Portland Thorns FC Profile
|Major Honours||NWSL Championship (2), NWSL Shield (1), NWSL Community Shield (1)|
Despite only being formed in 2012, the club has already claimed four major trophies. Here's the story behind one of the most successful American teams in women's soccer.
Portland Thorns FC play at Providence Park and participate in the National Women's Soccer League in the United States.
The Thorns are among the most successful teams in the NWSL with two Championships, an NWSL Shield and numerous attendance records.
The Thorns were a founding member of the NWSL, with the original eight-team league announced on November 21, 2012.
Since day one, the team has been owned by Merritt Paulson, who also owns the Portland Timbers in the MLS.
Portland is nicknamed the Rose City, which is reflected in the Thorns' color scheme, name and badge. Their colors are red and white, and the badge features a rose in the middle surrounded by thorns and the team name.
Cindy Parlow Cone was named as the first Thorns manager. As a player, she won three NCAA National Championships at North Carolina and was a two-time national Player of the Year.
She played 158 times for the US women's national team, winning two Olympic gold medals and the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup. Before joining the Thorns, she was an assistant coach at North Carolina for six seasons.
In the 2013 player allocation, the Thorns received Canadian superstar forward Christine Sinclair, American forward Alex Morgan, American winger Tobin Heath and American defender Rachel Buehler.
Sinclair and Morgan had played together in the final season of the WPS, winning the title with the Western New York Flash in 2011.
The Parlow Cone era
The Pride played their inaugural season at the Camping World Stadium, home to the Citrus Bowl and former home of the University of Central Florida football team.
In their first-ever game, Portland drew 1-1 at FC Kansas City, with the goal scored by Sinclair in the 66th minute.
Their home debut eight days later drew 16,479 fans, with Marian Dougherty and Morgan scoring in a 2-1 win over rivals Seattle Reign FC.
That victory started a four-game winning streak and the Thorns lost just twice in the next 10 contests.
They struggled in the middle of the season with consecutive defeats and a draw before winning 2-1 in Boston on July 21.
They lost back-to-back games again in August but bounced back to beat Seattle 2-1 in the finale of the regular season. With 38 points from 22 games, the Thorns finished third in the table and made the NWSL playoffs.
In the semifinals, the Thorns traveled to Kansas City and fell two goals behind inside 25 minutes. However, Heath scored in the 33rd minute and Tiffany Weimer tied the game in the 65th minute.
Allie Long provided the game winner in the 103rd minute as the Thorns upset the No. 2 seed to win 3-2.
In the finals, they traveled to Rochester, NY, and beat the top-seeded Western New York Flash 2-0 despite Kathryn Williamson receiving a red card in the 57th minute.
Heath scored in the 40th minute and Sinclair capped the championship with a goal in the 90th minute.
Portland led the league in attendance with an average of 13,320 fans per game and their August 4 clash against Kansas City set a record with 17,619 fans.
Morgan and Sinclair each scored eight goals over the season while Morgan added five assists. Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc posted seven clean sheets and finished second in the league with 92 saves.
Sinclair was the April Player of the Month and she was joined by Morgan and Buehler in the NWSL's Best XI Second Team.
Cone resigned at the end of the season for personal reasons and in March 2020, she was named president of US Soccer.
The Paul Riley era
The Thorns hired Paul Riley from the WPSL's Long Island Fury as their new manager for the 2014 season.
In January, they traded LeBlanc to Chicago for a draft pick and sent midfielder Nikki Washington to Houston for another draft pick and midfielder Meleana Shim. The Thorns drafted midfielder Amber Brooks and also traded for midfielders Veronica Boquete and Sarah Huffman.
The team alternated wins and draws over the first four games before losing 1-0 to Seattle on May 10.
They suffered 4-1 and 5-0 losses in consecutive games before bouncing back for a 6-1 win over Washington as Morgan and Jessica McDonald both scored twice.
The Thorns didn't win again over the next four games, but they blasted Kansas City 7-1 on July 13 and beat Boston 6-3 a week later with a Sinclair hat trick.
