Thorns FC Notebook: Stephanie Catley looking to help Australia defend Asian Cup title

Portland Thorns FC defender Stephanie Catley and the Australian Women’s National Team started their 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign with a hard-fought 2-2 draw against reigning world champions Japan Wednesday morning in Ho Chi Minh City, The Matildas are the defending Asian Cup champion after defeating North Korea on penalties in 2010.

Catley, recently named Australian W-League Young Player of the Year for the second season in a row, is participating in her first Asian Cup and earned her 22nd cap in the match against Japan. Playing the full 90, Catley was influential in her team’s second goal. After an aggressive run down the left flank, she crossed the ball into the box which eventually fell to the feet of forward Lisa De Vanna to slot home in the 64th minute (0:43 in the highlights above).

Along with the Thorns' Catley, the Matildas feature four other players currently playing their club soccer in the NWSL. Sky Blue FC’s Caitlin Foord, Western New York's Samantha Kerr and Lydia Williams, and Boston Breakers’ De Vanna all featured in Australia’s opening match.

The Asian Football Confederation tournament features eight teams divided into two groups of four, with the top two teams from each group progressing to the knockout round. Grouped with Australia are Japan, Jordan, and host Vietnam. Group B includes Myanmar, Korea Republic, China P.R., and Thailand. The top five teams of the tournament will qualify automatically for next year’s 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.

Australia next face off against Jordan on Friday, May 16 before finishing group play against Vietnam Sunday, May 18. The tournament semifinals will take place Thursday, May 22, and the final will kickoff Sunday, May 25.

Catley and Thorns midfielder Veronica Boquete--who is currently playing in the UEFA Womens Champions League with Swedish club Tyresö FF--are expected to join Portland later this spring.