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Finding Sanderson's Place

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The Portland Thorns' acquisition of Lianne Sanderson on Thursday was not a surprising one.

Rumors of her acquisition had persisted for over a week, and when she announced that she would not be returning to Arsenal Ladies following the World Cup, her intention was to return to the United States, the country she has called home for much of her professional career.

In Portland she is reunited with Paul Riley and Sinead Farrelly from their days with the Philadelphia Independence in 2010 and 2011, Kaylyn Kyle with the Boston Breakers, as well as fellow English international Jodie Taylor.

She adds another significant piece to the Thorns' roster in the attack, but finding a place for her remains a major question with 5 matches remaining in the regular season, two of those occurring within the next week, and it is unknown at this point what level of match-fitness she is at.  She has not appeared in a match in over a month and arrived in Portland Friday afternoon.

Where does she fit?

The Thorns already have Ayo, Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair, and Jodie Taylor up top, with Allie Long and Mana Shim playing high centrally out of the midfield, often up with the forward line.

In a review of highlight videos from her time with the English National Team, she appears primarily as a forward, but also at times out of the midfield, where she showed great field vision to find opportunities for both herself and her teammates to put the ball in the back of the net, and opportunistic off the ball movement that puts her in dangerous scoring positions.

Digging deeper, videos from her time with Philadelphia, though limited, give a good picture of where Riley sees her on the pitch.  Sanderson appeared to play primarily as a central attacking midfielder, displaying a knack for finding the right opportunities to score or create chances for her teammates off short or long passes, giving credence to Riley's assertion that she's a "bona fide creator," a piece that the Thorns have sorely lacked all season with the absence of Vero and and the struggles of the midfield until recently.

Her stats from her time in Boston also paints a picture to her creative nature.  In 41 appearances, she had 10 goals and 10 assists over two seasons, playing a final role in 20 of Boston's 72 goals, or 27.7%, where she appeared as a forward in 2013 and an attacking midfielder in 2014, according to match reports.

It would appear that Sanderson could be that creative piece the Thorns need, it could just be a matter of her getting up to speed with her new teammates for her to be a difference-maker at the make or break point of the season.