If there is one thing a fan loves, it’s seeing a player from their town or region earning a spot on their favorite team’s roster so it should come as no surprise that fans of Portland Thorns FC have embraced University of Portland products Christine Sinclair, Angie Kerr, and Danielle Foxhoven. But there is another Thorns FC player from just down Interstate 5 that fans are also happy to root for.
A native of Puyallup, Washington and alum of Oregon State University, Courtney Wetzel made the unique and impressive jump from open Thorns tryouts, to training camp trialist, to eventual Discovery Player signee on April 5th, 2013. It was a long path for The Pacific Northwester but the decision to tryout was not a difficult one.
“I love Oregon, and if I could pick one place to play, this would be it,” said Wetzel.
Portland Thorns FC coach Cindy Parlow Cone says she had heard about Wetzel before open tryouts, but had no idea how good she really was.
“You know, you bring people into open tryouts and they do well in open tryouts,” said Cone, “but then you bring them in with all the other professional players that are on the team and you never know if they’re going to be able to hang in that group. She not only was able to hang with the group, but she was very successful.”
Oregon State women’s soccer head coach Linus Rhode says the first time he saw Wetzel play he knew he wanted her on his team.
“She had the ability, she had savvy,” says Rhode. “That’s how it all started.”
Wetzel played in 19 games as a true freshman, logging 15 starts along the way. The following season, as a sophomore, Wetzel started 19 games and led the team in assists. In fact, Wetzel finished her senior season with an Oregon State single-season record 12 assists. She graduated in 2010, ranking second all-time in Beavers history with 22 career assists, one shy of the record.
“The ability she had to create goal-scoring opportunities was fantastic,” says Rhode. “I would describe Courtney as a playmaker. She has the ability to make things happen, create plays, which is hard to find.”
Wetzel says her time at Oregon State went a long way in helping her develop confidence on the field and was good preparation to making the step to the National Women’s Soccer League.
“I think college, in general, is a big growing period,” said Wetzel. “So when I went in, I was a little hesitant, not as confident as I am now.”
Rhode says Wetzel was always a quiet person, but that changed when she stepped on to the field.
“She’s as shy as they come off the field,” said Rhode. “But she is, without a doubt, a very fierce competitor. I don’t think it matters whether its soccer, or Monopoly, or checkers, she wants to win.”
After college, Wetzel spent time playing for the Ottawa Fury of the USL W-League scoring six goals and helped the team win its first ever W-League championship in 2012. But now, Wetzel is happy to be back in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s just a great feeling. This is what you want to do from day one,” said Wetzel. “This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. And so now that it’s becoming a reality, I just take every day as it is and I just enjoy showing up for practice every day and being around this team.”
Wetzel has played in every Thorns game thus far. According to her coach, she has provided a strong impact off the bench.
“She’s kind of been one of our super subs coming off of the bench,” said Cone. “A lot of times I’ve been subbing out a more attacking-minded midfielder late in the game to put her in to help hold the lead.”
Wetzel says she has enjoyed her role on the team and learning from her teammates.
“It’s an awesome experience,” said Wetzel. “You get to play with the top players around the country, around the world pretty much, with Alex [Morgan], Rach [Buehler], and [Christine] Sinclair. So for me, being the newbie, it’s awesome. Every day you get better just training with them.”
The team has gotten off to a successful start, with Wetzel already making five appearances for the Thorns. As for her personal goals, she is eager to keep developing her skills in Portland and the friendly confines of the Pacific Northwest.
“I want to learn from the players that I’m playing with now and just continue to grow,” said Wetzel. “I don’t think I’m done growing, and so that’s my goal.”
Rhode says he has already seen has former college standout play for the Thorns this season, and he liked what he saw.
“I was very happy with how she played, and I’m just really, really happy for her,” said Rhode. “So is everyone else down here, to see her living out her dream and making us proud.”