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Follow the money Team USA

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 4:04pm
Cliff Pfenning
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As America celebrates its heroes from the Women’s World Cup, the real key to the month of success on the soccer pitch will be on the fields of the U.S., in such towns as Kansas City and Atlanta.

Now that Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and company have dominated the world on behalf of the nation, it’s time to see if anyone will show up to see them when they’re not repping for the Stars and Stripes.

This is the challenge that’s truly bigger than the world, too, because it’s the future, in the attendance figures of the National Women’s Soccer League.

The nation fell in love with Team USA’s players as a unit, but will that translate into more paid ticket sales and sponsors for the league the players star in?

Getting better or even equal pay from the U.S. Soccer Federation seems very logical for the top players, but getting better pay for the breadth of the NWSL’s players will be the greater success of the World Cup win.

One of those keys to success has actually happened, too - the NWSL has a beer sponsor.

As the U.S. was beating The Netherlands in France on Sunday, the league announced Budweiser had become its first beer sponsor and will attach its name to a host of elements such as the championship game.

A check of the league website shows Budweiser adds a significant sense of legitimacy to the league along with Nike. The three other NWSL sponsors are Cutter, which is an insect repellent, Thorne, which produces supplements, and Lifetime Network, although it doesn’t seem to have much if any involvement in airing league matches. ESPN will air matches on ESPN2 and ESPN News for the remainder of the season.

Budweiser is a step the NWSL has needed, and the Team USA players should address directly because that’s where the future of the professional games lies. And, women need to recognize that because equal pay requires equal results within capitalism. Kansas City can be a valuable asset in this arena. Atlanta, too.

During the World Cup final the FOX broadcast switched to a party being held in a public section of Kansas City that attracted a reported 10,000 fans. It was a wild atmosphere worthy of such an event. Kansas City officials used the party to promote the city as a host site for men’s World Cup headed for North American in 2026.

Kansas City is a great soccer town, evident by 10,000 fans showing up to watch Team USA win the World Cup. But, where is the town on women’s soccer? It had one, but it folded and its players moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to form the Utah Royals FC.

Atlanta joined the MLS in 2017 and immediately set the soccer world on fire with its raucous crowds at Mercedes Benz Stadium. The team led the league in attendance its opening year and set a record of 53,000 fans per game in 2018 on the way to winning the league title. Atlanta does not have a team in the NWSL.

And, moving across sport lines, Portland has some women’s equality issues to deal with, too - in basketball. For all his wealth, the late Paul Allen didn’t have much passion for the Rose City in terms of women’s sports. Allen owned the Portland Fire in the early years of the WNBA, but folded the team after only three seasons (2000-02) because of economics. It was an era when the Blazers were losing a tremendous amount of money due to luxury tax issues, and Allen’s company was on the way to filing for bankruptcy from just running the Rose Garden.

A women’s team in the WNBA would seem like a solid economic gamble these days considering the University of Oregon and Oregon State have some of the best attended games in women’s basketball these days, and win on the court regularly. Would Portland’s basketball fans support the Portland Fire the way its soccer fans support the Thorns? Portland would be a great market for the WNBA, and in the process serve as a step forward for women’s pro sports if it works economically.

Team USA can beat the world in the World Cup and in the Olympic Games, but can its players survive as professionals within their own league? It requires fans in seats.

Of the NWSL’s nine teams, only Portland and Utah, which features Team USA players such as Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press, average more than 10,000 fans per game. The other seven teams aren’t past 5,000 fans per game even though they also have Team USA players on their rosters.

Fans in seats, eyes on screens, sponsors on jerseys and beyond.

Team USA’s stars have earned some celebration time in the very near future, but they need to capitalize on this momentum to make the NWSL a stronger league, which is how women’s soccer, and women’s pro sports, will truly win going into the future.

