(David Blair/Portland Thorns FC)
Next Thorns Game
At Kansas City FC
Saturday, 11 a.m.
Broadcast on Fox Sports 2 (DirecTV channel 618, 398 on Dish, no Comcast)
PORTLAND — Three weeks into her return to professional soccer, Tina Ellertson is thrilled.
The Vancouver resident, who signed with Portland Thorns FC at the end of July, feels like her game is getting closer to where it was two seasons ago in Women's Pro Soccer.
More significant for the 2000 graduate of Hudson's Bay High School is that she has rediscovered her passion for competition.
"It's been so much fun," she said, the excitement clear in her voice. "I didn't realize how much I missed playing until I got out there again."
Ellertson and the Thorns will be in Kansas City, Kan., on Saturday, taking on FC Kansas City in a National Women's Soccer League semifinal. Ellertson cannot wait.
"This is what you play for," she said. "Every pass counts, every header counts, every trap counts."
Ellertson saw action off the bench during each of Portland's final three regular-season games, playing a total of 40 minutes.
She said she is ready if needed on the field against Kansas City, but is determined to contribute even if she isn't on the field. Ellertson was a member of the U.S. women's national team from 2005-09 and an all-star defender during three seasons in Women's Pro Soccer. At 31, Ellertson said she is focused on providing veteran leadership for the Thorns.
"I just want to make sure I contribute in whatever way they ask me to," she said.
If that role is to offer encouragement and "I'm just making sure I be that veteran, quiet leader who can contribute in a quiet role."
Ellertson decided not to sign with the Thorns at the start of the season because she is the coach for three girls teams at FC Salmon Creek, where she is also the assistant director of coaching. But with friends in the NWSL and Thorns coach Cindy Parlow Cone continuing to ask her to come play, Ellertson decided she should give pro soccer one more shot.
She credits her husband, Brad, with taking on more at home, and said the support of her entire family made it possible to join the Thorns. Mya, her 5-year-old daughter, always asks how long mom will be gone. MacKenzie, 12, is happy she and her FC Salmon Creek teammates have opportunities to watch the Thorns train.
Ellertson's father, FC Salmon Creek coaching director Joe Frimpong, has picked up Ellerton's coaching duties with the FCSC under-11, under-13 and under-14 girls advanced competition teams.
Two of those teams are playing in a significant regional preseason tournament this weekend.
"It's a tournament that we train all year for," Ellertson said. "My girls will be on the field competing for their tournament lives and at the same time I'll be on the field competing for the Thorns."
One of those girls is MacKenzie, who plays for the under-13 team. Even before Ellertson signed on, several of her friends on the Thorns would show up to watch her FC Salmon Creek teams train and compete.
Having stars such as Alex Morgan interact with her daughters and the players she coaches is a bonus of playing in the NWSL, Ellertson said. Plus, her players have watched Ellertson the player practice what Ellertson the coach preaches.
"Or not do what I coach them to do," she said, laughing at the way the FCSC players will critique a Thorns training session.
One thing Ellertson learned in the last few months is that she wants to keep playing the game she's loved since age 5.
"After not playing for two years, it's been like putting on an old shoe," Ellertson said. "What I've found is that playing again has re-awakened my passion for soccer."