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Thorns FC Face Challenges Building New Team: Chatting With Cindy

We caught up with the head coach of Portland Thorns FC, Cindy Parlow Cone, and talked with her about how the team is coming together.

Portland Thorns FC

Cindy Parlow Cone and her assistant coach, Nate Berry, can often be found watching the Timbers practice from up in the stands, so I had the opportunity to chat with Cone at Jeld-Wen Field just over a week ago while the Timbers were wrapping up their practice.

(William Conwell)

So, I just wanted to talk to you about the team coming together, the process of putting together a new team in a new league and all that fun stuff.

The team has twenty players listed on the roster now, are you anticipating making any more moves before the start of the season?

(Cindy Parlow Cone)

We will bring in several people on trial for the March 11th start date. We're looking at several players. What our final roster will look like, I have no idea yet.

You have got both [Tobin Heath] and [Amber Brooks] overseas playing, what are you anticipating with regards to them? Are they going to be coming back to the team? Have you had any confirmation with that yet?

Obviously we hope that they would come back, but I don't have any confirmation one way or the other.

There is also the question of Tina Ellertson. She had said a few days before the draft that she wasn't going to be playing this year. Have you talked to her yet?

We have been in conversations with Tina and I wouldn't have drafted her first if I wasn't hoping that she would play for us here in Portland. I would love for her to be a Portland Thorn, and hopefully that is something she wants to do, and the fans, I think, would love seeing her playing back here in her home city.

You've got a lot of UNC Alumni. Was that something you had in mind when building the team, to have players with a previous knowledge of each other?

It always helps when you have got players that have played together before when you are building a team in such a short period of time, because one of the challenges that all the coaches are facing on all the teams is trying to put a team on the field in a month that plays like a team that has been together for six months. That is going to be a huge challenge for all of us.

With only twenty players allowed on the roster, how do you deal with prospect of an injury or two keeping players out or the players who are overseas coming back?

With such a small roster you have to have players that are versatile and can play multiple positions, so that is one of the things that I am looking at, especially with the people that we have already signed and people that we are bringing in on trial and the people that we drafted. They have to be versatile.

It is going to be difficult. With the exception of the goalkeeper you are going to have to be able to play other positions because you never know where injuries will take you.

Karina LeBlanc will be playing in goal?

She's going to be in goal. I'm not going to put her at center forward.

Fair enough.

I am not saying that she couldn't play there, but...

So obviously flexibility is key, but do you have in mind a particular formation that you want to work towards, or that you have been drafting people to fit into?

I have been working with a few different formations, but nothing is set in stone yet, because currently we only have ten players, eight players, signed to the roster right now (between the date this interview too place, 2/15, and now, 2/26, the Thorns have announced two signings), so obviously we are missing a large group of our players right now. The roster and the team shape will start to take a little bit more form later.

When is the start of your preseason again?

March 11th.

You still have a little bit of time there, are you starting to feel the pressure though as it creeps closer?

Pressure for what?

To get the team formed and players signed.

I think we are all just so excited. I just, I am counting down the days until the players actually arrive and we start working together and start seeing how the team is going to take shape. I think it is more excitement than pressure or nervousness. I want to get going.

Playing here you are linked with the Timbers, the only team in the league that is linked with an MLS team. What sort of advantages has that given you?

It is a huge advantage for the Thorns to be under the same ownership and to be able to use the same front office people and staff and stadium. It is a huge advantage for us. I mean, it puts us at the top in terms of having support staff, which a lot of the other teams don't have in the numbers that we have here with the Timbers.

As far as the fans here in Portland, the season ticket drive is still ongoing but it has looked like some pretty impressive numbers so far. I assume you guys are really looking forward to getting out in front of the fans?

The fans here are unbelievable. I am looking forward to the game this weekend to actually experience it first hand for myself. I've seen it on TV, but I haven't seen it live and in person. I am looking forward to that and I can't wait to see how the Portland fans turn out to support this Thorns team. I'm hoping the Timbers Army does something, puts something together, whether they are the Timbers Army at a Thorns game or known by some other name. I am looking forward to it.