Thorns show off home magic

Portland handles Chicago 3-0 before Providence Park faithful
Staff report

Portland's NWSL return to Providence Park could hardly have gone better in front of a raucous, sun-drenched crowd of 19,461 fans Sunday afternoon with the Thorns beating the Chicago Red Stars 3-0 to move into second place.

Playing without nearly half of its regular rotation due to the upcoming World Cup, Portland got a pair of goals from Midge Purse and one from Simone Charley to improve to 4-1-2, 14 points. The season began with six road games.

Thorns fans can watch for four team members on the U.S. National Team - midfielders Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan, defender Emily Sonnet, and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, as well as Christine Sinclair playing for the Canadian side. In addition, Ellie Carpenter is with the Australian side and Andressinha is playing for Brazil.

The World Cup begins Friday with the league taking a week off for the opening round. Portland next plays at North Carolina, June 15, and again in Portland June 21 against Utah.

 

 

 

Ducks keep Eugene buzzing

4CAST: NCAA women, Pac-12 baseball, softball, Hawks, soccer
Staff report

The Oregon women’s basketball team moved to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the second straight year with a 101-73 win over Minnesota Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon will play either Central Michigan or Ohio State, which play today, Saturday with the winner facing either Notre Dame or Texas A&M next Monday in Spokane, Wash.

“I will be shocked if they’re not playing in the Final Four,” Minnesota coach Marlene Stollings said after watching the Ducks put up 30 points in two different quarters Sunday. “They were rolling on all cylinders.”

Sunday’s second-round game matched two of the top-10 scoring offenses in the nation, and the teams combined for 52 points in the first quarter. From there, though, Oregon - leading 30-22 after the first quarter, outscored the Gophers 52-28 in the next two quarters to effectively decide the outcome.

Oregon blew the game open with a 10-0 run to close out the second quarter, capped by a fadeaway three-pointer at the buzzer by Sabrina Ionescu, while she was being fouled.

Ionescu led all scorers with 29 points, while sophomore Ruthy Hebard added 22 for the Ducks - playing in front of a vocal crowd of 7,576 fans.

Oregon made 11 of its 22 3-point attempts.

The Ducks had never been to the Sweet 16 until last season, when they reached the Elite Eight.

2. PAC-12 BASEBALL

Michael Gretler homered in the second inning to spark the top-ranked Oregon State baseball team to a sweep of California Sunday as the Beavers won the series finale, 6-4, in Berkely, Calif.
 
The win pushed Oregon State to 18-1 on the year, matching the 1951, 1962, 2013 and 2017 teams for the best record through 19 games. The victory also sends the Beavers back to Corvallis with a 3-0 conference record; OSU has won 13 consecutive Pac-12 games dating back to the 2016 season.]
 
The sweep marked the Beavers’ third in Berkeley since 2012 after getting swept at Cal in 2016. OSU starts a three-game series with Washington on Friday.
 
In other Pac-12 action, Oregon lost all three games of its series against Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., to drop to 12-7. The Ducks return to Eugene for a three-game series with Cal starting Friday. Oregon is 8-2 at home this season.

3. PAC-12 SOFTBALL

Sixth-ranked Oregon rallied from a loss Friday to beat UCLA Saturday and Sunday and is 25-5 heading for a weekend off before a three-game series with rival Oregon State March 29-31 in Corvallis.

Oregon State recovered from a 12-0 loss Saturday to beat Cal 8-3 Sunday and earn a 2-1 series win in Corvallis. Oregon State won the first game of the series 10-5 Friday and is 19-10 heading into a three-game series at UCLA Friday.

4. WINTERHAWKS HEAD FOR PLAYOFFS

The 72-game regular season came to a close with a 5-4 loss to Spokane Sunday for the Portland Winterhawks, but the season begins anew Saturday. Portland, which finished the regular season at 44-22-1-5 for 94 points, plays the Chiefs in a seven-game series with the first two games in Portland Saturday and Sunday.

