Thorns FC players excited to play at home Saturday in front of "unreal" fan support

Farrelly: “I’m so excited to play at Providence Park”

When Portland Thorns FC takes to the field on Saturday against FC Kansas City (7pm PT, TICKETS), there will be a little extra decoration in the north end. As the team returns to their home pitch for the first time in nearly nine months, the team will unveil the 2013 NWSL Championship banner during a ceremony before the game.

There are eight remaining players from last year’s championship campaign, and raising the first title banner in Providence Park has Thorns players buzzing. Midfielder Allie Long was a member of the 2013 squad.

“I think it’s amazing that the first year we won it, and that we can bring it back. We are really proud of it, and so thankful for the city. The support from the fans is unreal,” said Long.

With the banner hanging next to the Timbers Ring of Honor, new members of the team are equally excited about the prospect of the home opener and the environment the Soccer City USA crowd generates.

“I’m so excited to play at Providence Park,” said new midfielder Sinead Farrelly. “I got to play here last year when I played against the Thorns, but just knowing that these are our fans, and they’re cheering for us is so crazy.”

Farrelly was acquired from FC Kansas City in an offseason trade, and said that the excitement is palpable heading into Saturday’s game against her former team.

“These are the times when you play your best games, when you’re so pumped up, you just want to go out and give your best,” she said.

Portland fans will have a lot to cheer about. The last home game at Providence Park was back on Aug. 4, 2013, also coincidentally against FC Kansas City.

Fans are chomping at the bit to see this year’s Thorns squad. Along with several new players, a new head coach and a new attacking style, 2014 will look much difference than last season.

“Based on the [fan] Q&A I had at the pub, I think the fans can’t wait for everyone to get home and give us a cheer,” said head coach Paul Riley.

Riley acknowledged that it’s been tough to be away from the fans for the first two games of the year, but was adamant that everything the Thorns FC faithful has heard will be true.

“I think you’ll see an attacking display. We’re not going to sit back, that’s for sure,” said Riley.

Long echoed her head coach after training on Tuesday, saying the first game at Providence Park is more than just seeing the banner she helped raise in the North End.

“We want to play good soccer. We want to show fans that we’re going to win for them and play for them,” said Long.

With the new championship banner hanging from above, the fans’ hopes and high expectations for a similar run in 2014 are not unnoticed by the players.

“I think it puts on a bit of pressure, but I think it’s a good pressure,” said Farrelly of the challenge of defending the title. “I know the Portland fans are expecting a good season from us this year. We’re really focused on our home games.”

Getting to that ultimate goal won’t be easy, and taking down FC Kansas City on Saturday will be another step along the way. But Long agreed that playing well at home is the key to their season.

“We want teams to be scared to come and play here.”