Thorns FC Positional Preview: Meet Your Thorns

A position by position breakdown of the 2013 Portland Thorns FC

Cindy Parlow Cone, Thorns training, 3.25.13

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Olympic medalists, NCAA national champions, and a UNICEF Ambassador. The Portland Thorns FC 2013 roster boasts all this and more. Here’s a rundown of the team that head coach Cindy Parlow Cone has assembled heading into this weekend’s NWSL opener against FC Kansas City (5:35pm PT, webstream at www.portlandthornsfc.com).

Goalkeepers

KARINA LEBLANC
Age: 33
Previous Teams: Boston Breakers, Montreal Xtreme, New Jersey Wildcats, Los Angeles Sol, Philadelphia Independence, MagicJack
College: University of Nebraska
International: Canada, over 100 caps

Notes
A vastly experienced goalkeeper, LeBlanc has been around the top level for long enough to know how to cope and how to succeed. She is now at a stage in her career where her best form should begin to show on a regular basis.

Did you know?
Karina became the first professional women’s soccer player to be named a UNICEF ambassador in March 2013.

ADELAIDE GAY
Age: 23
Previous Team: North Carolina (NCAA)
College: University of North Carolina

Notes
Fresh out of college, Gay was the starting 'keeper for the 2012 NCAA National Champion Tar Heels. She will shadow LeBlanc and learn quickly, in case she is called upon for big games.

Did you know?
Soccer is not the only sport that Adelaide has excelled at she she previously ran indoor track and threw shot putt.

 

Defenders

RACHEL BUEHLER
Age: 27
Previous Teams: San Diego SeaLions, FC Gold Pride, Boston Breakers, Altanta Beat
College: Stanford University
International: United States 102 caps / 4 goals

Notes
A key player on the USWNT, Buehler is expected to emerge as a real leader for the Thorns and will be the organizer of the backline. She is superb at one-on-one defending, while her awareness allows her to get into clever positions.

Did you know?
Due to her aggressive style of defending, Buehler has been nicknamed "The Buehldozer."

JAZMYNE AVANT
Age: 23
Previous Team: New York Fury
College: University of Florida
International: United States U20

Notes
Deceptively quick due to her burst of acceleration, Avant has a knack of tearing past opposition players on overlapping runs. She is a really exciting outside back, who likes to get forward and possesses great crossing ability.

Did you know?
Last year, Avant spent time training with Sky Blue FC, who will compete in the NWSL, and played for them in a tour of Japan.

MARIAN DOUGHERTY
Age: 28
Previous Teams: Denver Diamonds, Chicago Red Stars, MagicJack
College: Santa Clara University
International: United States 11 caps

Notes
Athletic and reliable, Dougherty is primarily an outside mid who reads the game very well. She has been around long enough to put her experience to good use and is someone who the Thorns are bound to lean on to help younger players along.

Did you know?
There is a tradition of soccer in her family as her great-uncle, Imre Antal, played for the Hungary national team.

NIKKI MARSHALL
Age: 24
Previous Teams: Colorado Force, Washington Freedom, MagicJack, Boston Breakers, Western New York
College: University of Colorado
International: United States U-23

Notes
Comfortable with the ball at her feet and quick to get play going, there is a lot to admire about this Colorado native. As well as being a tough defender to get past, she also likes to get forward and will contribute to attacking moves.

Did you know?
Marshall played a lot of her college soccer as a forward and still holds the career record of 42 goals scored for the University of Colorado.

EMILEE O’NEIL
Age: 22
Previous Team: Bay Area Breeze
College: Stanford University

Notes
Picked up as a Discovery Player, O’Neil is relatively new to the senior game, but has already showed tons of potential. A very busy player, she seems to always be involved in the action. She is also a versatile player with the ability to play midfield as well.

Did you know?
A very active person, O'Neil spent six months in Kenya and has done a lot of travelling on backpacking adventures.

KATHRYN WILLIAMSON
Age: 23
Previous Team: Ottawa Fury
College: University of Florida

Notes
A Thorns rookie who played alongside Avant at the University of Florida, Williamson is a solid modern defender: someone who is good at using the ball, can play it out of defense, but still as reliable in one-on-one situations.

Did you know?
Kathryn was selected as the Thorns’ first-ever draft pick when she was chosen as eighth overall in the 2013 NWSL College Draft in January.

 

Midfielders

BECKY EDWARDS
Age: 24
Previous Teams: New Jersey Wildcats, Jersey Sky Blue, SoccerPlus Connecticut, Washington Freedom, FC Gold Pride, Western New York Flash, Hammarby, Kristianstads
College: Florida State University
International: United States U-20, U-23s

Notes
Armed with experience of playing for several teams and a stint abroad, Edwards is the type of mature player that the Thorns will need in their debut season. She settles things down, dictates the tempo and stands up when needed.

