As rain fell on another overcast winter afternoon in Northwest England, Janine Beckie couldn’t help but think about her future.
The Canadian international realized some of her biggest professional dreams with Manchester City Women, from playing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League to winning several trophies. However, as Christmas approached and her playing time wasn’t what she hoped, Beckie couldn’t shake the feeling that she was ready for a fresh start.
Not even six months later, Beckie found the opportunity she had been searching for in Portland and, after uprooting her life and moving halfway across the world, finds herself quickly readjusting to life in the NWSL. While still not completely settled, Beckie is quickly transitioning to the Pacific Northwest, growing in consistency at the club level and more.
The move to Portland came together much quicker than Beckie thought possible. When she initially reached out to her agent, they discussed a potential transfer come summer. Still a ways away from the end of the season, Beckie admitted there wasn’t much initial interest from other European clubs.
Her agent brought up another idea: returning to the NWSL. Beckie began her professional career with the Houston Dash and later played for Sky Blue FC before moving to England in 2018. The question was whether she wanted to return to America or hold out for an offer elsewhere in Europe.
“My first thought was if I leave Europe, I probably won’t come back,” Beckie said. “I needed to make sure that this was a move that I really wanted to do and so I asked [my agent] to explore some options.”
Eventually Beckie’s agent came back with a list of NWSL teams who expressed potential interest; one name on the list piqued her interest more than others: Portland. The recent appointment of new Thorns head coach Rhian Wilkinson – who Beckie had a prior relationship with through the Canadian Women’s National team setup – also helped.
But there was a slight hang up: her roster rights, which at the time belonged to Racing Louisville. Because of that, Beckie couldn’t speak to Portland until they acquired them. All she could do was wait and hope that things came together, something she had no control over.
“With the relationship that I have with Rhian [Wilkinson] and Karina [LeBlanc], I had full faith that although there wasn’t a lot of conversation going on I could trust that whole situation,” Beckie said.
When the NWSL transfer window opened, the club knew that it wanted to have Beckie in to start the season and quickly worked to make it possible. On Apr. 1, Portland finally received Beckie’s rights from Louisville in exchange for $75,000 in allocation money, completed the transfer with Manchester City and the Canadian put pen to paper on a three-year contract later that day.
Although she had played in the NWSL before, Beckie admitted that the transition back to the United States after four years on a different continent has been challenging, even if she does have the support of her boyfriend who moved to Portland with her.
While she knew to expect a professional environment in Portland based on reputation alone, Beckie was still somewhat surprised by how put together everything was once she landed at PDX. Everything from the logistics of being picked up at the airport to a folder full of documents and itineraries was taken care of.
“That’s exactly what you want as a player, and as women's players especially we settle for so much less,” Beckie said. “It has been great to come in and know that all the things you can’t control as a player are being taken care of and that makes coming and doing my job every day so much easier.”
Like her move to Portland, Beckie’s opportunity to play overseas came about a little earlier than she anticipated. Always wanting to test herself in Europe, Beckie jumped at the opportunity to join Manchester City in the FA Women’s Super League, even if now looking back she knows she wasn’t quite ready for it at the time.
“You’re never really ready for those opportunities that come in, but you have to jump on them when they’re available,” Beckie said. “It was one of the best decisions in my career I could have made. There were a lot of things out of my control and things that may have been frustrating, but when I look back at the four years, I’m a completely different player and I grew up as a person there, too.”
During her time in Europe, Beckie started to further appreciate the competitive nature of the NWSL, a league in which, although cliché, any team can win on any given afternoon. Beckie said the same can’t be said in Europe, where teams such as FC Barcelona or Olympique Lyon dominate their respective leagues.
Beckie also spent four years in a system that focused on building from the back. Unlike the frequent weekly track meets in the NWSL, the European style of play prioritized technical ability and intentional movement. There, sequences of one-two passes are more common. It was in City’s setup that Beckie learned how to better play out of the back in any circumstance, which required enhanced decision making and the ability to control the ball under pressure. That developed technical ability is something Beckie hopes to bring in her role with the Thorns.
In four seasons with Manchester City (2018-22), Beckie appeared in 84 matches across all competitions, logging 21 goals. She helped Manchester City win two FA Cup titles (2019, 2020) and two League Cup titles (2019, 2022). In 10 Champions League appearances, Beckie scored six goals.
Over her time in Manchester, Beckie crossed paths with former Thorns Hayley Raso and Nadia Nadim. They discussed Portland from time to time and Raso was especially excited when Beckie told her the move was all but official.
“Hayley [Raso] loved her time in Portland and had nothing but good things to say about it,” Beckie said. “When she heard that I was going to Portland, she told me that I was absolutely going to love it.”
With the Thorns, Beckie has the opportunity to join a team enduring a period of change after previous head coach Mark Parsons left to manage the Netherlands Women’s National Team. Instead of adjusting to a club with a set identity and tactical setup, she will play in a new system somewhat like what she grew used to in England.
“I think [Wilkinson’s] trying to play a style that so few teams in the NWSL play, which is similar to what I came from in City, playing out of the back and keeping possession,” Beckie said. “For me that was attractive and knowing Rhian’s personality and the importance she puts on culture was also important. I knew it would take something like that to get me away from Europe.”
One of Beckie’s strengths on the field is her positional versatility, something that she has already showcased in her short time with Portland. Beckie made her Thorns debut against Angel City FC on Apr. 24 as a forward while most recently she started against Houston as an outside back.
“I’m not really sure where I see you in this game, just be ready to do what you can in whatever position I put you in,” Wilkinson has told Beckie this season.
Beckie said that she appreciates being thrown into the fire right away because it shows the trust that the coaching staff has in her to place her in those positions in the first place.
Beckie arrived in Portland with hopes of further improving her consistency at the club level. The last time the Canadian scored an NWSL goal came against the Boston Breakers in August 2017, back when she played for Houston. Now back in the NWSL with a fresh start – a far cry from the gloomy winter days in Manchester – Beckie is excited about the opportunities in front of her both personally as well as professionally. Soon enough, she believes, she will update her NWSL goal tally as well.
“I have had a lot of experience internationally so now my goal is to find the consistency in my club game that I haven’t found yet and just feeling really confident in a new environment,” Beckie said. “That’s what I saw as a big green light in Portland. I can bring my leadership and consistency to this team and get back to scoring goals and creating chances because that is what makes me most excited.”