PORTLAND, Ore. – After six games on the road that saw them make numerous cross-country journeys and travel thousands of miles, Portland Thorns FC will finally make their 2019 NWSL home debut Sunday against the Chicago Red Stars at Providence Park (3pm PT, TICKETS, Yahoo! Sports).
But Providence Park will look quite a bit different from the last time the Thorns took to this pitch. An $85-million dollar new eastside expansion now looms impressively over the field and there’s been improvements and remodeling throughout the stadium with new amenities on the west side, new locker rooms for the Thorns and Portland Timbers, a newly laid pitch and much more.
Prior to a training session on the newly laid field, staff members from Turner Construction led the team on a tour taking them all the way up to the brand new Duracell Deck on the top of the eastside expansion that sparkled with with views of the field, the city and mountains beyond.
The experience made a clear impression on Portland defender Katherine Reynolds.
“It was awesome,” she said. “Just seeing under construction for so long and kind of getting glimpses here and there, to see the final product is amazing. Being up on the top row up there, the view (of the field) is incredible.”
Defender Meghan Klingenberg took it even a step further calling the expansion, “really special. It’s like a work of art.”
Watching training as players pinged balls back and forth in the spring sunshine felt both familiar and different. The curve of the stands of from the west to north side is well-known, but the new eastside stands proudly in the background, providing a new feel to the environment that the players are keen to see filled with fans on Sunday.
Image: Sam Ortega / Thorns FC
“Just looking up, especially when we first walk out for the national anthem and seeing all the fans, knowing how much they support us…there’s really no other feeling like it,” said Reynolds. “I’m so excited."
Even beyond the new digs, players are more than ready to be playing a home game having spent so much time away with many eastern road trips having involved multi-city trips. A road trip that saw them go a respectable 3-1-2, good for third place in the league
“I’m just happy to be home because it feels like home,” said Klingenberg. “We know that we’ll have this extra force behind us (on Sunday), willing us on for every single pass, for every single goal, for every single sprint back to defend our box.
“It’ll be really a unique experience coming back after such a long time away.”