PORTLAND, Ore. – After signing with Portland Thorns FC in March, Australian forward Ashleigh Sykes joined the team last week and began training with the team immediately.
Sykes, who led Canberra United to its third W-League Premiership title with a 12 goal 2016-17 campaign, which also earned her the league’s Golden Boot award, was keen to take on a new challenge in Portland and the NWSL.
“Mark [Parsons] had been watching Hayley and Celeste play in Canberra and decided he wanted to get me to Portland,” said Sykes. “The girls couldn’t speak highly enough of the club and of the team, so I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to come over and give the NWSL a try.”
Over the last nine years, Sykes has been a staple in the Australian W-League. In addition to leading her former club to its first championship berth, Sykes earned the W-League’s Goal of the Year in 2014 and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2015-16.
Even with her extensive experiences thus far in professional soccer, Sykes admits the presence of the Providence Park crowd and Saturday’s upcoming game against Sky Blue FC (7pm PT, TICKETS, go90.com) has her excited.
“It’s not often in Australia that you get to play in front of 17,000 people,” she said. “It’s just going to be incredible to be in the middle of that and experience it for the first time.”
Along with training and preparing for matches, Sykes has also been quickly learning her new surroundings and getting to know her new home in the Rose City.
“The city seems really beautiful, I got a chance to wander around a little bit on Sunday; and the team has been amazing,” she said.
Having past Canberra teammates in Raso and Boureille here has also helped her find her way around the locker room as well as translate American colloquialisms.
“All the staff have been really helpful and everyone’s been really friendly and welcoming,” she said. “It feels like a really easy transition at the moment and I can’t wait to see everything in action on Saturday for the game.”