EXTENDED 4CAST

The Portland Thorns and Portland Timbers return to the pitch Saturday with league matches. The Thorns, who drew with Houston 0-0 Saturday at Merlo Field, open NWSL play at North Carolina Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Portland won its second NWSL title last season.

The Timbers, 0-2 in MLS action, play at Houston Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Portland has scored just once in its two games, and is looking for its first win under new coah Giovanni Savarese.

Ducks, Beavers await tournament pairings

4CAST: NCAA women, Oregon men, Blazers, Thorns
Staff report

The Oregon and Oregon State women's basketball programs will get their official NCAA Tournament placements tonight, giving their fans and end to more than a week of waiting.

The Ducks won the Pac-12 Tournament title last weekend for the first time, a day after Oregon State's regular season ended. The Ducks are likely to receive their highest tournament seed in the program's history.

Oregon, 30-4, enters the tournament ranked No. 6 nationally, and with a nine-game win streak. The Ducks were a 10 seed last year, but played into the Elite Eight before losing to Connecticut 90-52.

Oregon State, 23-7, is ranked 13th. The Beavers were a No. 2 seed last year, but got knocked out by Florida State in the Sweet 16.

The women's tournament begins on Thursday.

2. OREGON NIT

The Oregon men's basketball team missed out on the NCAA Tournament - Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State received spots - but did get into the NIT and will play host to Rider on Tuesday night at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon reached the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and is 22-11 overall. Rider, 22-9, won the regular-season title in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, but missed out on the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament by not winning the MAAC tournament. It's the first-ever meeting between the schools. Rider is located in Lawrenceville, N.J.

3. BLAZERS MIAMI

Portland, in third place in the Western Conference, will put its nine-game win streak up against Miami, the No. 7 team from the Eastern Conference.

The Blazers are 40-26 and two games ahead of fourth-place New Orleans, Minnesota and Oklahoma City.

Miami is 36-31 and has a two-game win streak.

4. PORTLAND THORNS PRESEASON

The Portland Thorns lost their first of three preseason games Sunday, 1-0, to the Chicago Red Stars at Merlo Field. The team plays again Wednesday and Saturday Merlo Field in preparation for the start of the season, March 24. Wednesday's game is against the U.S. National Under-23 squad.

ALSO

The Portland Winterhawks rebounded from Saturday's loss with a 2-0 victory over Everett at the Moda Center, and have three games remaining in the regular season. The Hawks play again Friday against Seattle at the Moda Center.

 

 

Blazers keep surging

TUESDAY 4CAST: Portland rallies, Thorns, Hawks reunion, PSU hoop
Staff report

Damian Lillard kept the Portland Trail Blazers winning streak going Monday night with another stellar performance.

Lillard scored a game-high 39 points, including 19 points in the fourth quarter as Portland rallied past the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-103, at the Staples Center.

Portland (38-26) won for the seven-consecutive game, and stayed a game ahead of three teams in the race for third place in the Western Conference. The Blazers play host to the New York Knicks tonight.

Lillard scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, hitting 4 of 5 three-point shots.

The win was also the 15th-straight over the Lakers.

2. SINCLAIR'S SEASON PREP IS INTERNATIONAL

Christine Sinclair scored two goals to lead Canada to a 3-0 win over South Korea in the third round of Group Stage play at the Algarve Cup, but the Canadians will play only for fifth in the 25th annual tournament. Sweden, which beat Canada 3-1 on the first day of the tournament in Portugal, will play the Netherlands Wednesday for the title.

Sinclair's two goals gave her 172 for her international career - within reach of Abby Wambach's record 184. Portland begins its regular season March 24 at North Caroina.

3. WINTERHAWKS GET PLAYERS OF WEEK; PROMOTE REUNION

THe Western Hockey League honored Portland's Cody Glass as the Player of the Week, and goaltender Andrew Farkas as the Goaltender of the Week for the work in keeping the Hawks battling for a top playoff seed.

