Twenty-two percent of the US Olympic roster is rooted in Portland, with four players heading to Tokyo from the Thorns. Of the four Americans making the trip, there’s one who will be blooming on the world stage for the first time while others are on the hunt for more international medals, either second golds or looking to change the colour of the one they got five years ago. Here they are:
Franch’s ticket to Tokyo comes just three months into her on-field return after rehabbing a nasty knee injury. Having been on the World Cup winning team in 2019, Franch is on a quest for a World Cup/Olympics double in her first ever Olympic tourney.
Her nomination to the team comes as no surprise as she’s backstopped the Thorns to second in the NWSL and continues to be one of the league’s premier keepers. She set the NWSL record for shutouts back in 2017 and was named Goalkeeper of the Year in that season and the next. She’s 4-2 this season and was a pillar on which the team’s Challenge Cup championship was built.
She has 5 caps for the USWNT with two clean sheets and while she’ll likely start the tournament on the bench behind Alyssa Naeher, we shouldn’t count out an appearance from Franch in at least the final group stage game if the US have the group on lock.
The USA’s resident Swiss Army Knife will be making her second trip to the Olympics. Dunn has won almost every team title she’s had a chance at (NCAA Championship at North Carolina in 2012, WSL Spring Series Championship with Chelsea in 2017, NWSL Championship with North Carolina Courage in 2018 and 2019, and the 2019 World Cup with Team USA) yet the Olympics have eluded her. This year, Dunn and the rest of the USWNT are clear cut favourites for the top of the podium and the versatile Thorns player will be a key to them meeting expectations.
In her six games with Portland this season she has a goal and an assist and is key in the Thorns’ incredible midfield control. While she features in a more attacking midfielder role with Portland, she has become indispensable as a wing back for the national team, though they have moved her around. In order to win, it would most likely be in their best interest to keep her on the back line where she can punish opponents with her speed on the overlap run and her attacking prowess is nearly unparalleled.
Dunn has featured for the national team 114 times, finding the back of the net 24 times from the back line. When she isn’t scoring, she’s creating plays, with 18 primary assists for her USWNT teammates. Dunn has had an up and down experience with the national team, having been left off the 2015 World Cup squad but has since made herself an inextricable part of this team’s style of play and will look to dominate opposing attacks in Tokyo.
The heartbeat of the Portland midfield is headed to Japan where she will likely take up the same role. Horan, like Dunn, is looking to add Olympic Gold to her trophy case. Unlike her previous two major tournaments, it is likely that Horan will feature prominently for the States as she is poised to translate her NWSL dominance to the world stage.
Her goal and assist for Portland this season are not a complete representation of her impact on the field; the way Horan commands the midfield is nothing short of stunning to watch as she truly is consistently one of the smartest and most dominant players on the field. With the way she has taken the NWSL by storm, it’s hard to imagine she’ll be used as anything less than a starter by Vlatko Andonovski as opposed to the substitute role she filled under past coaches.
In her 96 caps Horan has found the back of the net 20 times while assisting on 33 goals. Should the USA make it out of the group stage as expected, Horan is more than likely to earn her 100th national cap, a milestone more than deserved.
Sauerbrunn is truly the backbone of the squad and will wear the captain’s armband in Tokyo. As one of the best defenders in the game, this could be one of the absences Portland will miss the most, but one that will potentially benefit the national team the most. It will be Sauerbrunn’s third Olympics and she’ll be looking to add another gold medal to her collection after the US finished atop the podium in 2012.
Becky Sauerbrunn heads to Tokyo hoping for her second gold medal following London 2012, but this time doing so with the captain’s armband in a starting role.— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) June 24, 2021
Read: https://t.co/N2NObhWM6M | #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/bwFEE4vtdg
During their run to gold in 2012, Sauerbrunn was a substitute, not earning regular minutes but stepping up to the plate when asked. Her steady climb to elite-status since then is a large part of the reason this USWNT is so heavily favoured: it’s simply unlikely that opponents will beat a backline anchored by Sauerbrunn.
While there are no flashy stats that accompany her illustrious national career to date, her 186 caps are perhaps the most consistent 186 games in recent history. While she has seven assists, it’s hard to imagine the fanfare that would erupt should she ever find the back of the net herself.
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