Buehler, Sinclair and LeBlanc join Thorns FC training camp
PORTLAND, ORE. — Portland Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone had a prime chance for a little tongue-in-cheek humor on Thursday at training as the media inquired about the squad’s new faces on the pitch—U.S. Women’s National Team defender Rachel Buehler, Canada Women’s National Team forward Christine Sinclair and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.
“Who are they?” Cone quipped.
Buehler, Sinclair and LeBlanc – three of Portland’s marquee national team players – worked out with the team for the first time on Thursday, getting to know their new teammates while acclimating to their new surroundings.
“We didn’t want to go too hard with the national team players who just got in because they’re still recovering a bit from jet lag,” Cone said. “I thought it was a good training today and it was great to have them not only on the field, but in the locker room.”
The players, along with the addition of forward Alex Morgan, who is scheduled to join camp next week, are expected to be in Portland for about 10 days before heading out for more international matches prior to the start of the NWSL season. Thursday’s practice gave the trio a good opportunity to get acquainted with their teammates and JELD-WEN Field.
“Today was almost like Christmas,” said LeBlanc, who has 105 caps for Canada and, along with Sinclair, has been a part of the national team picture for more about 15 years. “I’m excited to bring the women’s game to the city and show them what we can do. It’s a soccer city, so it’s one of those things where you dream of it as a little kid, you want to play professionally, but to play professionally in an environment where everybody loves the game is pretty special.
“Portland is a city that you put on that jersey and you have pride,” LeBlanc continued. “There’s just a huge amount of pride to play in a city where you come in and you already know there are soccer fanatics and everyone loves the sport. I’m representing a great city.”
Sinclair, the all-time career leader in points (252) and goals (110) for the University of Portland is well versed in the ways of the Rose City and made her it well known that she’s happy to be back to the place where she created so many memories with the Pilots.
“This is the one place I wanted to come with all my ties to Portland—it’s a soccer crazy city and the one place I wanted to play,” said Sinclair, who was close to signing with Paris Saint-Germain in France before deciding to wait out the news on the formation of the NWSL following the London 2012 Olympics where Canada took home the bronze medal.
The niece of former Timbers players Bruce and Brian Gant, Sinclair said the players have been trying to keep tabs on Thorns FC even while away from the team.
“We’ve been talking to players and hearing how practice was going and just wanting to be a part of it,” Sinclair said. “It’s an adjustment (to be here now) because we don’t know everyone’s names, but we’ll learn that. It’s just great to be out here playing again.”
Defender Rachel Buehler, who recently earned her 100th international cap for the United States on March 6 against Iceland—scoring a goal in the match to commemorate her milestone—was enthusiastic about getting started with Thorns FC.
“It was great,” Buehler said. “It was fun to get worked in, feel the rhythm of the team. Some people I know well and some people I’ve never met before. It’s fun being in the locker room and starting something new with this league and this team.”