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The Pilots' women's soccer team won a second NCAA title in 2005, cementing the small, Catholic university's reputation as a national power.
"Growing up, we didn't have many pro sports teams—the Trail Blazers were the Jail Blazers—and it was really easy to go to UP games.
In the process, he transformed the Pilots from a middling program into a buzzsaw.
Under his tutelage, the Pilots had a combined 439-144-44 record, including the 2002 women's NCAA championship in his final season.
"I just have so much respect for our fans," Long says, her eyes flashing as she recounts the story.
"There's a sense of family, just that this group of people has your back. That's more than double the turnout of all but one of the nine other teams in the National Women's Soccer League.
Last year, they won just six of 20 matches, failing to even reach the playoffs. Average home attendance rose from 13,320 in the Thorns' first season to 15,639 in last year's dismal performance to 16,772 this season.
(Disclosure: This author writes copy for Nike, which is a sponsor of the Thorns.) The Thorns' biggest crowd this season at Providence Park was 19,231 on July 30, when Portland defeated the Seattle Reign 1-0 despite playing without its Olympians.
We're all very hard on ourselves and want to do our best, and the fans never go away." They played for the U. Olympic women's soccer team, which was favored to win gold in Rio de Janeiro, only to be knocked out in the quarterfinals. Even soccer-mad Seattle draws only 4,590 per game for Reign matches.
4, the Thorns' Olympians—including Christine Sinclair, who helped Canada win the bronze medal, and Amandine Henry, who competed for France—return to Providence Park for Portland's game against the Boston Breakers.
Most other NWSL teams market their matches as a family night.