Spanish midfielder Vero Boquete and Australian defender Stephanie Catley have joined the club and participated in their first practice in Portland on Monday. Boquete played for Thorns coach Paul Riley in WPS in 2011, winning the league MVP award that year. Catley, 20, gives Portland a left-footed option at left back, and she could step into the role immediately with Kat Tarr suspended after being red-carded in the loss to Boston.
Alex Morgan is also finally healthy and will play as scheduled on Sunday, Riley told media on Monday. Morgan has not played competitively in seven months after a sprained left ankle turned into a stress reaction that has been meticulously monitored by Portland and U.S. Soccer. She has been training with the team for several weeks now.
“Morgan looks great, she looks fresh, she looks hungry,” Riley said Wednesday.
And after such a poor performance in Boston last week, the influx of world-class players couldn’t come at a better time for the Thorns.
“Vero is just Vero. She’s going to come in and light the place up in practice,” Riley told The Equalizer after Wednesday’s loss. “They’ve got a chance to go straight in the lineup, because after these two performances, there’s obviously going to be some changes. I’m not sure I’ll make nine changes like Tom (Durkin) did tonight, but there will be some changes.”
[Kassouf: Second half of NWSL season will look very, very different]
Riley is also looking forward to the return of defender Rachel Van Hollebeke, who has missed the entire season thus far with a sprained left ankle. Riley said the U.S. center back possesses the leadership the Thorns are lacking. And with all the injuries, combined with late arrivals — midfielder Tobin Heath isn’t even in Portland yet, and might not be until July 1 — Riley said the Thorns are in an alright spot at this point of the season (4-3-2, 14 pts.; 5th place).
“We were pretty happy with 14 points. I thought we overachieved a little bit to get to that point, with what we’ve been able to do. They (new players) are going to obviously help, no question. I think we just need more competition, because it’s hard to change the game. We don’t have a lot of options on the bench.”
Now the Western New York Flash get to guess what Riley’s lineup will look like on Saturday in a massive mid-table (yes, mid-table) match between last year’s two finalists. Flash coach Aaran Lines is well aware of Boquete’s skills from WPS.
Here’s Boquete talking about joining the Thorns, after her first practice with the team:
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