Lindsey Horan is no stranger to pressure.
The Thorns FC midfielder has played at every level for the U.S. Women's National Team since she was 15 years-old and went abroad at 18 to play with one of the most powerful clubs in world soccer, France's Paris Saint-Germain FC (PSG).
But playing for the Portland Thorns comes with its own set of expectations, expectations unmatched in American women's professional soccer history.
“I think that people look at our team and they're just like, 'Oh, they have it all. They can just win everything. It comes easy to them.' And that's not true at all,” says Horan. “There's so many great teams in this league and I just feel like we have that target on our back and that extra pressure, which is awesome for us.”
“I think we need to take that pressure and act on it and be the best that we can be,” she adds. “[We know] that everyone wants to come in [to Providence Park] and beat us and we're not going to allow it to happen. It's just great that we get that kind of game every time people come and play us.”
It's not often that a player thrives amidst that kind of pressure, but Horan is no ordinary player.
In her first season with the team in 2016, Horan started and played in 15 matches, scoring five goals. Those performances helped the Thorns turn out a club-best 41 points in 20 matches and the organization's first-ever NWSL Shield.
But Horan says that her and the team's performances in 2016 came about in large part because of the symbiotic relationship between the team on the field and the fans in the stands. Horan and her teammates thrived in the high-intensity environment of their Providence Park home matches.
“I love [the pressure],” Horan says. “I feel like I play better...We live for those kind of games where there's so much pressure and so many things on the line. And it comes with play with a national team as well, but I absolutely love those kinds of games. I thrive on those kinds of games.”
That hunger to play in the big game and thrive in the big moment is built into the DNA of a team that above all else wants to not only play the game the right way, but to win.
“We want to value the ball. We want to value playing. We want to value getting everyone on the ball, getting touches,” Horan says. “But in the end, we want to win the game. So no matter what, we want to play this great style of soccer, but we want to win the game.”
Few people can question Horan's own passion for the game.
As a young kid growing up in suburban Denver, Colo., Horan and her older brother played impromptu 1v1 matches in the backyard. From there, Horan moved to a local academy program, the Colorado Rush. Then at 18, Horan turned down a scholarship from the University of North Carolina to sign a contract with PSG.
For Horan, every step of her soccer journey was about moving to a culture that truly loved and appreciated the game as much as she did.
So it's no surprise that she ended up in Portland, home to the most fanatical and loyal fans in the women's game.
“I get the chills every time I step out on the field and I hear the national anthem and I hear our fans cheering afterwards,” she says. “That gives me the goosebumps and makes me want to play for this city and our team and just this establishment we have.
“That makes me want to play.”