On August 3, the Thorns set a new NWSL attendance record with 19,123 fans in a 1-0 win over Houston. Portland clinched a playoff spot and the No. 3 seed with a 1-0 win over Seattle in the final regular season game of the year.
The Thorns couldn't defend their title though, as they lost 2-0 to FC Kansas City in the playoff semifinals.
McDonald led the team with 11 goals that campaign while Long scored nine, Sinclair added seven and Morgan had six.
Portland led the league in average attendance at 13,362 fans per game. Boquete was a finalist for league MVP, finishing runner-up to Seattle's Kim Little.
She was the Thorns' only player in the NWSL Best XI, while Stephanie Catley, Long and McDonald made the second team.
The 2015 season
Before the 2015 season, the Thorns added Genoveva Anonman, captain of the Equatorial Guinea national team.
They traded McDonald to Washington for English forward Jodie Taylor and brought back Kat Williamson. They also lost Boquete as she signed with FFC Frankfurt in Germany.
The 2015 season started with two straight wins, but the Thorns went winless over seven games from April 25 to June 19.
Seven players participated in the 2015 Women's World Cup and the Thorns beat Sky Blue FC 2-1 without them on July 3.
Their July 22 loss to Seattle set another NWSL single game attendance record with 21,144 fans at Providence Park.
Portland won three in a row from July 29 to August 9, but lost three of their final four games with a draw mixed in as well. With 23 points, their lowest points total ever, the Thorns finished in sixth place and missed the playoffs for the first time.
Long led the Thorns with 10 goals, but Sinclair was limited to two goals in nine games and Morgan scored just once in four games over the season.
With 45 saves, Michelle Betos was named NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year and she was joined by Long in the NWSL's Best XI.
The Mark Parsons era
Riley resigned after the 2015 season and the Thorns hired former Washington Spirit manager Mark Parsons to take over.
Portland traded Morgan to expansion side Orlando Pride for defender Meghan Klingenberg, and they traded draft picks to the Sky Blue for Danish forward Nadia Nadim.
Portland added forward Lindsey Horan in the National Team Player Allocation, French midfielder Amandine Henry from Lyon, and lost Taylor to Arsenal.
The 2016 season started with a 2-1 win over Orlando before two straight draws. They beat Washington 4-1 and won four straight from June 17 to July 2.
After 12 consecutive games without a loss, the Thorns suffered back-to-back defeats on July 9 and July 16. Portland bounced back with four straight wins to end the regular season, and they claimed the NWSL Shield with a 3-1 win at Sky Blue on September 25.
Portland were the second-highest scorers in the league with 35 goals and they conceded the fewest goals with 19.
The Thorns hosted their NWSL playoff semifinal in front of 20,086 fans on October 2 against Western New York Flash.
Down 2-0 early, Sinclair scored in the 39th minute and Emily Sonnett tied the game in the 78th minute. In added time, the Flash scored twice in six minutes before Horan clawed the Thorns back to 4-3. They couldn't find the equalizer though and crashed out with a 4-3 loss.
Nadim led the team with nine goals while Long and Sinclair had six each over the course of the season.
Portland had the highest average attendance of all teams at 16,945, as well as having nine of the top 10 highest single game attendances over the campaign.
Heath led the league with 10 assists and was the April Player of the Month. Sinclair won Player of the Month in both June and August, while also being named the Olympian of the Month during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
Long was the September Player of the Month and joined Heath and Emily Menges in the NWSL Best XI. Meanwhile, Parsons was named the NWSL Coach of the Year.
From slow starters to title winners
Before the 2017 season, Williamson retired and Betos left the team for Norwegian club Valerenga. Tobin Heath played just two games with a back injury but helped out as a coach for the season.
Portland had a slow start to the 2017 campaign, with two wins from the first six games. They found their stride in July with a draw and four straight victories.
After a 2-1 loss to Kansas City on August 16, they went on an eight-game unbeaten streak to end the regular season. In each of those eight games, they conceded one goal or fewer.
The Thorns finished second, two points behind North Carolina. They conceded just 20 goals, the fewest in the league, and had a league-best +17 goal difference.
