BEAVERTON, Ore. – Thorns FC’s Midge Purce left little doubt about the weight being carried from 2018’s conclusion, with her team losing in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Championship game after a season-ending stretch that saw her playing time wane.
“I’ve been thinking about it since the whistle blew,” the right wing/back explained from preseason training when asked about 2018. “Collectively, as a team, that’s a hard way to finish, and it’s a hard way to go into your vacation or your offseason. And personally, I did not end the season the way that I wanted to.
“It’s been on my mind, and it’s been a huge motivating factor for everyone.”
Purce’s thoughts echoed those of Thorns left back Meghan Klingenberg, who the previous day singled out the team’s defense while identifying areas for improvement. Asked about her personal path for growth, Purce didn’t single out a specific area of her game. Instead, she highlighted her approach.
“Throughout my entire career, I’ve learned that you can’t just focus on the end goal,” she explained. “Even though I would like to come out here and just be like minutes, minutes, minutes, playing, playing, playing, I know that I have to trust the process.”
They’re the words of somebody who barely played the previous season, not someone like Purce, who logged 1,341 minutes over 21 appearances. Starting 16 of the season’s 24 games, Purce was a regular on the right side of head coach Mark Parsons’ formations, impressing over a second pro campaign after being acquired the previous offseason from the Boston Breakers.
Though her playing time dropped by 46 minutes between seasons, the contributions she made to a deeper and more competitive Thorns team were notable, with Purce earning a U.S. Women's National Team call-up midseason. By the end of the year, though, the acquisitions of Ana Crnogorcevic and Ellie Carpenter combined with returns to fitness from Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso limited Purce’s opportunities.
This year, however, Purce won’t be dropped cold into a new situation. She won’t be adjusting to a new coaching staff, and their new goals. An offseason of consistency combined with her knowledge of the Thorns has allowed her to build toward a target. For a number of reasons, Purce’s year two with the Thorns could be different than year one.
“The differences are I know what to expect from Portland,” Purce explains. “I know the standard on the field and off the field that they expect of me. Everything else – tactics, whatever you accomplished last year – really doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant, right now. It’s like a clean slate. We’re starting over. Everything needs to be earned all over again.”
How she earns more time, to her, is clear. “Extremely clear,” she says, when asked about the coaching staff’s expectations of her.
“I don’t think they’re super elaborate. I think they’re very simple,” she says, about how she’s being told she can improve. “[The instructions are] designed to be that way. It’s not hard …
“There’s a bunch of times that [Thorns assistant Rich Gunney], today, yelled at me. He goes, 'Less touches. Two touch. One touch.’ Those are things I need to clean up. I need to make sure I take care of those small responsibilities so I can do whatever they ask me to do.”
Those asks could come in defense or attack. There is no one role Purce is being cast into, as of now. The objective in each of places, though, will be the same: more playing time than 2018; building on year one in Portland.