ROCHESTER, N.Y. – There’s only only one player on Portland Thorns FC’s roster that’s managed to notch a goal against the Western New York Flash in their two match-ups of the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season. It’s perhaps not the name you’d expect if you missed their two previous meetings, not Alex Morgan or Christine Sinclair, but instead rookie midfielder Mana Shim.
Back in July, in a match that turned into an epic goalkeeper duel, Shim buried a low shot past a diving Adriana Franch to equalize for the Thorns just a minute after Abby Wambach scored. The scoreline would finish 1-1, and their rematch on August 10th at Sahlen’s Stadium ended in a nil-nil draw.
As August and the NWSL season come to a close, she’ll be in her first professional women’s soccer championship game. And with Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan both officially listed as probable on the injury report for the the match, Portland will still need players like Shim to step up.
Shim’s season has been a break-out one for Portland. She was picked up by the team as a discovery player, and wasn’t on most people’s radars before the season started. With a midfield for Portland that looked set early on with Becky Edwards, Allie Long, Angie Kerr, and Nikki Washington and the expected mid-season arrival of Heath, Shim didn’t play a single minute in April.
Her first start was May 4th against the Washington Spirit; her first goal was scored at home against Seattle Reign FC on June 16. And then Shim went on a four-game scoring streak in July, starting with that lone goal against Western New York. She also scored in Boston on July 21, in the battle against the Chicago Red Stars on July 28, and against Sky Blue FC on July 31.
Off the field, Shim joined 17 other NWSL players in becoming ambassadors for Athlete Ally, a non-profit that combats homophobia and transphobia in sports. Shim was matter-of-fact and open about her sexuality in her statement posted on the organization’s website: “I’m a lesbian who will continue to advocate for LGBT rights until sexuality isn’t used to make people uncomfortable or unsafe.”
She says it’s an honor to share the field with her fellow ambassadors, including Sarah Huffman, at the NWSL Championship but it won’t affect the way she plays. “On the field, you treat them like any other player, but I have a special respect for those players that are out.”
As for the final result tonight, Shim wouldn’t mind being the hero but isn’t looking for individual glory either. The focus is a Portland Thorns FC win, regardless of who ends up with the game-winner.
“I don’t care how it happens, but it’s going to happen.”
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