After a pair of road games tonight and Wednesday, the Hawks return homre and will honor the 1998 Memorial Cup champions with a reunion and team Hall of Fame induction for four of the key members: Marian Hossa, Andrew Ference, Brendan Morrow and Todd Robinson.

4. PSU OPENS BIG SKY TOURNAMENT

Portland State got 24 points from Sidney Reilly and beat Northern Arizona to open the Big Sky Tournament Monday. The Vikings face third-seed Eastern Washington Wednesday.

The PSU men's team opens the Big Sky tournament today against Sacramento State.

ALSO:

THE NBA ACADEMY

Columnist Derek Weber looks over the NBA's strategy to address high school players using colleges for one year only.

 

Portland Thorns History

NWSL Original Franchise

YEAR-BY-YEAR REVIEW

2013 - Sparked by UP great Christine Sinclair, and USA National Team member Alex Morgan, Portland finished third in the league standings, then beat Western New York 2-0 to win the first title of the eight-team NWSL.

2014 - International Player of the Year Nadine Angerer joined the team, and the Thorns set a women's soccer attendance record at 19,123 just two days before MLS played its All-Star Game at Providence Park. Portland lost in the league semifinals.

2015 - The team's roster shifted greatly during the off-season, but it resulted in a disappointing sixth-place finish in the now nine-team standings. The Thorns did manage to sell out the stadium for a game.

2016 - A return to the top of the league standings again resulted in a disappointing loss in the semifinals.

2017 - The Thorns won a team-record 14 games, of 24 played, and again won the league title after placing second in the season standings.

 

 

The World (Cup) catches Thorns game

With U.S. stars watching, Portland drops 1-0 decision in New Jersey
July 12, 2015

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Squaring off against Sky Blue FC for the second time in a nine-day span, Portland Thorns FC could not overcome an early second-half goal in a 1-0 road loss in front of 3,014 fans on Saturday evening at Yurcak Field.

  The two teams combined to create a handful of chances in the opening 45 minutes until forward Sam Kerr, making her Sky Blue FC debut on Saturday, finished a header in the penalty box off a cross from Maya Hayes in the 52nd minute to give the home side a 1-0 lead.

Portland (3-4-4, 13 pts) held a 7-5 edge in shots in the second half, but couldn't put in the equalizer against the team it beat 2-1 the previous week.

Forward Ayo looked dangerous early in the second half, firing a shot just over the crossbar after receiving a pass from midfielder Mana Shim in the opening minute. Reigning NWSL Player of the Week Sinead Farrelly made a back-post run on a free kick from midfielder Allie Long in the 65th minute, connecting with a header from point-blank range, but Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Brittany Cameron stood her ground to make the save.

With the win, Sky Blue FC improved its record to 2-6-4 (10 pts) overall this season.

Leading the Portland attack, Ayo finished the match with four shots, including a final header late in second-half stoppage time off a cross from forward Hanna Terry. Ayo found enough space inside the box to put a looping header on frame, but at the last moment Cameron leaped to tip the attempt over the crossbar.

Next up, Thorns FC return to the Rose City for a home match against Cascadia-rival Seattle Reign FC on Wednesday, July 22, at Providence Park.


Thorns can use a boost

Portland hasn't won in a month heading into home match
June 19, 2015

In spite of having one of the top rosters in women's club soccer, the Portland Thorns are mired in the thrill of the World Cup.

Having a top roster has been a challenge for the team as its top players have been called up to national team duty, and are central figures on each of their squads as they play against one another in group action that began Friday.

Christine Sinclair, Nadine Angerer, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan - all gone from the Thorns' roster. In their place, Portland has resorted to a relatively untested squad, including amatuer players in a number of matches.

The result has been a winless streak that began April 25 with a 2-all draw at Chicago. The following five matches included two draws and three losses, and the team has scored just one goal in its past four matches. With the results, the Thorns sit in eighth place in the nine-team National Women's Soccer League after eight of their 20-game regular season.

The good news for Thorns fans is the team sits just two points out of third place, and they have outshot opponents in most of their matches.

