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Once a Thorn: A Brief Tribute to Allie Long

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Nikita Taparia/Stepover FC

Remember 2015?

It seems like ancient history now—the lowest point in the Thorns’ still-short history, when, under the not-so-watchful eye of Paul Riley, the team went 6-5-9 and missed the playoffs. Nadine Angerer was still a player, the NWSL had yet to break the infamous three-year curse, and Alex Morgan, weirdly, was still in Portland.

Just five weeks into the season, World Cup call-ups gutted Portland’s roster. Suddenly, the team that, on top of Angerer and Morgan, had had Tobin Heath, Christine Sinclair, and Jodie Taylor, had none of those players. Passed over, after getting a handful of looks with the USWNT in 2014 and early 2015, was Allie Long. This, after the then-27-year-old had been grinding away playing futsal in sweaty high school gyms each offseason, dead set on breaking into a national team pool that looked more or less impenetrable at the time.

When you’ve been waiting for your chance for so long—when you’ve dedicated your whole life to a goal, and your friends have already reached it, and you’re slowly creeping toward an age when it won’t be possible anymore—how do you not want to quit after that kind of setback? Or at least decide to be content with an accomplished club career, and give up on the national team?

As we know, though, Long didn’t. In an act of sheer cussedness, she doubled down. She scored ten goals for the Thorns in an otherwise disappointing season, then went home to New York and got back on her grind. She decided she was going to show up in Portland in the best shape of her life, and she did. Then, in what looked to casual observers like a miracle, she got another call-up in March 2016. She played in the Olympics. She’s a regular now with the national team—she’s “made it” by pretty much any definition of that slippery term.

Of course, none of what Long did in the last five years was a miracle. Or if it was, it was a self-made miracle, something she set her sights on and stubbornly walked to, one foot in front of the other. Besides, we knew all along she was good, national team or no:

It’s hard to envision Long in any color other than red, least of all in the reviled Seattle highlighter yellow. But she has to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and she can’t do that sitting on the bench here. Whatever she does in the rest of her career, she’s already brought about another miracle in making me hope she does well for a Seattle team.

Here’s hoping she scores lots of goals—against anybody but us.