Image: Michael Byers

For fans, the Women’s World Cup will be summer’s big communal sports-watching fiesta. And with key games in cozy-close Vancouver, British Columbia, many soccer-mad Portlanders will catch some of the quadrennial showcase in person. The city’s top players, naturally, will experience the Cup differently, as they attempt to crush each others’ dreams. 

The Portland Thorns include some of the best players from around the world, which makes sense for the team that draws the National Women’s Soccer League’s biggest crowds. (“The Thorns are uniquely important to the league,” says Jeff Kassouf of The Equalizer, a leading women’s soccer blog.) But for four weeks, loyalties scramble as stars like Alex Morgan (United States), Christine Sinclair (Canada), and Nadine Angerer (Germany) trade Thorns jerseys for national colors. 

Sinclair and Morgan furiously traded goals in a contentious 2012 Olympic semifinal, only to become Thorns teammates within a year. Another clash between the two could very well decide the tournament. “Alex Morgan is arguably the most important player for the US,” Kassouf says, “and Sinclair can carry a whole team on her back, to a semifinal and maybe beyond.”

Shifting identities are part of the global game but can create odd professional dynamics. “It’s refreshing playing here,” says Thorns forward Jodie Taylor, who plays internationally for England. “Club matches in England can get quite heated, and then it can be a bit awkward the first few days of national team camp.”

Awkward? Perhaps. Fun to watch? Absolutely.

Portland’s World Cup Stars
on rivalries and the international experience

NADINE ANGERER (Goalkeeper, Germany) It’s crazy because you’re so close with your club teammates, and with the national team we don’t have so much time together. You have to be smart about players you know well: what are their strengths, their weaknesses. In Thorns training, I’ll say, ‘C’mon, Alex, let’s imitate the World Cup final.’ It’s fun. As long as they don’t score.

CHRISTINE SINCLAIR (Forward, Canada) I’ve been teammates with lots of my international opponents. And when I’m playing with my club team, I play against a lot of my Canada teammates. Whatever team you’re with, those are your teammates.

JODIE TAYLOR (Forward, England) We just played China in Manchester on a Thursday, then I traveled all day Friday, straight into Thorns training, and we played in Portland on Saturday night. That was a brutal, brutal few days.

ALEX MORGAN (Forward, United States) USA versus Germany is always competitive. I joke with Nadine that she might pass to me by mistake. We haven’t brought home a cup since 1999, and in 2011 [when Japan won in a shootout] we felt like it was taken out of our hands, which was totally heart-wrenching. This time, it’s no regrets, no mistakes.

Honorable mention*
MEGAN RAPINOE
(Midfielder, United States) Personally, I love it. After most games, you can have a laugh with ‘em. It adds a special element to your relationship with those players that you don’t
have with anyone else. 

*Rapinoe plays for the NWSL’s Seattle Reign—but we’ll still claim the former University of Portland star as our own. The Thorns’ roster also includes likely World Cup players Steph Catley (defender, Australia), Tobin Heath (midfielder, United States), Kaylyn Kyle (midfielder, Canada), and Rhian Wilkinson (midfielder, Canada).

THE LOCAL FAN GUIDE

Our favorite spots to watch the games:

At press time, Ticketmaster Canada listed available tickets for Vancouver matches on June 8, 12, 16, 21, 23, and 27. (The July 5 final is sold out.) For Portland Monthly’s guide to the City of Glass, visit pdxmonthly.com/vancouver.

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