In the playoffs, the Thorns routed No. 3 seed Orlando 4-1 in the semifinals with goals from four different players.
The NWSL final was in Orlando and the Thorns won their second title with a 1-0 victory against top seed North Carolina. Horan scored the game winner in the 50th minute and was named MVP.
Sinclair led the team with eight goals while both Nadim and Hayley Raso scored six across the season. Portland led the league with an average of 17,653 fans per game, while they also had all 10 of the highest attendances over the campaign.
Adrianna Franch was the NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year with 11 clean sheets and 80 saves, but she was the lone Thorns player in the NWSL Best XI.
Defending the title
Before the 2018 season, the Thorns lost Henry and Nadim to Lyon and Manchester City respectively.
They traded Long to Seattle for Australian forward Caitlin Foord and added Brazilian midfielder Andressinha from Houston.
Portland won two of their first three games but didn't pick up a win over the next five contests. They won consecutive clashes at the end of May but won just once in four June games.
Portland finally got into gear in July and they won seven of their final nine games to make the playoffs.
With 42 points, the Thorns finished in second place, 15 points behind North Carolina. They hosted rivals Seattle in the semifinals and won 2-1 with goals from Heath and Horan.
A week later, the NWSL final was moved to Portland because of a hurricane in North Carolina. In front of 21,144 fans, the Thorns lost to North Carolina 3-0 to finish as runners-up.
Portland led the league in attendance once again with an average of 16,959 per game, along with having nine of the top 10 crowds for the season.
Horan led the team with 13 goals while Sinclair scored nine times and Heath paired seven goals with seven assists. Horan was the July Player of the Month and the NWSL Most Valuable Player.
French was again the NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, and she joined Horan, Heath and Sonnett in the NWSL Best XI.
The 2019 season
The Thorns had to start the 2019 season with six straight away games as Providence Park was undergoing renovations.
They won three of those, drawing a further two, before returning home on June 2 for a 3-0 win. Sinclair, Heath, Horan and others missed the next month for the Women's World Cup and the Thorns won just once in four games.
They picked up two wins in July and set a new NWSL single game attendance record on August 11 with 25,218 fans in a 2-1 win over North Carolina.
Despite losing three of their final five games, the Thorns made the playoffs by finishing third in the table. In the playoffs, they lost at Chicago 1-0 in the semifinals.
Sinclair led the team with nine goals, while Klingenberg had four assists. Portland led the NWSL with 20,098 fans per game, and they had nine of the top 10 crowds over the season. Horan and Heath were both named in the NWSL Best XI.
The Covid-19 year
The 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19 and the NWSL played a Challenge Cup in Sandy, Utah, over the summer.
Portland lost their opening game to North Carolina before earning three straight draws in the preliminary round.
They were the only team without a win in those four games and entered the knockout round as eighth seed.
Morgan Weaver scored to upset No. 1 North Carolina in the knockout round quarterfinals, but Portland lost 1-0 to Houston in the semis.
Things improved in the 2020 Fall Series as Portland won three of their four games to claim the 2020 Community Shield with 10 points.
Sinclair scored a hat trick in a 4-1 win over OL Reign and they beat their rivals again 2-1 10 days later. They drew 1-1 at Utah and beat the Royals 3-0 at home.
Portland's top players
Christine Sinclair played her college soccer in Portland and is a native of British Columbia, Canada. She holds the Thorns' franchise records for games played (146), NWSL games played (131) and goals scored (58), while she is fifth in assists (nine).
Tobin Heath holds the team record with 14 assists and ranks tied for fourth in goals with 15.
Emily Menges, Allie Long, Meghan Klingenberg and Lindsey Horan round out the top five in terms of games played for the Thorns while Long, Horan and Alex Morgan are trailing Sinclair in goals scored.
Other national team players to appear for the Thorns include Becky Sauerbrunn (USA), Crystal Dunn (USA), Jodie Taylor (England), Veronica Boquete (Spain), Stephanie Catley (Australia), Amandine Henry (France), Nadia Nadim (Denmark) and Karina LeBlanc (Canada).