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A Moment To Celebrate In PDX Saturday

Apr 29, 2022

An historic moment for the Oregon soccer program could potentially take place Saturday in Portland, and the Ducks will be on hand to witness it.

Among the matchups on the opening weekend of the National Women's Soccer League regular season is a visit by the Kansas City Current to face the Portland Thorns. The two teams meet Saturday at Providence Park in Portland at 3 p.m., with a live stream available via Twitch.

Oregon coach Graeme Abel and his team will be in the seats for the match. They're hoping to see history for the program — the possibility that two alums, fourth-year Thorns forward Marissa Everett and rookie midfielder Chardonnay Curran of Kansas City, could see the field at the same time.

It was only three years ago that Jazmin Jackmon was the first UO soccer player drafted into the NWSL. Everett signed with the Thorns as a National Team Replacement Player in 2019 after leading the Ducks with eight goals in 2018, and Curran is in her rookie season with the Current after wrapping up her UO career last fall with a program-record 92 matches played.

In just a few short years, the Ducks have gone from having their first NWSL draft pick to having players in opposing jerseys for a match Saturday.

"Hopefully we can both get on the field — that would be extra special," Everett said.

Competition in the NWSL began this year with the league's Challenge Cup. Matches began March 18, and Curran made her professional debut that day as a sub in the 69th minute of a tie with Racing Louisville FC. Since then Curran has made five more appearances including two starts for Kansas City, which has advanced to next week's Challenge Cup semifinals.

But first, there's Saturday's regular-season opener back in the state where she attended college, and with her former teammates on hand.

"I'm excited to come back, and hopefully see some familiar faces," Curran said.

Everett made four Challenge Cup appearances for the Thorns, all in reserve. She played a season-high 25 minutes in a loss Sunday to Angel City FC.

Everett made her NWSL debut in 2019 and scored her first career goal that season. She made 10 appearances including six starts and scored two goals in 2021, and in February of this year the Thorns signed her to a contract for 2022 with an option for 2023 as well.

A prolific scorer in college, Everett is taking a process-oriented approach as a professional.

"Personally it's just, work my butt off," said Everett, who had 18 goals including 10 game-winning goals at Oregon. "Never have them question my work ethic, my attitude on the field. I never want them to question my commitment and my work. So every time I step out on the field — practice or games — I'm prepared to lay it all out there."

Among Portland's forwards are elite goal scorers including Christine Sinclair and Sophia Smith. Everett knows there are some matches when she might not get off the bench. And this year the club is learning a new style under first-year coach Rhian Wilkinson.

"My journey was never going to be linear," Everett said. "There were going to be ups and downs; there were going to be days when I get a lot of minutes and days I don't play. But I've approached it as, how can I be a better version of myself?"

Among the most important lessons Everett has learned, she said, was that as a professional you have to be all-in. When she was at Oregon, she was unsure about the prospects of a pro career. But an NWSL player can't be unsure of anything; she has to attack every element of being a pro.

One player who has always embodied that mentality? One of Everett's opponents Saturday, her teammate with the Ducks back in 2017 and 2018, Curran.

"Even at Oregon she was always like that, I could see," Everett said. "It's awesome to see her finally get the recognition."

Making the jump into the pro ranks hasn't been without challenges, Curran said. But while Everett might have been uncertain about her pro prospects while in college, Curran put herself on a path to this level from a young age.

"I just carried myself and held myself to a higher standard than a typical teenager or a typical soccer player," Curran said. "I think that helped me a lot. And once I got to Oregon, I took full advantage. That was my first chance to go to a new environment, away from my family. I just grew up a little early, and that helped me a lot."

Despite that, Curran said she was "pretty surprised" to have contributed so much so early for the Current. Like Everett, her mentality entering any given match is simple — stay ready.

"It humbled me in many ways," Curran said, "but the biggest thing is, when my moment comes, whatever my role is, make sure I'm able to do it."

Everett's best piece of advice for an NWSL rookie is to go all-in, and Curran is heeding it — including off the field. The native of Hawaii has surprised even herself with how much she has taken to the city of Kansas City, home of the first-year franchise.

"The biggest thing for me is just growing up in the game and growing as a person," Curran said. "Obviously I want to improve my skills, and obviously I want to win. But my biggest goal here is to find myself within the community, measure myself from that standpoint. … I feel like I'm in the right spot, and I want to enjoy it and go beyond."

If a college player's goal is to leave a program better than she found it, both Everett and Curran were successful at Oregon. Now they're looking to make their mark at the next level — and potentially make a bit of history as UO alumnae on Saturday in Portland.