Nikki Marshall has done a little bit of everything this summer for the Portland Thorns FC defense.
Starting all 16 games, she has played left back. She has played right back. And when Rachel Buehler was away with the national team, Marshall was called upon to play in the middle of the defense.
It’s been productive work. Marshall has played 1,364 minutes — third most minutes on the team — helping Portland be the most difficult defense in the league. That’s a busy second job for the 25-year-old Colorado native.
But before — and after — Marshall puts in her shift for the Thorns, she must put in 40 hours a week for Avnet Services, a software support company affiliated with IBM.
“It is 9-to-5, technically,” Marshall said.
In reality, her position supporting sales team members allows her to work around her Thorns commitments. Sometimes that means getting up
early. Sometimes it means working at night. Not that Marshall is complaining. She is thankful that her grown-up job allows her to telecommute so that she can continue chasing a childhood dream.
A star forward at the University of Colorado, her 42 career goals were one of 17 program records she established between 2006-09. Marshall got her first taste of life as a defender after scoring 17 goals as a college freshman. That season led to her first invitation to a national team training camp, where she was more than happy to give defense a shot.
“It was an interesting transition,” she said.
Like Vancouver native Tina Ellertson, though, Marshall was more than happy to give up attacking for a shot at representing the United States in international competition.
Marshall and Ellertson are friends who were teammates in 2011 for Florida-based magicJack of Women’s Professional Soccer. Marshall said Ellertson’s support and advice helped her settle in as a defender.
Marshall hasn’t yet cracked the national team roster — thus the full-time job — but she has played for the under-23, under-21 and under-20 national teams.
“That’s always been the main goal,” Marshall said of playing for the United States women’s national team.
The National Women’s Soccer League was formed in part to give post-college players a venue to continue their soccer development. By playing wherever coach Cindy Parlow Cone needs her, Marshall is trying to make the most of this season.
Her preferred position is right back. But with Marian Dougherty locking down the right back assignment, Marshall has spent most of her time at left back, defending the opponent’s right wing and pushing forward when she can. She spends extra time after practice doing drills to strengthen her left foot.
“It’s improved my overall game,” she said of the experience.