CanWNT forward Adriana Leon joins Portland Thorns on short-term loan from Manchester United
With the 2023 World Cup rapidly approaching, Canadian forward Adriana Leon joined the Portland Thorns on a short-term loan through June 30th from Manchester United on Thursday.
After The Equalizer’s Dan Lauletta reported earlier on Thursday that the 30-year-old Leon is set to join the NWSL’s Portland Thorns from Manchester United, it's a big move for Leon, who returns to the NWSL for the first time since 2018.
A versatile attacker, one who can play anywhere across the frontline, Leon will bring a short-term injection of offence to an already-dangerous Thorns frontline, one that boasts 2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith, among others.
Plus, this move comes at a perfect time for Leon, as minutes have been hard to come by for her at the club level as of late, which is less than ideal with the World Cup rapidly approaching.
Even though she joined United less than a year ago, Leon has struggled for minutes at her new club since day one, playing just eight games in all competitions in 2022-2023. Despite that, however, she’s still scored three goals over that span, doing well to find the scoresheet in the rare opportunities that she did see the field.
Because of that, it’s felt that she could benefit massively from a reset. It will be unfortunate to potentially leave United at this time, as they’re currently atop the FAWSL with 41 points after 17 games, and are into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, but for Leon, the need for minutes will be more important than the chance to win trophies.
And given that she’s played just twice for United since the start of 2023, for a total of 30 minutes, it’s hard to imagine a long-term future for her at the club.
Just seeing that there were reports that emerged earlier this year that she was very close to going on loan to AC Milan, with that deal only falling through as United weren’t able to secure a replacement for her in the transfer window, shows that a move like this has been in the works for a while now.
Therefore, it makes this Portland Thorns move interesting. Only a short-term loan, it'll be intriguing to see if this move pushes either the Thorns or another club to nab Leon permanently after it's over, or if it'll help Leon get a fresh start to potentially return stronger to united.
For what it’s worth, however, this move should be a huge boost for Leon no matter what ends up happening, as the Thorns is a good spot to be in the short-term. Led by Canadian GM Karina LeBlanc and captain Christine Sinclair, who Leon both knows very well, the team has earned the nickname “Portlanada” due to their heavy Canadian presence, which also includes the injured Janine Beckie.
Plus, this wouldn’t be the first time that Portland made a move like this to help a Canadian in a similar situation, as Beckie came to the club last year after struggling for minutes with Manchester City, albeit on a more permanent deal, before playing a key role in Portland’s championship-winning season.
Therefore, Leon will look to strike similar magic with this move, returning to a league where she played the first five seasons of her career, while also getting the minutes she needs ahead of the World Cup. Having scored a team-leading nine goals for Canada since the start of 2021, she’ll be expected to contribute big time for them down under, as when she’s in form, she’s one of the best scorers on the team, and has shown that over the past few years.
And that’s exactly what Portland is banking on seeing when she suits up for them, as well, in what they’ll hope is a win-win move for club and country, helping Leon get back on track after a mixed 22-23.