This week, all the focus, outside of the Royals, of course, has been on the Portland Thorns. You might have heard of them. Boasting two NWSL Championships (2013, 2017) and an NWSL Shield (2016), the Thorns are the most accomplished team in the league. They’re also big in Portland, averaging 17,653 fans last season. Portland also tends to be a preferred destination for a majority of soccer players, including attracting international stars from Europe and U.S. Women National Team stars. Basically, Portland is the team to beat.
Record: 2-1-1 (W-L-T)
Head coach: Mark Parsons, 3rd season
Home stadium: Providence Park
2018 season thus far
Portland entered the 2018 season as the defending NWSL Champions. They traveled to North Carolina for a rematch against the team they defeated in the Championship last October. However, it was the North Carolina Courage who came away with the victory this time, and the Thorns began the season with a 1-0 loss. It would be their only loss so far, victories against Chicago Red Stars (3-2) and Orlando Pride (2-1), as well as a draw against Washington Spirit (1-1), have the Thorns in 3rd place.
Players to Watch
Christine Sinclair, #12 - The Canadian international leads the league in goals with four, scoring in the last three games while also providing an assist. She is a key component of the Thorns’ attack and is constantly pressing forward.
Lindsey Horan, #10 - Horan is a presence in the midfield, often providing assists to Sinclair. She has scored two goals of her own. She also leads the league in fouls (13).
Midge Purce, #23 - The former Boston Breakers defender has earned a starting spot in the Thorns’ defense. Purce is tied for the league-lead in tackles with 21.
Portland Thorns Overall
The Royals again face a solid team as they return to Rio Tinto Stadium. The Thorns are second in shot conversion (6 goals, 16.7%) and shooting accuracy (55.6%). Offensively, Portland has scoring threats up front with Sinclair leading the way and particularly in the midfield with Horan. The return of their international players Ellie Carpenter and Andressinha as well as Tobin Heath, who made her 2018 season debut last week, only strengthens that midfield.
Defensively, Portland is struggling this season. They have allowed 57 shots, 13 of those on target, and conceding 5 goals. Still, Portland is undoubtedly a contender this NWSL season. On the road, the Thorns are third in the league with a win and a loss.
Thorns Injury Report
OUT: Adrianna Franch (right meniscus tear), Bella Geist (left quad strain), Emily Menges (right tibia stress syndrome), Meg Morris (left hip pain), Hayley Raso (left knee sprain)
All week, there’s been talk of a rivalry between Portland and Utah. For one, geographically, there already seems to be a soccer rivalry between Portland and Salt Lake City. Two, Laura Harvey, as Seattle Reign FC’s head coach for five seasons, is very familiar with Portland and vice-versa due to the Cascadia Rivalry. Three, Utah and Portland could vie for international and U.S. Women National team players as the preferred destination. Four, in Week 3, Utah Royals FC’s home attendance was 19,203 compared to Portland’s 16,466. Additionally, Utah, so far, has the highest home attendance for a single game. And five, well, it’s Portland, and ask anyone in the league, defeating the Thorns is always worth celebrating.
So yes, on paper, this seems very much like a rivalry in the making. It all comes down to the games these two teams will play against one another to fully develop the rivalry.