Editor's Note: As part of the Thorns FC's fifth anniversary, ThornsFC.com sat down to talk with players who've been here for each of the club's five seasons about where the team has been, favorite memories and excitement about the future.
Mana Shim has always been a battler.
It's why Shim, after going undrafted out of Santa Clara in the inaugural NWSL College Draft in 2013, didn't give up on her dream. Instead, she came to Portland determined to earn her way onto the roster of the most ambitious club in the nascent league via an open tryout, which is exactly what she did.
That determination has led to a productive career in which Shim has appeared 68 times for Portland Thorns FC – second all-time in club history to Allie Long – scoring nine goals and nine assists in the same span. In the team’s 2013 NWSL Championship season, she once scored a goal in four consecutive matches, each nearly as important as the one that came before it.
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Now one of four players on the current roster to have been a part of all five of the club’s seasons, one of her most memorable moments that sticks out most to Shim is a critical match from last year's 2016 NWSL Shield-winning campaign, a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Seattle Reign FC.
The team that took the field at Providence Park last July was missing many of its national team players due to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Shim formed a core of six veteran players who together with a group of reserve players faced a nearly full-strength Reign side–both teams in the thick of the playoff hunt.
“It was so moving for me to be on the field with those players and working as hard as we were and all on the same page,” remembered Shim. “And just the work that the coaching staff put into it, and each individual, we were so bought into the game plan.”
“Having it be a sold-out game and to have that many fans at a game where we didn’t have any of our stars was unheard of,” she added. “Where else do you get that in women's soccer? Nowhere.”
Yet Shim's favorite moment with the club came not after the team defeated the Western New York Flash 2-0 to win the 2013 NWSL Championship–although that was sweet–but the night before.
That evening, Shim received a text from her father, Sri Shim, with a photo of her favorite Hawaiian dish attached.
Perplexed, Shim texted her father back: “Why are you doing that to me the day before my biggest game as a professional?”
"Oh, I just wanted to rub it in that you're missing it here at home," Sri teased.
But moments later, Shim's then-road roommate, defender Rachel Van Hollebeke, led her to another room in their hotel. Inside sat Sri with the plate of food that he had texted to his daughter. He had flown with it all the way from Hawaii so that he could surprise her with it in Rochester.
Sri even brought flower leis to drape around the necks of the entire team and coaches.
“Yeah, that was super special,” said Shim. “And then we won, so of course [that's my favorite moment].”
What's cemented Shim's status among her Thorns teammates and among the Thorns FC fans is her abiding love for her adopted city. From the moment that she arrived in Portland, Shim fell in love with this city, rain and all.
“I feel like this place is home and I'm so comfortable here but also it's changed so much,” she said. “Like every year for me has been different and better each year. So I feel really grateful that I've had positive experiences here that just keep building on each other.”