitlin Foord and a 2020 second-round NWSL draft pick. Foord was named Asian Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2016 and has most recently been recovering from surgery to repair a lisfranc injury. This injury was suffered during the W-League semifinal on February, 9. Foord was left off the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup roster, and there is no telling when she will be back to full health to play in the NWSL.

Midge Purce, Ifeoma Onumonu and Angela Salem were picked up from the Boston Breakers Dispersal Draft in January, and all three players offer great depth to Portland especially during the international windows. Purce was drafted out of Harvard University as a forward, however she made a case for herself at outside back in her rookie season in Boston. Purce could easily fill an outside back spot for Portland, but also can give Parsons options up the field in any wing position. Onumonu is also a threat out wide, and will be a player Portland can turn to with the absence of attacking powerhouse Raso when she is filling her national team duties.

Key Departures

Allie Long, midfielder

Amandine Henry, midfielder

Nadia Nadim, forward

French midfielder Amandine Henry helped Portland win the NWSL Championship in 2017, yet the French national team player joined Olympique Lyon following last season. With Thorns FC in 2017, she scored three goals.

Denmark forward Nadia Nadim signed with Manchester City last September and parts ways with Portland after leading them to the 2017 NWSL Championship. Last year she scored six goals and tallied three assists for Thorns FC.

Midfielder Allie Long was traded to Seattle Reign FC after being an integral part of Portland since the NWSL’s inaugural season in 2013. Long reached the 100-career appearances milestone with the Thorns last year, and managed to score 30 goals and 13 assists throughout her time with the club.

By the Numbers

2017:14-5-5, 2nd place (Home:10-1-1; Away:4-4-4)

37 goals for (5th in the NWSL), 20 goals against (1st)

Defenders Emily Sonnett and Emily Menges combined for 207 clearances (103 Sonnett, 104 Menges) out of the team’s 509 total clearances on the year. Menges also posted a team-high 87.68% in passing accuracy.

Goalkeeper of the Year Adrianna Franch recorded 11 clean sheets for an NWSL record in the regular season and then added one more in the postseason championship game with a 1-0 victory over the Courage. Franch also posted a 0.83 goals against average and made 80 saves.  The 0.83 GAA ties the NWSL record set by Seattle Reign FC in 2014.

Lindsey Horan was named the NWSL Championship MVP after scoring the lone goal in the victory last year. The midfielder played 2,125 minutes starting in all regular season 24 games for the Thorns. She posted four goals and two assists and held the team together with her distribution in the middle. Horan had a team high 1014 successful passes out of the squads 7,929 total.

In 2017, the Thorns had the league’s best home record (10-1-1) and became the first NWSL team to ever win 10 games at home. Heading into a game in Houston on July 8, the Thorns had lost three of their last four games, but Lindsey Horan’s game-tying penalty kick in the 91st minute sparked Portland’s end of season run. They went 9-1-2 in their final 12 games to claim the No. 2 seed in the NWSL playoffs.

Head Coach Mark Parsons:

Games to Watch

North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns FC

Saturday, March 24 | Lifetime | 3:30 p.m. ET

In the first Lifetime game of 2018, the Thorns will travel to North Carolina to face the Courage for the first time since last year’s championship battle. Both squads feature a core of players from last season, and if NWSL fans learned anything from last year’s meetings between the two sides it will be a defensive brawl.

Portland Thorns FC vs. Orlando Pride

Sunday, April 15 | go90 | 6 p.m. ET

The Thorns play their first game at home since winning their second NWSL title. Anytime a game features the best attack (Orlando) against the best defense (Portland), per 2017 rankings,  it is reason enough to tune in.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Portland Thorns FC

Saturday, June 16 | Lifetime | 3:30 p.m. ET

The Thorns will host the Red Stars just after a FIFA window for an afternoon Lifetime thriller. Both squads will be in full stride and with all hands on-deck. Portland went 3-0 against Chicago last year. The two teams will meet prior on March 31 at Toyota Park.

In Focus March 15: For Franch, stability has brought results

By Katelyn Best

When Mark Parsons brought Franch to Portland in 2016, she joined a Thorns side that was going through its own massive changes: Parsons was new that season, and roughly half the squad from the previous year had turned over. One constant, fortuitously, was Nadine Angerer, the former Thorns keeper and one-time FIFA World Player of the Year who’d stayed on following her retirement from playing to take over as goalkeeping coach.

Spend any time around Thorns trainings, and it becomes obvious Angerer has an influence that extends well beyond the goalkeeping corps. Asked what it’s like working with the German coach, Franch laughs. “Her personality just gets people,” she says. In 2017, Portland’s unofficial locker room mascot was the “ice bear,” mistranslated by Angerer from the German for “polar bear” in a pregame speech. “When you think about, ‘we’re ice bears, and we’re hungry for a win,’” says Franch, “you’re kind of like, ‘what?’ But with her personality, you buy into it, and you get chills because you know she’s what she’s talking about.”

That balance between focused intensity and humor is just one manifestation of Angerer’s seemingly natural skill as a coach—and it’s been under her guidance that Franch is growing to her potential as a keeper. “Putting in a master coach to work with [Franch,]” says Parsons, “you’ve got a dream team there, and lining these two people up is why we’ve seen what we’ve seen.”

Read More January 22: Thorns, Courage make big offseason moves

By Katelyn Best

Foord will join Portland from Sydney FC, where she plays alongside Thorns defender Emily Sonnett. The 23-year-old forward will be the third Australian international in Portland, joining Hayley Raso and Ashleigh Sykes. “Having her in our front line changes everything for us,” said Parsons. Foord is a versatile player, but Parsons plans to put her up front. “Our ambition is to play her in the front line. … We got one of the players we think can be the best in the league.”

Andressinha, meanwhile, is headed to a Portland side that suffered a huge loss with the departure of French midfielder Amandine Henry. “We’ll never replace her,” said Parsons. “Unless Amandine comes back, we’ll never get another Amandine.”

Henry, widely considered the best defensive midfielder in the world, is a vastly different player from Andressinha. Because of that, Portland’s midfield will have a substantially different look. “You can’t go and profile,” said Parsons. “You can’t get somebody like Amandine. So we go get a creative player like Andressinha.” While Henry brought unparalleled vision and passing range, Andressinha is strong on the ball and can create in the central midfield.

Read more
Roster (as of 3/19)

GOALKEEPERS (2): Britt Eckerstrom, Adrianna Franch

DEFENDERS (7): Elizabeth Ball, Ellie Carpenter (INTL-AUS, PEN), Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges, Midge Purce (DD), Katherine Reynolds, Emily Sonnett (FED-USA)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Andressinha (INTL-BRA, PEN), Celeste Boureille, Tobin Heath (FED-USA), Lindsey Horan (FED-USA), Angela Salem (DD)

FORWARDS (7): Caitlin Foord (INTL-AUS, PEN), Tyler Lussi, Meg Morris, Ifeoma Onumonu (DD), Hayley Raso (INTL-AUS, PEN), Christine Sinclair (FED-CAN), Mallory Weber

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