When Courtney Wetzel noticed that open tryouts were being held for the Portland Thorns FC, it was an opportunity she didn’t want to pass by.

It was a chance for Wetzel, a former Oregon State women’s soccer player, to join one of eight teams making up a new league, the National Women’s Soccer League.

“I just decided to give it a shot,” Wetzel said.

Although Wetzel was a second-team all-conference selection as a senior in 2010, had a short stint with the U.S. Women’s U-23 National Team and played in a German league, there were no guarantees.

With 55 members of the U.S., Canadian and Mexican national teams allocated to the eight NWSL teams, a college draft, a supplemental draft and additional signings, the rosters were almost full.

Wetzel said there were about 80 players trying out for the Thorns at Jeld-Wen Field.

The experience was nerve-wracking because the players never knew if or when they would get cut.

“It was just a big trial process,” she said. “Each week there was a different round.

“I finally made the roster.”

Wetzel, a defender/midfielder, joined U.S. national players Alex Morgan, Rachel Buehler and Tobin Heath, Canadians Christine Sinclair and Karin LeBlanc and Marlene Sandoval and Luz Saucedo of Mexico.

The American and Canadian players all participated in the 2012 Olympic Games and Sandoval and Saucedo both played for Mexico in the 2004 Olympics.

Morgan and Sinclair are considered to be among the best forwards anywhere, so the Thorns should be a strong offensive team.

“I think we have high expectations,” Wetzel said.

“We have the two top forwards in the world, so I think the expectation is that we’ll be a powerhouse up front.”

Practicing alongside those top players has been fun for Wetzel and she’s looking forward to getting game experience with them as well.

“It’s awesome, they’re great (players),” she said. “They’re great people in general.

“They’re just great team players and they make people around them better.”

The season-opener was at Kansas City last Saturday, and Wetzel entered in the 90th minute of a 1-1 draw.

Wetzel will also be able to travel to Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Washington, Rochester, N.Y. and Piscataway Township, N.J.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said. “Each team is going to be tough and experiencing that and traveling is always fun. I look forward to playing every weekend.”

The team will play at Jeld-Wen Field, with the first home game on Sunday against the Seattle Reign.

Jeld-Wen is also the home of the Portland Timbers.

Wetzel said it will be one of the bigger and better facilities in the NWSL.

“It is nice to have the same facilities as the Timbers and what teams have the same opportunity of playing at Jeld-Wen?” Wetzel said.

Even though it holds 22,000, it won’t be empty for the Thorns’ games.

The team has sold 7,000 season tickets so far, not to mention single-game sales.

“We’re hoping that will stick around the whole season,” Wetzel said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

Kevin Hampton is sports reporter for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 541-758-9519 or kevin.hampton@lee.net.

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