Thorns’ Sophie Smith says ‘we will be back’

Portland Thorns FC forward Sophia Smith is confident in her team’s abilities to return stronger than they were this season.

“My first real & full season in the NWSL was full of a lot of emotions, good and bad,” she wrote in a post to social media. “It was long and difficult but also exciting and rewarding.

“I’m so proud of my team and everything that we accomplished together, not just the trophy’s and awards, but how much we grew together as a family throughout the process. We are better for it, and we will be back.”

The Portland Thorns were the league’s best team for the majority of the season, finishing first in the regular season standings and winning the NWSL Shield.

They also won the Challenge Cup and the International Champions Cup, but were upset in the semifinal by the Chicago Red Stars, who will face off against the Washington Spirit in the championship game on Saturday.

It wasn’t an easy road for the club. Off the pitch, the team underwent several tumultuous weeks in the wake of the Paul Riley scandal. The club placed GM Gavin Wilkinson on leave, later naming Karina Leblanc in his place. Riley coached for the Thorns and was released from the team following an investigation into inappropriate behavior, an investigation which was never publicly disclosed until The Athletic released their story this year.

Head coach Mark Parsons is also on his way out after taking the job as manager for the Netherlands’ national team. Former Thorn and Canadian national teamer Rhian Wilkinson has been tabbed to take his place.