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Dunn, Rodriguez out; Fleming in: Portland’s new era is starting to take shape

The Thorns’ offseason was defined by change, but the path forward in midfield looks clear

Jessie Fleming celebrates for Canada.
Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a different feeling in the air in the Rose City this offseason. A Portland Thorns franchise that is so used to stability relative to the volatile world of the National Women’s Soccer League has undergone an upheaval on and off the field.

New ownership for the Thorns is a welcome development by fans after nearly two years of protests and strife with Merritt Paulson following revelations of past abuse and enablement at the club. The recent closing of a sale to Lisa Bhathal Merage and her brother, Alex Bhathal, brought direction and finality to that saga.

The three-time league champions are going to look a lot different on the field in 2024, too. Gone is Crystal Dunn, architect of one of the team’s most incredible moments in the 2022 semifinal, when she scored a game-winning volley in stoppage time only weeks into her return to the field following maternity leave. Dunn, who signed with NJ/NY Gotham as a free agent, spent three years in Portland and won a championship six days after that famous moment.

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