PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland Thorns opened their 2015 preseason Monday at Providence Park.
There were a lot of new faces at practice, including a number of trialists, while several Thorns players were away on international duty in Cyprus and Portugal.
"We brought a lot of trialists in and I think that was the most important part of the day," coach Paul Riley said after practice. "We have to fill a few holes to say the least and there were a lot of good players so we're really happy with that."
Currently, the team is practicing as it prepares for its first preseason match against the University of Portland at Merlo Field on March 21 at 7 p.m. PT.
Following that match, the team will travel to Tucson, Ariz., where they will face the FC Tucson Women and the University of Arizona at Kino Sports Complex ahead of their home opener on April 11 against the Boston Breakers.
- SCHEDULE: Thorns FC 2015 schedule
With the Women's World Cup kicking off in June in Canada, the Thorns will have a number of players away on international duty competing with respective national teams for an extended length. As a result, Riley is looking to add depth to his strong roster with players who he hopes will be able to contribute during that crucial stretch from June to July.
"Most important is trying to find the quality of player that can compete with our players and I think today there were quite a few of them that can definitely compete," he said.
So many new faces, however, require veteran leadership. Experienced Thorns midfielder Allie Long has helped the new players adjust.
"I just have to lead by example and play well and help the youngsters out when they need something," she said with a laugh. "I'll just do my best to be a friend and a teammate and just lead them."
But as many new faces as there were today, there were also several familiar faces, including Michelle Betos, Courtney Niemic, Sinead Farrelly, and Emily Menges. Kat Williamson, who returned to the Thorns via trade after a year with the Western New York Flash, was also on the pitch on the first day.
"Kat Williamson is a completely different player from 12 months ago in terms of preparation," said Riley. "Other players like Courtney Niemic and Sinead and Emily, they're a year on, a year experience, a year better preparation, comfortable with me. I think that helps too. At this point, everybody in the locker room has been brilliant the last 48 hours."
But for all of the excitement heading into this preseason, coach Riley says he's taking everything one day at a time.
"I've told them it's not about goals, it's about the process and just getting better as we go through the season and getting ourselves into a position for whatever's awaiting us at the end of the season."