Thorns-Reign: A rivalry by any other name

Portland hosts Seattle for NWSL home opener and dawn of new rivalry

Karina LeBlanc, Thorns training, 4.16.13

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

After earning a point on the road in their season opener at Kansas City, the Portland Thorns FC returned home and began preparations for their home opener against Seattle Reign FC (Apr. 21, 2pm PT, stream: www.portlandthornsfc.com / Freedom 970). There is a buzz in the air at training and it’s no secret why.

“As a little girl, you dream of playing in a stadium that loves the sport you love and enjoys watching you play what you love to do,” said goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc (above). “Now we have this opportunity in our new home of Portland. We just want to entertain people, and put in the result that makes people fall in love with not only the women’s game, but with us.”

JELD-WEN Field has taken on a slightly different appearance ahead of this Sunday’s home opener with new Thorns banners having been hung in the North End and along the east side wall.

TICKETS: Thorns FC Home Opener

“We were doing our warm-ups and the girls started pointing it out,” said defender Rachel Buehler. “I was trying to run along, looking backwards. It was really exciting to see all that in here. It’s definitely feeling like home.”

Make no mistake, any time a team gets to take the field for their home opener it’s exciting. But given the long inter-city history between Portland and Seattle, this home opener will be special.

There are many different factors that contribute to the birth of a soccer rivalry: close proximity, mutual disdain for one another, or a history of outstanding competition are just a few. The key to a great rivalry, however, is that it forms organically.

“All of Portland knows that it doesn’t matter what it is, Seattle and Portland always have a great rivalry,” said forward Alex Morgan. “I’ve seen it with the Timbers and the Sounders. I am going to be able to experience it this year with the Thorns and the Reign.”

“Having played college here with the University of Portland, the fans are insane,” added forward Christine Sinclair . “It’s just going to be bigger here. Knowing the history between Portland and Seattle, I expect our fans to make it a very difficult place for them to play.”

READ: Thorns FC Pop Quiz: Nikki Washington

Even Thorns players not familiar with the Pacific Northwest have heard of the rivalry between Portland and Seattle.

“We know there’s a history there between the two cities,” said LeBlanc. “On the women’s side there’s already a rivalry and we haven’t even played each other, so we know it’s going to be an intense game.”

Even without the rivalry element, the excitement extends beyond the walls of JELD-WEN Field, and the players have noticed it.

“Even going through the airport or the streets you could tell a lot of people are excited,” said Morgan. “I’ve already met so many season ticket holders, so it’s great to see all the excitement around the city.”

A prepared Thorns side and an electric atmosphere at JELD-WEN Field is sure to make for an exceptional home opener this Sunday.

Throw in the soon-to-be fierce new Portland-Seattle rivalry and the extra fireworks that it’s sure to bring, Morgan smiled.

“That’s just the way it is, isn’t it?”