Portland Thorns FC made four selections during the 2021 NWSL College Draft on Jan. 14. The Thorns selected Yazmeen Ryan with the sixth overall pick after trading up to ensure her selection. Portland also selected Hannah Betfort with the seventh pick in the fourth round.
Both of these players finished their college careers and flew to Portland. Ryan and Betfort have made their debuts, are regularly included in gameday rosters, and will continue to see more time as they progress throughout their young careers.
The Thorns picked two more players in between the selections of Ryan and Betfort. Sam Coffey was chosen with the 12th overall pick and Amirah Ali was selected with the second pick of the third round. Coffey and Ali both chose to finish their eligibility with their respective schools, Penn State and Rutgers.
Penn State and Rutgers are very good teams that will battle again for the Big Ten title. Coffey and PSU won the regular season title last season but were upset by the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal. PSU bounced back and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles, who were defeated in the final.
Rutgers started the previous season with an important win over Coffey and Penn State. The Scarlet Knights won 3-2 and Ali scored twice, including an 87th-minute winner. Rutgers advanced to the other Big Ten tournament semifinal. The Scarlet Knights lost to Wisconsin but still received a berth to the NCAA Tournament. Ali and Rutgers were dumped out of the tournament after a 1-1 draw that they lost in a penalty shootout.
Penn State and Rutgers are two of the best teams in the Big Ten again this year and are also two of the best teams in the country. Coffey’s Nittany Lions are currently ranked seventh in the country.
The Nittany Lions have started the season 3-0-0. Coffey scored PSU’s first goal of the season to equalize against UMass on Aug. 19. The Nittany Lions’ pressure turned UMass over in their own 18-yard box and Coffey was first to the loose ball. She struck it first time with her left foot to level the match. Penn State added two more goals within ten minutes of Coffey’s equalizer to win 3-1.
Penn State won their second match 4-0 against La Salle on Aug. 22. Coffey didn’t score the opener in this one but she provided the assist to Payton Linnehan. Linnehan went on to score a hat-trick and Olivia Damico added a fourth.
Linnehan and Ally Schlegel scored against Hofstra in the Nittany Lions’ 2-1 win. Coffey has registered one goal, one assist and seven shots (two on target) through three matches. PSU will look to continue their good run of form tomorrow. The Nittany Lions take on West Virginia away from home at 4:00 p.m. PST. They are back in action three days later at 3:00 p.m. PST as they play the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
The Scarlet Knights are ranked 16th in the country. Ali and Rutgers have also started the season well and, like Coffey, Ali opened the scoring for her school’s season. In fact, she was assisted by Coffey’s former teammate Frankie Tagliaferri, who transferred from PSU to Rutgers this offseason.
Tagliaferri drove through the Fairleigh Dickinson defense and squared to Ali. The forward turned to great effect past her defender and provided a clinical finish. Ali also provided an assist in the match as the Scarlet Knights won 6-0.
Ali was unable to get on the score sheet in Rutgers’ 5-1 win over Providence. She had three shots, one of which was on target. Rutgers will play Monmouth next on Friday, Sept. 3, at 4:00 p.m. PST. Then the Scarlet Knights will take on La Salle on Sept. 5 at 10:00 a.m. PST.
Ali and Coffey were both named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List on Aug. 19. The semi-finalists will be announced on Nov. 30, the top three on Dec. 8, and the winner on Jan. 7.
On Sept. 19, the two teams will meet in a Big Ten showdown that will have major implications on the regular season title. The match will kickoff at 9:00 a.m. PST in Piscataway, NJ.