A look at the Thorns and a chance for reboot after last season’s finish
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Jan. 29, 2024
It feels like something of a fresh start for the Portland Thorns.
The team has — finally — been sold and there’s a new dedicated training facility on the horizon. New staff and infrastructure is being built around the team. Season ticket holders are returning.
All of the changes at the top make it easier to move on from the way last season ended. To recap: The Thorns were vying for the Supporters’ Shield last season on Decision Day. All they had to do was win at Angel City.
But instead, Portland melted down and lost 5-1 in Los Angeles, and the Shield went to the San Diego Wave. All hope was still not lost. The Thorns were still in position to repeat as league champions, earning a first-round bye and home-field advantage for the semifinals. But Gotham came to Providence Park and pulled off a 1-0 victory in extra time.
Portland by no means had a poor season. The Thorns finished second in the league at 10-7-5. They led the league with 42 goals scored.
But the expectations were higher.
“Last year — we’re still upset. I mean, of course, why wouldn’t we be?” Morgan Weaver said. “So I think there’s a little chip on our shoulder. We want to be better.”
Sam Coffey echoed the sentiment.
“Yeah, I think there’s a chip on the shoulder. We didn’t achieve our goal last year, both with the Shield and the championship, and we take that really personally,” Coffey said. “We have new ownership now, we have a new style of approaching things and I think we all kind of feel this tangible energy that is shifting going into 2024.”
The Thorns made a couple of significant moves in the offseason. Crystal Dunn unsurprisingly left in free agency to join Gotham. Portland re-signed veterans Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg and Christine Sinclair, ensuring continuity among the veteran leadership group in the locker room.
And they still have (for now) Sophia Smith, who is, after all, Sophia Smith.
There’s also the rumored signing of a certain high-profile Canadian player, which could come early this week. Currently the worst-kept secret in the league.
The teams’ new owners, the Bhathal family, are dedicated to the Thorns, the league and women’s sports overall. The players met with the new owners last Monday and were pleased with what they heard.
Now the team’s attention can be squarely on the field, Weaver said.
“I think just focus is the biggest thing. And what we’re going to be focusing on is ourselves and our team,” Weaver said. “I think that’s huge because sometimes you get a little distracted with outside noise. I’m not saying that’s always the case, but when it is, we can’t let that distract us.”
Overall in women’s soccer, it was a newsy week. Here were some of the highlights:
The NWSL schedule dropped. I hit on the main points with some broadcast details here. The Thorns open with a nationally televised game on ABC against the Kansas City Current. Lots of interest surrounding this one, with the Current’s new stadium and Vlatko Andonovski’s return to the NWSL.
Bay FC added Venezuelan international Deyna Castellanos. She helped Florida State win a national title and interestingly, she was the 2019 Women’s World Cup representative at the 2018 Men’s World Cup. She acted as a sort of social media influencer for the event. Good signing.
Also, Damn Ali Krieger. Looking ahead to hot girl summer.
Here’s the media availability with the Thorns.