Editor's Note: As part of the Thorns FC's fifth anniversary, ThornsFC.com sat down to talk with players who've been here for each of the club's five seasons about where the team has been, favorite memories and excitement about the future.
Christine Sinclair had always dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player.
In 1999, a 16 year-old Sinclair traveled down to Portland to witness the FIFA Women's World Cup at Providence Park. She still remembers what it felt like sitting in the stands, the energy of the crowd buzzing around here as the athletes competed out on the field.
“This is what I want to do for a career,” she thought to herself.
Two years later, Sinclair went to the University of Portland, where she would score 110 goals in four seasons and become the all-time points leader in program history. It's also where she developed an abiding love for the Rose City and its passion for the women's game.
Now, one of four remaining roster originals, Sinclair enters the historic fifth season with Thorns FC, recognizing what an honor it is to step out onto the field at Providence Park and play in the same stadium where her dreams of soccer stardom had been born.
“It's pretty special now to be on that same field and see little kids hopefully dreaming those same dreams,” she says.
In the past four seasons, Sinclair has appeared in 63 matches for the Thorns, scoring 23 goals in that span – including seven game-winning goals, the most in team history – assisting on seven others and leading the team to both an NWSL Championship in 2013 and an NWSL Shield-winning campaign in 2016.
In 2013, the NWSL's inaugural season, Sinclair was named the team's Most Valuable Player and showed it during a regular-season campaign in which she scored eight goals, four of them coming in the team's last six matches. It was fitting then that it was Sinclair who scored the late goal that clinched the team's 2-0 victory over the Western New York Flash in that year's championship.
But when asked about her favorite moment of these past four seasons, Sinclair points not to the triumphs of that championship victory but to the team's home opener that season.
She remembers taking practice shots in the north end goal before the match and marveling over the passion and pageantry already on display in the Riveters section. “Oh my God, they're already packed in here,” she thought.
“I've been to numerous Portland Timbers games since being in Portland,” she says, “and just seeing that same support for the women's team was incredible.”
Things have changed since then as Sinclair is the first to point out. The level of competition, the league's popularity and visibility, and the number of international players in the league have all increased with each passing year.
“[The NWSL] has continued to grow year by year...You see someone like Amandine [Henry] coming over. You have top European players coming over now to be a part of this league and it's exciting. Women's soccer here in the U.S. has never seen a fifth year [of continued existence], so it's exciting to be a part of it.”
Sinclair also knows what a remarkable achievement five years is for both the Thorns and for the NWSL.
She first came of age as a professional playing in the Women's Professional Soccer league, which lasted just three seasons between 2009 and 2011. Before the NWSL, there were few options for American and Canadian players even in their own countries.
Because of this, Sinclair knows how important it is that she contribute to the continued growth of the sport both here in Portland and in her native Canada.
“I love to give back,” says Sinclair. “One of my goals...is just to do everything I can for the sport and help grow the sport...Seeing these young kids – not only young girls, it’s young boys too – just in awe of the players, it's pretty special because I was once one of those kids and I remember meeting some of my heroes, and it was life-changing.”
And the Thorns stalwart could not be clearer about what it means to play for this town and with this team.
“It's about the community and the organization and standing up for that: being a good person, being a good teammate, being a good member of this community. We're very fortunate to be a part of that.”