PORTLAND — Had Lindsey Horan not become a soccer player, she suggests she might have been a tennis player.
One problem: She can’t really play tennis.
“I’m absolutely awful,” she laughed. “So bad.”
So it’s a good thing Horan went with soccer. Currently in the final stretch of her season with the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League, she’s also about to embark on qualifying with the U.S. national team for next summer’s World Cup in France.
First up, though, she’s training with the national team on short break from her club team. The United States plays Chile in a friendly on Tuesday at San Jose, Calif.
She’ll return to the Thorns for the regular-season finale against the Seattle Reign on Friday before gearing up for the NWSL playoffs. Portland has already clinched a postseason berth but home-field advantage is still in play.
Horan said she’s feeling comfortable with her role on both teams. She leads the Thorns with 11 goals (ranking her third in the league) and she’s coming off a strong performance for the national team at the Tournament of Nations.
“I think I’m at my best when I’m on the ball, I’m feeling the game, I feel free, and I’m setting the tone for the game. The first few touches of the game, that’s kind of like setting the precedent for me,” she said. “So I think my strengths are just being in and around the ball and getting myself in the box and trying to score or make the final pass.”
A native of Colorado, Horan was a standout on the U.S. youth national teams, scoring 15 goals in 17 appearances with the under-17 team. She helped the under-20 team reach that level’s World Cup in 2012, but had to miss the tournament because of knee surgery.
Horan was among the top college prospects and was offered a scholarship to play for North Carolina. Instead, she surprised many by taking a reported six-figure deal to play in France for Paris Saint-Germain.
“They expected so much of you and held you to a high standard,” she said about playing overseas. “So I think that was really cool for me, learning from all the players out there and being held to a high standard at a young age. It taught me professionalism and how to act on and off the field.”
Although skipping college is fairly common on the men’s side of the sport, it is rare on the women’s side and Horan was the first . The only other player on the women’s national team to go straight to a pro career is Mallory Pugh, who plays for the Washington Spirit.
Realizing she needed to be in the United States to keep the attention of the national team, Horan joined the Thorns in 2016. She scored the lone goal in Portland’s 1-0 victory over the North Carolina Courage in last season’s NWSL championship game.
A forward for most of the early part of her career, Horan has shifted to an attacking midfield role with the national team and it has suited her. The 24-year-old has started in all but one of the U.S matches this year.
“My mentality is to get in and around the box as much as I possibly can and be more impactful in those areas where I think I can make a difference,” she said. “I was a No. 9 for so long and that’s what I knew. And I think, me as an attacking midfielder, or any kind of midfielder, I should be in and around the box and have that mindset that I’m going to score and help my team as much as possible.”
Horan scored on a header in the 90th minute against Australia in the Tournament of Nations, giving the United States a 1-1 draw. The U.S. went on to claim the tournament title.
The U.S. women currently have a 19-match unbeaten streak and they’re clearly the favorites heading into the World Cup, provided they qualify as expected in October. The Americans are the defending champions.
“I think this last tournament really set the tone for us. It helped. You know, we’re bringing everyone together and we kind of have this team now that we’re building off of, and we see a final product,” she said. “Going into qualifying that’s huge.”