PORTLAND — The first members of the Portland Thorns FC are sure to bring smiles to area fans. And not only because one of them played for the Seattle Sounders FC women last year.
Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, two stars of women’s soccer, were among the seven players assigned to Portland when the National Women’s Soccer League allocated 55 national team players — including 23 current members of the U.S. women’s national team — to its eight franchises.
Also assigned to Portland were USA midfielder Tobin Heath, USA defender Rachel Buehler, Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, and Mexican defenders Luz Saucedo and Marlene Sandoval.
All three of the U.S. national team players allocated to Thorns FC were part of the United States’ run to the Olympic gold medal during the London Olympics.
“This group has a wealth of quality, international experience, and we are excited to build around them to put together a competitive and entertaining club in our first season,” Thorns FC coach Cindy Parlow Cone said.
Also excited is Vancouver’s Tina Ellertson. The 2000 graduate of Hudson’s Bay High School and former U.S. national team player said she has had discussions with Parlow Cone and hopes to soon be a member of Thorns FC.
“To play with Alex and Christine in Portland — how much fun would that be?” she said. “(Friday) was an exciting day, just to hear where a lot of my dear friends were going to be.”
One of Ellertson’s closest friends, goalkeeper Hope Solo, will play for the Seattle Reign FC. As much fun as it would be to have Solo as teammates, Ellertson said she is more excited about the chance to play professional soccer close to home.
“For me, this is my home, this is my backyard,” Ellertson said
Morgan, 23, is one of the most recognizable faces in women’s soccer. She was U.S. Soccer’s female athlete of 2012 after leading all national team players with 28 goals and a team-high 21 assists and becoming just the second player after Mia Hamm to record 20 goals and 20 assists in a calendar year. The Diamond Bar, Calif., native scored three times during the London Olympics, including the latest goal ever scored in a FIFA competition, a 123rd-minute header in a 4-3 semifinal win against Sinclair and Canada.
Morgan played with the Sounders women last season. The Sounders women are a United Soccer League’s W-League franchise, and not part of the NWSL. Seattle’s franchise in the new professional league is the Reign FC.
“The Northwest is a great soccer area and I had firsthand experience with that last year,” Morgan said. “So continuing in the Northwest, I’m looking forward to putting that jersey on for the first time under (team owner) Merritt Paulson and Cindy Parlow.”
Sinclair, 29, helped the University of Portland win national championships in 2002 and 2005. The Burnaby, B.C., native ranks third all-time in international goals with 143 goals in 190 appearances for Canada, trailing only Hamm (158) and Abby Wambach (152).
Heath, 24, is a midfielder who has already played in 60 matches with the U.S. national team, including in all six matches at the London 2012 Olympics.
Parlow Cone said the players Portland landed should help the Thorns FC play a possession style of soccer.
“I’m hoping that we are a very dynamic and productive team,” the coach said.
Friday’s allocation announcement was the first step in building rosters for the eight teams in the new women’s pro soccer league, which is scheduled to begin play this spring. The schedule has not yet been announced.
A college player draft is scheduled for Jan. 18. After that, teams will round out their rosters by signing available players, though that process has not been finalized according to U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati.
U.S. women’s national team players allocated to Seattle were Solo, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and forward Amy Rodriguez.