Portland Thorns Offseason Roster Moves

The Thorns won the 2022 NWSL Championship and will look to have a repeat performance with a substantial number of players returning. 

By Taylor Vincent

After winning the NWSL Championship last October, the Thorns were the first team to add a third star to their jerseys. This year, they’ll look to join the Kansas City Current and North Carolina Courage and be the third team to win back-to-back championships. After tying with NJ/NY Gotham FC in the final regular season match when leading 3–1 in the 53rd minute, the Thorns effectively lost the NWSL Shield after an OL Reign win just a few hours later gave the Reign the top of the table by one point. This year the Thorns will look to do what they haven’t been able to before: win both the NWSL Shield and the Championship in the same year. 

Nothing gets Portland fans pumped up more than a Becky Sauerbrunn goal / Taylor Vincent

During the 2022 season, the Thorns signed key extensions with defenders putting them in a fairly good position heading into the offseason with Kelli Hubly, Meghan Klingenberg, Natalia Kuikka, Emily Menges, and Becky Sauerbrunn already locked down. At the 2022 Championship rally, captain Christine Sinclair announced her return to Portland with an adamant cheer, “To win a fourth one of those, and f**k Seattle.” 

In the days that followed, Portland announced an extension with midfielders Rocky Rodriguez and Sam Coffey through the 2025 season. Rodriguez and Coffey played integral parts in the Thorns’ midfield throughout the season. Although Coffey is not a natural 6, she played well enough during the season to catch the eye of USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski and earn her first cap last year. Rodriguez’s distribution in the midfield as well as the visible joy she brings to the pitch should delight many a Thorns fan. 

On the day of off-season roster drops, the Thorns announced they were re-signing forward Morgan Weaver through the 2024 season with an option for the 2025 season. Weaver was truly a workhorse in the 2022 season, playing in all 22 matches for almost 1400 minutes—she scored 7 goals as well as notching 3 assists. “Weaver is a big part of our future plans, and we all believe this is an environment she can continue to grow and develop in to reach her goals,” said Karina LeBlanc, the Portland Thorns GM.

Thorns captain Christine Sinclair will be back in Providence Park for the 2023 season / Taylor Vincent

At the November 15th deadline, they announced Hannah Betfort, Shelby Hogan, Tegan McGrady, and Meaghan Nally were all out of contract and contract negotiations were ongoing. Additionally, Michele Vasconcelos entered free agency and was in contract discussions with the team. 

On December 1st, following fallout from the multiple investigations into misconduct in the NWSL, Thorns owner Merritt Paulson announced his intention to sell the team. The next day, Thorns head coach Rhian Wilkinson resigned after losing the locker room

Coming back from the holidays, Portland continued making moves for the 2023 season, including trading midfielder Yazmeen Ryan to Angel City FC in return for the #5 overall pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft as well as $200,000 in allocation money. 

Draft week created even more chaos when the NWSL announced the repercussions of the NWSL/NWSLPA investigation which included a $1,000,000 fine for the Portland Thorns. Previously Merritt Paulson had pledged that same amount as a pledge to support the establishment of an NWSL Player Safety Office. It was now being applied to the required fine. 

That same day, the Thorns announced the promotion of previous assistant coach Mike Norris to head coach. Mike Norris spoke to the press in a zoom, “I would like to thank the organization for trusting me to lead this team into the next chapter. I know it will take hard work and a commitment from all involved to grow and get better as we aim for continued success. It is a great privilege to have inherited a team that is hungry, driven and talented, and I am excited to give everything to the players, the club and the Portland community as the head coach of the Portland Thorns.” 

2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith celebrates a goal / Taylor Vincent

Heading into Draft Day, the Thorns had the 5th, 12th, 24th, 36th, and 48th overall picks. 

In the first round of the draft the Portland Thorns chose defender Reyna Reyes from the University of Alabama with their number five pick and forward Izzy D’Aquila from Santa Clara University with their number 12 pick. With the 24th overall pick, Portland Thorns chose forward Lauren DeBeau from Michigan State.

At this point, the Thorns started joining in on the Draft day trade madness. They traded their 3rd round pick (36) for Houston’s 3rd round pick (32) sending $20k to Houston and with their new pick took goalkeeper Lauren Kozal out of Michigan State. Thorns goalkeeper coach Nadine Angerer seems to have the magic touch when working with goalkeepers, so it’ll be exciting to see Kozal grow under her tutelage. With their final pick, Portland traded Houston the 48th overall and final draft pick for a natural 3rd round pick next year and $10k in allocation money. 

As a reminder, midfielder Lindsey Horan is due to return from her loan to Lyon in June—and then swiftly go prepare for the Women’s World Cup which ends late August. Ideally, fans would get to see her suited up at Providence Park in June, but she really should make sure to take some time to recover from the long European season ending before jumping into NWSL play. 

Late January, the Thorns announced the re-signing of Hannah Betfort, Michele Vasconcelos, Tegan McGrady, Meaghan Nally, and Shelby Hogan. Betfort and Nally are both signed through 2024 with an option for the 2025 season. Hogan’s new contract is for three years until 2025 with an option for 2026. McGrady and Vasconcelos are under contract for 2023 with an option for the 2024 season.

Crystal Dunn will be a regular in the midfield this year for the Thorns as she’s back to full post-maternity leave / Taylor Vincent

Portland is currently at 27 players on the preseason roster. They are at full strength for preseason at pretty much every position. One thing to look for is that due to losing Dunn, Rodriguez, Horan, and potentially Coffey to the Women’s World Cup, some extra depth in the midfield is needed or they’ll be down to only four to five midfielders during those matches. 

As of 01/27/23:

Goalkeepers (3): Bella Bixby, Lauren Kozal, Shelby Hogan

Defenders (9): Kelli Hubly, Meghan Klingenberg, Natalia Kuikka, Emily Menges, Becky Sauerbrunn, Gabby Provenzano, Reyna Reyes,  Tegan McGrady, Meaghan Nally

Midfielders (7+1 LOAN): Sam Coffey, Crystal Dunn, Olivia Moultrie, Rocky Rodríguez, Hina Sugita, Taylor Porter, Lindsey Horan(LOAN), Michele Vasconcelos

Forwards (8): Janine Beckie, Sophia Smith, Morgan Weaver, Christine Sinclair, Natalie Beckman, Izzy D’Aquila, Lauren DeBeau, Hannah Betfort

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