Rip City vs. No Pity: Hey, What About the… Thorns?

Last November, we learned of the creation and the birth of a local franchise, Portland Thorns FC. Local media gathered up their Alex Morgan B-roll and then settled into a regular-season holding pattern that drifted between indifference (a certain journalist slumped in the Jeld-Wen Field press box at every home match as if waiting to get his teeth cleaned) or total absence (ahem).

An email from Willamette Week lit up my inbox at 8:07 pm a week ago, evoking memories of that tepid stew. The gist: Hey, we’re writing about which team rules Portland, the Timbers or the Blazers? But then we thought, oh yeah, there’s also the Thorns. Wanna write about them? Oh, we need it in two days. Oh, and you have 200 words.


But so be it. I asked for 300 words, and they were granted, but then I realized I only needed one: “Trophy.”

The Thorns are the first pro sports franchise to bring a major-league championship to the Rose City since 1977. They did it via a remarkable playoff run, culminating in a 2-0 victory over the Western New York Flash on Aug. 31 for the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League title.

It was a dazzling season, and this team’s parts sparkle with individual brilliance.

There is spunky midfielder Mana Shim, the self-proclaimed “lezziest lez in the league,” who scored her first professional goal in front of 13,802 spectators on Portland Pride day.

There is defender Kat Williamson, who sees the town through the wide eyes of a Texas rookie, but who shuts down superstars like a steely-eyed vet.

There is the rock, Becky Edwards, whose midseason knee-ligament tear crushed our spirits but not hers, as she toted teammates’ water bottles all season while limping in a leg brace.

There is the trickster, Tobin Heath, who cracked a 30-yard, bending, blistering, miracle of a shot that ended up being the championship game-winner…with an injured foot.

There is red-Mohawked Karina Le-Blanc, who guards her goal like a pit bull; the dreadlocked Courtney Wetzel; the laconically loping Allie Long; the wispy Angie Kerr.

And there is, of course, Canadian legend and University of Portland product Christine Sinclair, as kind a soul as you will ever meet. Unless you happen to be between her and the goal—then she’ll happily rip out your heart, place it on the penalty spot, and strike it into the back of the net with a clinical finish.

There are more players, but, you know, word count. Let’s just say you know you’ve got a hell of a team when you don’t even need to mention Morgan.

Can you really argue with that? You certainly can’t argue with hardware.

But most importantly, you can’t argue with the average of 13,320 red-clad, raging fans that rattle the Jeld-Wen bleachers at every home match.

Because they’ve always been in on the secret: The Portland Thorns run this town, y’all. Some of us already knew. Everybody else just needs to catch up.   

[All Rip City Vs. No Pity articles are collected here.]

Jonanna Widner is, among other things, the Portland Thorns beat writer for

WWeek 2015

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