Parsons, Thorns training, 3.14.16

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC officially kicked off their 2016 preseason at Providence Park on Monday as head coach Mark Parsons led the team through its first training session of the year.

“Sometimes coming out here it's your first time physically seeing someone, so you're nervous about trying to….catch up with them, [but] we're in a good place,” Parsons said after training. “We're fully focused on football and getting some important things down.”

Parsons' is just one of the many new faces around Providence Park these days, as other newcomers like forward Nadia Nadim, midfielder Dagný Brynjarsdóttir, and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch also appeared for their first training on Monday.

“I met the other players [today], which was really special,” Nadim said. “I knew them, but [I had] never really talked to anyone from the team. [It's] the people who I'm going to be with [for] the next seven months, so it was a special day.”

With so many new players and coaches, though, many will look towards the more experienced Thorns players for advice and guidance. Midfielder Allie Long – now entering her fourth season with the team – says that despite not feeling like a veteran player, she's ready to step into the type of leadership role expected of a player with her experience and pedigree in the league.

“I definitely feel like I've been there, done that,” Long said. “But I also feel like I have a lot of knowledge to give to the players and also to set the bar higher for myself. I know what to expect and I just want to continue growing and being the best I can possibly be.”

Rather than feeling daunted by all of her new teammates, Long says that she's embraced the challenge of integrating a new group of players into the team and is excited about what many of her new teammates can offer on the pitch.

“I'm excited to play with Nadim,” Long said of the Danish international. “I've always admired her play and thought she was really good.

“Also, the new young girls [bring] their energy and passion, just challenging the players that have been here. That's really good to see and is only going to make everyone better.”

This early rapport is something that Parsons says he was consciously trying to build this offseason and is also something that will help this new-look Thorns team come together even more quickly on the field.

“I think that's why there's that level of comfort; everyone is here to be their best but we want to have fun and enjoy it and enjoy each other's company,” he said. “You can see that already even in the intensity we were at this morning.”

For her part, Long says that she almost instantly felt at ease with her new head coach.

“From my first conversation, I've just really enjoyed him as a person, off the field and now as I'm getting to know him on the field,” she said. “Just his passion and knowledge about the game is something that I really, really like.”

It might also help that both player and coach can bond over their shared love for a certain English soccer team.

“I'm kind of a soccer nerd and just love to watch soccer games and we both love Chelsea, so we're good! We have a really good connection.”