Portland isn’t Paris, but it sure is a long way from Long Island. It might as well be a different country. New Thorns FC signing Allie Long spent a couple months playing in the City of Light for Paris Saint-Germain during the 2011-12 season, but aside from that experience the native New Yorker hasn’t played professionally more than about four hours from home with the Washington Freedom, Sky Blue FC and the New York Fury.
Life in the Rose City presents an opportunity for the former University of North Carolina and U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team midfielder to take a step out of her comfort zone. Long was quoted in a story by Dan Lauletta on The Equalizer about leaving home and joining up with head coach Cindy Parlow Cone in Portland as well as her time spent training with Thorns FC teammate Alex Morgan in California and alongside women’s soccer royalty Mia Hamm.
“I’m hoping to get a role where I can create and help score goals myself as well as play defensive and be able to keep it,” Long said. “I love keeping possession of the ball and playing quickly. I like both aspects of the game so wherever she needs me is where I’ll be and at the end of the day I just want to win.”
There's no debating the crossover between music and sports and ESPN The Magazine brings the connection to the forefront with this year's Music Issue. The Mag got creative with this issue, having athletes impersonating various album covers.
Some of the highlights include Oympic gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte as the swimming baby on Nirvana's iconic "Nevermind" cover, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman as Michael Jackson on the cover of "Thriller" and let's not forget about Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan, who graces the issue as pop star Katy Perry in her "One of the Boys" cover.
The issue doesn't hit the shelves until Feb. 8, but ESPN released some behind-the-scenes video and photos of the creative process.
You can take a look at Morgan's album cover here.
The Oregonian's Geoffrey Arnold chatted with Thorns FC's first-round draft pick Kathryn Williamson to get the story on how she found out she was drafted. She apparently had some pretty excited friends.
"They were on computers and I was on Twitter on my phone. I guess their computer was faster than my phone, because they started screaming and said I got drafted," Williamson said. "I thought they were joking, because it hadn't come up on my phone yet. I'm like, 'That is a really mean joke.'"
But of course, it was not a joke at all. Williamson was the club's inaugural first-ever NWSL Draft selection on Friday--an honor that she quickly warmed to.
So thankful and excited to start a new chapter of my life with the Portland thorns @thornsfc!
— Kat Williamson (@KatWilliamson7) January 18, 2013
Williamson's new teammates were also excited to have more players on the Thorns squad:
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) January 18, 2013
— Karina LeBlanc (@karinaleblanc) January 18, 2013
Check out Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone's take on the new crop:
Clearly, the day had plenty of fun and promise.
MLS's Armchair Analyst, Matthew Doyle, knows this 2013 MLS SuperDraft backwards and forwards. A veritable genius on tactical analysis, Doyle spent the whole of the past week at the MLS Combine looking and thinking about who should go where and why.
He did a recent winners and losers take on the recent draft and had this to say on the Timbers second round pick-up of defender Dylan Tucker-Gangnes:
"First of all, I . . . could argue that he’s the most MLS-ready of the center backs on offer, so just on a nuts-and-bolts level, it was the right pick. As important, though, is that Portland took a kid who is Seattle born-and-bred, and University of Washington star, one pick before the Sounders were up. Seattle fans flipped their collective bean in the live chat, on Twitter and elsewhere."
New Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc is no wallflower. Personable, charismatic, and fearless in asking anyone for an interview, she is currently with the Canadian Women's National Team in China at the Yongchuan Cup.
Frustrated by her Canadian and now Thorns FC teammate Christine Sinclair coming in last amongst Asian voters in the recent Ballon d'Or voting, LeBlanc went to the streets of Yongchuan with her famous KK Cam to help spread the good word of the merits of Ms. Sinclair.
I have a feeling we'll be seeing some more of KK Cam in the Portland Thorns FC future.
After today's NWSL allocation of national team players, much of the early chatter has been about the incredible forward pairing of Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair. And with good reason. Combined, the pair scored 51 goals over 53 matches for the United States and Canada in 2012.
But perhaps the steal of the day was in acquiring midfielder Tobin Heath. Long considered one of the best up-and-coming midfielders on the USWNT, Heath won three NCAA national championships with the University of North Carolina. Her final one, in 2009, had current Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone as an assistant on the team.
But it is also known in soccer circles that Heath is a master of the trick shot and ball skills. A while back, while on the road with the USWNT, Heath went on a simple walkabout. But this is hardly the simple walkabout you and I might make. WATCH:
Tip of the hat to soccer writer Charles Boehm.
While Brent Richards, Darlington Nagbe and more were busy during the offseason, centerback Hanyer Mosquera has been keeping busy as well. Spending his offseason in his hometown of Istima, Colombia, Mosquera and his family helped organize a local soccer tournament for high school aged kids and outfitted two teams: Amigos de Hanyer Los Verdes and Amigos de Hanyer Los Rojos.
Naturally, the kits should have a familiar look to Timbers fans.
Done in conjunction with the local mayor, Mosquera says that he helps put together the tournament--now in it's fourth year--so kids can see that "it's possible to be a professional player."
"We hope that every year, we make it a little bit better," Mosquera added. "It's a short tournament that people enjoy but also brings me a lot of happiness. We're just helping bring my hometown a game that they love."
After a 2012 season that saw Bright Dike score 16 goals across all competitions--5 in the regular season, 5 in the MLS Reserve League, and 6 in the USL Pro while on loan to the LA Blues--the Timbers forward added one more tally to his growing goalscoring exploits as he scored the equalizer for Nigeria in a friendly against Catalonia on Wednesday.
Dike started the match in Barcelona as Nigeria faced the unique autonomous region of northeastern Spain known as Catalonia. Though not recognized by FIFA or UEFA, Catalonia has fielded a national team since the early 20th century often with numerous stars from FC Barcelona in their starting XI. Wednesday's match was no different as the Johan Cruyff-coached side featured Barca legends Carles Puyol, Xavi, and Gerard Pique.
For Dike, it didn't matter. After battling all game--including a nasty elbow to Puyol in the first half that left the centerback temporarily bloodied--Dike broke through in the 55th minute with a nifty cutback and lashed a shot with his left foot into the upper left corner of the net. Notice the trademark cartwheel backflip celebration.
Congratulations to Dike. Here's to getting 2013 started off on the (left) foot and to making your case for inclusion in Nigeria's squad for this January's Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
Thad Bell of the Kansas City Soccer Examiner has been doing some good reporting on some of the details around the new NWSL. In a recent article, he talks about national team player allocations and how Mexico is upping their player commitment, salary cap figures, sponsor information and more.
Newest Timbers player Mobi Fehr has a unique and global perspective on the game. Born in New York City to a Swiss graphic designer father and Japanese teacher mother, Fehr moved to Tokyo when he was six. After starring in the youth teams of J League Division 2 side Tokyo Verdy 1969, Fehr eventually came on the radar of the U.S. Soccer Federation. He went on to become a key member of the U.S. national team U-17s, U-18s, and U-20s and was part of the US team at the 2011 U-17 World Cup.