The NWSL released its 2018 schedule (a few days ago…ok, last week). While every game is a must watch in my opinion, I wanted to single out a few that are can’t miss. This is due in large part to anticipation of the upcoming season.
The Thorns are coming into this season with quite a few new faces, and some question marks. Several key pieces to last year’s CHAMPIONSHIP squad are gone, so there will be plenty of opportunity.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Nadia Nadim (Manchester City, woo!) and Amandine Henry (Olympique Lyon) are playing in Europe now. Ashleigh Sykes retired from professional soccer, at the age of 26, and Dagny Brynjarsdottir announced she is pregnant, so will be sitting out with an unknown future for when she is fit again.
The Thorns had a lot of quality depth last season, but with these departures things would seem to have opened up. Tobin Heath appears to be at 100% which is a huge boost as she missed almost all of last season with an injury. However, one trade seemed curious: Allie Long to Seattle.
The USWNT player was a key piece in last year’s squad, and with all the departures I would have thought her role would be expanded. However, with a healthy Heath, dominate Lindsey Horan, Christine Sinclair, and the emergence of Hayley Raso on the Wing, there’s a bit of a log-jam up front.
Long is good enough to start in the NWSL and will get that chance with Seattle. Can’t be anything but happy for her, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! I do hope she thrives in Seattle, just not when they play the Thorns.
Coming back in the Long trade is Caitlin Foord, an Australian Forward, and a 2nd round pick. The 23-year-old Aussie comes in with a slew of awards and promise, which is never a bad thing, and looks to reinforce the depth up front.
They’ve also added a couple from the now defunct Boston Breakers in Ifeoma Onumonu and Angela Salem. This, mixed with draft picks, gives the Thorns a young, but talented bench. A lot will be earned this season at Providence Park.
You can find the full schedule here, but I want to highlight some must-see matches below.
Saturday, March 17, 7:30 pm – Merlo Field, Portland, OR vs Houston Dash
The “home” opener is always a big event. This one will be at Merlo Field on the University of Portland campus as Providence Park is still under construction. It’s a great campus with some great views due to its location. I would suggest arriving early as I am not sure on the parking or capacity situation.
Saturday, March 24, 12:30 pm – WakeMed Soccer Park, vs NC Courage, TV: Lifetime
A rematch of last year’s championship. A lot of history with these two teams, as two years ago North Carolina (then Western New York) knocked the Thorns out of the playoffs. First Thorns match on Lifetime, rematch with a rival, what more could you want?
Sunday, April 15, 3 pm – Providence Park, vs Orlando Pride
The first match of the year at Providence Park! In a sense a second home-opener, and who can hate on two home-openers? This is sure to be a treat, and packed to the gills. Rain or shine, get down there early, swing by the Cheerful Bullpen for a couple (cheaper) beers before you head in.
Saturday, May 5, 12:30 pm – Providence Park, vs Seattle Reign FC, TV: Lifetime
The return of Allie Long with our regional rivals. Whether this was home or away I would say it’s a must-see. She was a Thorn for five years, won two championships, and made many more memories. Come celebrate her return to the Rose City…unless she scores, then we boo, but a happy boo.
Saturday, June 16, 12:30 pm – Toyota Park, vs Chicago Red Stars, TV: Lifetime
From covering games last year, I found Chicago to be a formidable opponent, which plays a challenging game. They always seemed to bring out the best in the Thorns, and were never a pushover. Definitely worth catching, especially if you can make it in person. Chicago in the summer is pretty great (unless its above 90 degrees).
Friday, July 6, 8 pm – Providence Park, vs Utah Royals
The newly minted Utah Royals filled the void left by the Boston Breakers untimely demise. It’s July, a Friday night. What were your plans? Pay $14 for a craft cocktail at some bougie place downtown where you can suck exhaust on the sidewalk? Slam a few Rainiers at Marathon after work, and walk over to Providence Park. You’re welcome.
Friday, September 7, 7:30 pm – Providence Park, vs Seattle Reign FC
The last regular season and home match of the year, and against a rival. Also, another Friday night game, and featuring a long-time Thorn returning, once again. This all adds up to be a pretty great send off to a regular season.
Obviously any Thorns games is worth catching, especially one at home. The Thorns boost attendance numbers which select NHL and NBA teams wish they could pull on a consistent basis. This makes for a great atmosphere, and a great fan experience. Even if you can’t make a road game, Lifetime TV and go90.com make it easy.