The Portland Thorns were already widely-regarded as the class of the NWSL before the Olympics, but now they boast a gold medal-winning leader at the heart of their attack.
Canadian legend Christine Sinclair headlines a star-studded Thorns squad set to host the 2021 Women’s ICC Tournament at Providence Park.
Sinclair leads a large contingent of Olympics making their way back from Tokyo ready to take on fellow NWSL power Houston Dash for the chance to take on Europe’s best. American stars Becky Sauerbrunn, Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn are also back to lead a Thorns side that has won consecutive trophies in NWSL competition since last season.
So far in 2021, they have added the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup to the trophy cabinet after winning the NWSL Community Shield for taking first place in the Fall Series in 2020.
One of the keys to Portland’s success is depth. Several NWSL teams limped through the Olympics but the Thorns managed to thrive with the players on hand, to the tune of a four-game winning streak that has seen them take control of the NWSL table.
20-year-old striker Sophia Smith has been the production leader for Portland this year with her four goals and her strike partner Simone Charley is right behind her with three.
In addition to Sinclair, Horan is also returning to the fold to bolster the midfield. Neither are to be taken lightly should Parsons deploy an attacking-minded middle line.
It remains to be seen how much rotation should be expected, but do not be surprised to see 15-year-old rookie Olivia Moultrie also get in the midfield mix to collect some invaluable high-stakes tournament minutes.
Defensively, the Thorns currently top the NWSL with only seven goals allowed through 13 games.
Several players deserve a mention for that, especially through the Olympic stretch, but Becky Sauerbrunn will take her uncontested spot on the backline as a traffic-directing anchor. Another item that remains to be seen is how Crystal Dunn is utilized. In the USWNT fold, she plays at left back, but she has earned starts as a winger in 2021. It seems more likely to keep her on the backline since that is the gear she has been in for the last couple of months, but when she suits up for the Thorns, she has license to move forward when needed and presents a two-way threat wherever she starts.
In goal, Adrianna Franch returns as the natural starter, but Bella Bixby’s recent efforts have re-ignited a debate and it could leave some temptation to ride the hot hand.
Portland Thorns Roster for WICC
Bella Bixby, Adrianna Franch, Shelby Hogan
Hannah Belfort, Kelli Hubly, Meghan Klingenberg, Natalia Kuikka, Emily Menges, Meaghan Nally, Morgan Pogarch, Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Westphal
Celeste Boureille, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, Olivia Moultrie, Taylor Porter, Raquel Rodriguez, Angela Salem, Christine Sinclair, Yazmeen Ryan
Simone Charley, Marissa Everett, Tyler Lussi, Sophia Smith, Raisa Strom-Okimotov, Morgan Weaver
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