The Portland Thorns (0-0-0) host league newcomers the Orlando Pride (0-0-0) for their first match of the 2016 National Women's Soccer League season. The match is scheduled to kick off at 7:00pm at Providence Park.
The Thorns come into the season with yet another revamped roster, as head coach Mark Parsons took over the Thorns' helm after two and a half seasons with the Washington Spirit, where he led them to the playoffs each of the last two seasons. The off-season saw major chances to the roster, especially in midfield, which Thorns rebuilt and strengthened by adding Icelandic international Dagny Brynjarsdottir and American international Lindsey Horan to play alongside the long-time duo of Tobin Heath and Allie Long, while their biggest signing, Amandine Henry, will arrive later in the season. Mana Shim returns as a utility attacker, while Celeste Boureille earned a roster spot following the preseason.
In the attack, Danish international Nadia Nadim joins Christine Sinclair as the top forwards for the Thorns. Nadim lit up the league after joining Sky Blue late in 2014, scoring 7 goals and adding 3 assists in 5 matches, following it up with a 6 goals and 3 assists in 2015. Joining them up top are rookie Mallory Weber, who is fresh off a NCAA Championship with Penn State, where she scored 8 goals and 11 assists for the Nittany Lions, and Hayley Raso, who just signed with the Thorns on Friday after spending part of last season with the Spirit.
Defensively, Emily Menges, Kendall Johnson, and Kat Williamson are joined by a pair of American internationals, as the Thorns used the top draft pick to select Emily Sonnett and acquired Meghan Klingenberg as part of the Alex Morgan trade, then acquired Katherine Reynolds from the Spirit, and drafted McKenzie Berryhill. Between the pipes, Michelle Betos takes over full time for the retired Nadine Angerer, while they added Adrianna Franch, the runner-up for the 2013 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year award.
The Thorns' preseason didn't give much of an indication of how they will look in 2016, with the full roster only available for the first match against Seattle, it did give us an indication positionally of where Parsons' sees certain players, with Horan and Long playing deeper in the midfield, Heath on the left, Dagny centrally, while Nadim lined up right, though she is likely starting up top with Sinclair listed as doubtful on Friday's injury report.
The expansion Pride may be a new team, but they have several familiar faces for Thorns fans, as Alex Morgan, Steph Catley, Kaylyn, Kyle, and Lianne Sanderson all return to Providence Park for the first time.
Guided by former American and Australian national team coach Tom Sermanni, the Pride feature several players familiar to Thorns fans, including Becky Edwards and USWNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
The Pride put on impressive performances in preseason, finishing undefeated against collegiate competition, with Morgan scoring 5 goals, Kristen Edmonds and Monica adding 2 goals each, but given the level of competition this doesn't tells us much about what to expect from the Pride.
The Thorns and Pride find themselves in very similar positions coming into the season, with new coaching staffs trying to piece together new rosters that had their preseasons cut short by international call-ups. The Thorns have the advantage of having a solid core of players who have played together at either the club or international level, so while they may have not had much of a preseason together, there will be familiarly between the players. Morgan appears to be healthy and as dangerous as ever, but a it remains to be seen if she has developed much chemistry with her new teammates. While the Thorns should have the advantage, anything can happen this early in the season.
Watch it on: YouTube
Kickoff: 7:00pm at Providence Park
Portland Thorns: 0-0-0
Orlando Pride: 0-0-0