Did you know?
One of a number of Thorns players to spend time in Europe, Edwards played for two different teams in Sweden – Hammarby and Kristianstads.

ANGIE KERR
Age: 28
Previous Teams: Saint Louis Athletica, Atlanta Beat, Sky Blue FC
College: University of Portland
International: United States 10 caps / 2 goals

Notes
Hard-working and unselfish, Kerr is the type of midfielder who coaches love to have in their team as she stops the opposition from playing and also gets her own team going. She could be one of the Thorns’ midfield generals this year.

Did you know?
Always involved with soccer, Kerr spends a lot of her spare time teaching classes on performance training in Lake Oswego.

ALLIE LONG
Age: 25
Previous Teams: Long Island Fury, Washington Freedom, Sky Blue FC, Paris-Saint Germain, New York Fury
College: University of North Carolina
International: United States U-20

Notes
Long knows exactly what midfield play is all about and she masters both the defensive and offensive sides of it. Superb at linking play with her passing, she also gets into good positions with her box-to-box running and is not afraid to shoot.

Did you know?
During a six-month spell in France with Paris-Saint Germain, Long registered an impressive tally of eight goals from 16 appearances. Read more about her here.

NIKKI WASHINGTON
Age:
 24
Previous Teams: Pali Blues, Los Angeles Sol, Sky Blue FC, Saint Louis Athleticta, Chicago Red Stars, Boston Breakers, MagicJack, Canberra United
College: University of North Carolina
International: United States U-20, U-23

Notes
A real livewire, Washington is going to prove to be a nightmare for other teams to deal with. She can play her part in building play and is very aware of those around her, but her greatest asset is attacking defenders at speed.

Did you know?
During her college days, Washington was a three-time NCAA champion and worked under current Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone.

MELEANA SHIM
Age: 21
Previous Team: Santa Clara (NCAA)
College: Santa Clara University
International: United States U-23

Notes
One of the most honest players on the Thorns roster, Shim is a midfielder with a lot of potential to fulfill. Defensively, she can cover well and break up play by nicking the ball, while going forward she is a threat with her running.

Did you know?
A native of Hawaii, Shim played her college soccer in Santa Clara, who she helped reach four straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

COURTNEY WETZEL
Age: 24
Previous Teams: Seattle Sounders, Ottawa Fury, SC Sand
College: Oregon State University
International: United States U-23

Notes
Able to get around the field thanks to her tremendous engine, Wetzel is a battler and will never make it easy for those who she is up against. She is still honing her skills, but expect her to develop into a noteworthy contributor.

Did you know?
While several members of the Thorns roster attended college in Portland, Wetzel is the only American to be born and raised in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Forwards

ALEX MORGAN
Age:
23
Previous Teams: West Coast FC, California Storm, Pali Blues, Western New York Flash, Seattle Sounders
College: University of California-Berkeley
International: United States 65 caps / 42 goals

Notes
One of the best player in women’s soccer right now, Morgan is quick, skillful, creative and deadly in front of goal. Very similar to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, she can pull off moves that defenders never even imagined her doing.

Did you know?
One of the most popular female athletes in the world, Morgan has over 1.1million followers on Twitter – and it keeps growing!

CHRISTINE SINCLAIR
Age:
29
Previous Teams: Vancouver Breakers, Vancouver Whitecaps, FC Gold Pride, Western New York Flash
College: University of Portland
International: Canada 192 caps / 145 goals

Notes
Clinical is the best way to describe this experienced forward, who currently ranks third in the all-time international goal scoring list. She is superb at holding the ball up and linking play, but at her best when heading towards goal. 

Did you know?
Two of Sinclair's uncles (Bruce and Brian Gant) played for the Portland Timbers during the NASL days.

DANIELLE FOXHOVEN
Age:
23
Previous Team: FC Energy Voronezh
College: University of Portland
International: United States U-23

Notes
Quick to react, this former Portland Pilot comes alive when in the opposition’s penalty area and will pounce on any loose ball. Very quick and possessing good close control, she can emerge as one of the league’s brightest talents.

Did you know?
A real innovator, Foxhoven founded Equipment Across Continents, which collects used soccer gear and distributes it to overseas programs.

JESSICA SHUFELT
Age:
22
Previous Team: Ottawa Fury
College: University of Connecticut

Notes
If she gets anywhere near the opposition’s goal, Shufelt will not freeze and that coolness in critical areas is what makes her such a good talent. If she sharpens up a few areas of her game, then she should score a lot of goals.

Did you know?
Despite attending the University of Connecticut, Shufelt is a big fan of Syracuse men’s basketball – sticking to her New York roots.

Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandThornsFC.com. He is a frequent soccer writer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.