Portland Thorns 2021 Season Preview and Roster Update

by Michael Martinez

It has been a long while but we’re back!! I am hoping to get more consistent Thorns news out starting with the 2021 Challenge Cup. My goal is to have Thorns content out at least once a week. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

If you read my friend Charlie’s previous post, you would know that the 2021 Challenge Cup begins tomorrow, against Kansas City. After the Challenge Cup, the 24-match regular-season kicks back up on May 15th. The league is not expected to break for the 2021 Summer Olympics (if that is even going to be a thing) and the season will conclude on October 30th. Full details on the Challenge Cup format and the complete regular-season schedule should be announced here soon. Until then we can just speculate and wait.

After the regular-season finishes, six teams will qualify for an expanded NWSL playoffs set to begin on Nov. 6, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye. The Thorns are obvious favorites for the first-round bye. The league’s ninth season will conclude with the NWSL Championship on November 20th. Where hopefully we can see the Thorns lift the Cup after a 4 year drought. 

Key Players: 

  • Christine Sinclair: The 8 year veteran and our captain. The star Canadian midfielder has put in the work consistently since coming to Portland in 2013. Her presence on the pitch is enough. As an attacking midfielder, she has an incredible eye for goal. For two seasons in a row, she has been the team’s top scorer. With the addition of Crystal Dunn in the midfield, I would not be surprised if we see Sinclair even higher up the pitch this season.

  • Crystal Dunn: The USWNT international joined the Thorns this last fall from Washington Spirit. She has over 100 caps for the USWNT and is touted as one of the best midfielders in the country. While she mainly suits up as a left back for the national team, for club, and her preferred position, is the midfield. She may not score too much, she can dictate the game and take control of it herself. She could easily be a contender for MVP. 

  • Lindsey Horan: Horan has been a mainstay at the club since 2016. The partnership of Horan and Dunn will easily be the best in the league. While she has spent time playing uptop, she has made the switch to the midfield for club and country. She has not been on the scoresheet as much since joining the Thorns, but that does not mean she can’t bang one in. She has exceptional vision and can pin point passes where she needs. 

Head Coach Mark Parsons on Horan and Dunn, 

“Lindsey and Crystal are key pillars to our future,” “Their role on and off the field is crucial to our identity and the collective goals of the club.”

Official 2021 Roster
Goalkeepers: Bella Bixby, Adrianna Franch, Shelby Hogan

Defenders: Kelli Hubly, Meghan Klingenberg, Natalia Kuikka, Emily Menges, Meaghan Nally, Madison Pogarch, Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Westphal

Midfielders: Celeste Boureille, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, Rocky Rodríguez, Angela Salem, Christine Sinclair

Forwards: Simone Charley, Marissa Everett, Tyler Lussi, Sophia Smith, Morgan Weaver

What to Expect This Season:
The Thorns have just one more night’s sleep until the Challenge Cup starts. Then the actual season matches begin, and the wins of the offseason become irrelevant. As the offseason comes to an end, the Thorns have to take this type of success to the pitch.

And success is a fair word. Since the team lost the semifinal in Chicago back in 2019,, Portland has undergone some dramatic changes. If you would have told Parsons that after a year-plus of moves, the roster would be as strong as it is now, he’d be beyond ecstatic. The team has added some powerhouse players like Dunn, Rocky Rodriguez, and Sauerbrunn. Key parts of their core, like Sinclair, Horan, Klingenberg are still hanging around. All are key components to help carry last season’s momentum into 2021. In my opinion, the roster, as it sits right now, is probably the best that Thorns fans could ever imagine. 

Now it’s time to move to the next phase. After all, the point of all this is to produce something special on the pitch. Winning the Fall Series last year was a pretty solid start, but over the course of 2021, the team should expect more. The fans will expect more. Whether that results are in trophies or not, the team should define itself by new levels. Now that is something that I for one, am excited to see.

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