Portland (2-3-3, 9 points) plays host to Kansas City (2-4-1, 10 points) tonight at Providence Park.

The Thorns' last win came April 18 at home against Western New York, and the team is 2-1-0 in home matches. Three of their next four matches are at home.

 

 

 

 

Thorns rally to tie road opener

Sinclair, Shim score during 2-2 draw with Chicago
April 25, 2015

CHICAGO - The Thorns overcame a two-goal deficit to forge a 2-all tie with the Chicago Red Stars Saturday in a NWSL match at the Benedictine University Sports Complex.

Christine Sinclair scored her first goal of the season, and Mana Shim added her second, which capped the scoring and allowed the Thorns to remain unbeaten on the season at 2-0-1, 7 points.

Reigning NWSL Player of the Week Christen Press bagged her second brace of the season for Chicago, which moved to 1-0-1, 4 points.
 
The Red Stars picked up right where they had left off in the dramatic win over Seattle Reign FC last week with Press taking down a pinpoint-accurate long ball by Lori Chalupny before cutting to her right and sending a beautiful curler past the outstretched Nadine Angerer for the go-ahead goal in the fourth minute.
 
Another four minutes later, it was U.S. Women’s National Team star Press again, as she took a ball by midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo, cut to her left and fired at goal from inside the box, her attempt taking a deflection off defender Courtney Niemiec and slipping underneath Angerer to make it 2-0.
 
Thorns FC nearly pulled one back in the 11th minute of play. Tobin Heath sprinted down the right flank and sent a dangerous cross into the area, only to see a wide-open Mana Shim denied by Karina LeBlanc’s spectacular kick-save. The rebound fell straight to Portland’s Taylor Comeau, whose short-range blast was heroically headed off the line by Chicago defender Julie Johnston.
 
The Red Stars nearly punished their opponents for the pair of missed chances when rookie Danielle Colaprico’s 15th-minute cross was nodded just over the bar by international legend Shannon Boxx. Three minutes later, Press narrowly missed out on a hat trick when she was played in by Chalupny and released a right-footed shot that was tipped around the far post by a diving Angerer.
 
Instead of adding a third, Chicago saw its lead cut to one just before the half-hour mark, Allie Long feeding Sinclair at the top of the box and the world-class striker firing through traffic for a well-placed effort inside the left post. The visitors nearly tied things up four minutes from the halftime whistle, as former Portland shot-stopper LeBlanc came up with a point-blank parry to keep out Sinclair’s toe-poke from close range.
 
Thorns FC did level the match early in the second half. Shim took advantage of some indecisive Red Stars defending, as she picked up a loose ball at the edge of the penalty area and found the inside of the far post with a left-footed drive. The hosts were lucky not to fall behind when Sinclair subsequently fed an unmarked Comeau, an amateur making her first start, inside the box and the California native leaned back for a shot that sailed well over the frame.
 
Portland got even closer to grabbing the lead in the 74th minute. Substitute Kendall Johnson, who entered in the 59th minute for Comeau, found Sinead Farrell in front of the Chicago goal and the midfielder’s delicate curler off the underside of the bar nearly crossing the line on its way down.

The Thorns have the upcoming week off before playing host to Washington, May 9, at 7 p.m.


 

Thorns open season in style

Allie Long powers a 4-1 win over Boston with a pair of goals
April 11, 2015 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

PORTLAND - The Portland Thorns opened their third season with a dominating performance, highlighted by a pair of goals by Allie Long on the way to a 4-1 win over Boston Saturday at Providence Park.

Long pounded home a pair of close-range shots midway through the second half after Boston had scored to get within 2-1.

Portland finished the game with a 23-10 edge in shots, and heads to its second game against Western New York at 1-0-0, 3 points.

Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly scored in the first half for the Thorns in front of an opening-game crowd of 13,386.

The game with Western New York is set for Sunday, April 19.

 

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