Paul Riley, Thorns training Tucson, 3.26.14
Photo courtesy of FC Tucson

Ramping up in Tucson: Thorns FC Preseason Notebook

Thorns FC arrived in Tucson on Tuesday and hit the training pitch at Kino Sports Complex just a few hours later. Now, a couple days into preseason camp in under the sunny conditions in southern Arizona, Portland is set to square off against the University of Arizona on Friday night at 7 p.m. (Pacific) in the first of two preseason matches in the Old Pueblo.

“The players are sick of kicking each other, so it’ll be nice to kick someone else,” joked head coach Paul Riley. “I think having a full-sided game and to play in the temperature here and playing on grass instead of turf is hopefully something the players can get used to prior to going to Houston (for the regular-season opener).”

Riley has said his plan is to work on further integrating his philosophy into the team, while seeing which on-field relationships begin to bloom in full-sided game conditions.

“The fitness is high for us, I’m happy with that and now we can work on what we really want to work on which is full-field stuff and making sure the philosophy is right for what we want to do,” Riley said.

Several players, including forward Christine Sinclair, defender Rachel Van Hollebeke and goalkeeper Nadine Angerer joined the squad later in preseason training camp due to national team commitments and are still learning the tendencies of their new teammates.

“You can only see so much during practice, so to work it out during a game, learn what player strengths and weaknesses are and learn how to play with other players, those things only happen in full games,” Sinclair said.

In addition to working on their cohesion as a group on the pitch, the players are also working on growing the game in the community, especially in an area of the country that doesn’t have a professional women’s soccer team. The team will lend a hand at a soccer camp on Saturday with FC Tucson.

“That’s something that I take very seriously. These young kids are the future of our sport,” Sinclair said. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have the luxury of going to watch professional women’s soccer players. I was looking up to male athletes. It’s good to see times have changed and it’s important to always be willing to do whatever you can to give back.”