The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) kicked off its 4th season last week. I was happy to be able to watch the Portland Thorns start off the campaign with a win.
last year's World Cup. Honestly, I'm not sure I knew it even existed. The men's league has gotten enough press for the average sports fan to be aware of its existence, but the NWSL has been way under the radar.
After watching a good number of the matches in World Cup tournament, it became pretty obvious that there were a lot of excellent players in the sport. I kept hearing references to various leagues around the world as the announcers talked about what players were doing outside of international competition, one of which was the NWSL.
Once I knew enough to look around the Internet for more information, it became pretty clear that the NWSL was interested in connecting with its fans. All the matches are streamed live, mostly for free via YouTube. There's a lot of social media presence from the league, clubs, and players. It's great that small professional leagues like the NWSL are able to use the Internet for live streaming and other fan outreach, particularly for those of us who live long distances away from any of the clubs' home cities.
As I'm already a fan of the Portland Timbers on the men's side, it was a pretty easy choice of which club to support in the NWSL. The Portland Thorns play in the same stadium as the Timbers, and are owned by the same parent company. It didn't hurt that one of my favorite players from the US Women's National Team, Tobin Heath, is a Thorns star as well.
The Thorns played the expansion Orlando Pride at home in Providence Park to open this season, winning 2-1. The visitors got the first goal, but the home side was able to equalize before halftime and then scored the only second-half goal. The offseason had seen both Alex Morgan and Kaylyn Kyle leave the Thorns and join the Pride, so it was a bit strange having them both on the opposite side for the opening match. Lots of new faces on the Thorns roster, with a total of eight players making their first appearance in this match.
Congratulations to the Thorns on starting off the 2016 season with a win! Hope to see many more through the summer and fall.