PORTLAND, Ore. — With U.S. Soccer and the Canadian federation finalizing their rosters for next month’s women’s Olympic soccer tournament, Portland Thorns FC have learned the number of players they’ll be losing to the Tokyo games. From after Saturday’s game at the North Carolina Courage through potentially the middle of August, Portland will be without five starters. Forward Christine Sinclair will captain Canada at her fourth Olympics, while midfielder Crystal Dunn, goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, midfielder Lindsey Horan and defender Becky Sauerbrunn will represent the United States in Japan.
2021 NWSL all-competition statistics
But to only look at today’s announcement through the Thorns lens would miss the Olympics’ importance. Besides, Portland has a number of players who, playing while the NWSL continues, will get additional minutes. For the Thorns that will go the Olympics , Wednesday’s announcements represent a combination of achievement and opportunity. Representing your country on a stage like Tokyo 2020 is something that childhood dreams are made of, while the opportunity to claim a medal is afforded to only a sliver of athletes who’ve ever played their sports.
For each of the Thorns making the trip to Tokyo, this Olympics will mean something different. For some, it’s the first time they’ve ever been a part of one of the world’s oldest competitions. For others, it’s a chance to add to their medal collection, with one Thorn striving for a third medal while another plays for her second gold.
From neophytes to veterans, here are those perspectives this year’s Olympic-bound Thorns.
For Crystal Dunn,
this is a chance at to claim one of the few team honors she hasn’t won. She was a part of title teams in college (at North Carolina, 2012) and, as a professional, both at home (North Carolina Courage, 2018 and 2019) and abroad (Chelsea, Spring Series 2017). She won a world title with the U.S. at the 2019 World Cup, which leaves unclaimed only Olympic Gold. Dunn was a part of the team in 2016. Now she has a chance to help the U.S. get back on top of the podium.
For Adrianna Franch
, this is also a chance to complete a World Cup-Olympics double. She was on the team that claimed first at France 2019, but her spot in the U.S.’s latest Olympic team is also the culmination of a two-year rebound. A year ago, she was sidelined for the season with a knee injury that required surgery and left her unavailable for Challenge Cup and Fall Series. Now, only three months into her on-field return, Franch has a ticket to Tokyo.
For Lindsey Horan
, her Olympics are a lot like Dunn's: a chance to build on her first experience in 2016, as well as a chance to add gold to the honor earned at the last World Cup. On an individual level, though, Horan will be looking to translate her recent NWSL dominance to the international stage. At both Brazil 2016 and France 2019, Horan returned to Portland with less playing time than she’d hoped for from the tournament. On current form, Horan is primed to thrive at her third major tournament.
For Becky Sauerbrunn
, Tokyo is a chance at a second gold medal, albeit a very different one. At London 2012, Sauerbrunn was in her second major international tournament, and she wasn’t a regular starter. Since, she’s become one of the best defenders in the history of the sport and won two world titles. But in terms of the Olympics, she hasn’t built on the success of London. If she does so in Japan, she’ll have a second gold, doing so with the captain’s armband in a starting role.
And for Christine Sinclair
, victory in Tokyo might mean more than it would for any of her Portland teammates. That may be a bit unfair to the four U.S. stars. Who’s so say which player would cherish their medal most? But having won bronze medals in both 2012 and 2016, Sinclair has been close before. That proximity fuels dreams. If Canada broke through, reached that final and won, it would be the nation’s first major title in international soccer. It would also be give international soccer’s greatest goal scorer a team honor to rival her individual ones.