The 2016 Portland Thorns have been one of the most consistent teams in the NWSL this season. Currently in second place with 38 points, they look to march into the playoffs with the confidence of knowing they have a great chance to make the championship.
The Thorns are second in the league in scoring, tallying an impressive 32 goals with eight different players contributing. The top two scorers on the team are Nadia Nadim with nine and Christine Sinclair with six. This high powered offense has been a result of the talent the team has accumulated under first-year coach Mark Parsons. Newcomers who adjusted and found success with Parsons and his system include USWNT members Meghan Klingenberg, Lindsey Horan, and Emily Sonnett; Danish international Nadim, French star Amandine Henry, and Iceland’s young talent Dagny Brynjarsdottir. The biggest star on the team is USWNT veteran Tobin Heath, who has been with the club since the league began in 2013. In just one season together, this team has managed to find a way to become an elite threat and one that could very well win the championship.
The defense hasn’t been as consistent in my eyes but it’s gotten the job done. The Thorns have allowed 18 goals against; which is tied with the Washington Spirit for league-best. In goal the Thorns have Michelle Betos and Adrianna Franch, who have both done well when called upon. Both are in the top seven in shutouts; Betos with four while Franch has earned three. The backline of Klingenberg, Sonnett, Emily Menges and Katherine Reynolds is a young but experienced group. Klingenberg and Sonnett started the season off strong but to be honest, I haven’t been impressed with the last handful of games by either. If they can sharpen up in time for the playoffs, I expect them to once again be a strong defense.
Rose City Advantage:
One reason I think this team could go far; they’ve only lost three times in 19 games this season; coming against FCKC, the Houston Dash and most recently, the Seattle Reign, their NWSL rivals. But none of their losses have been to playoff teams. Their record against Washington, the Chicago Red Stars, and WNY Flash this year stands at four wins, two draws. Three of those wins have come at Providence Park, where they’ve outscored the above opponents nine to three. While these may just be numbers to some, they can’t be ignored and certainly Thorns fans have to feel good about them hosting a playoff game given the team’s success there. Another part of the advantage is the atmosphere they provide every game; an average of 16,945 passionate fans showing up to disrupt any challenger.
With two weeks until the playoffs start, we still don’t know who Portland will face, but one thing is for sure–they will be ready.