Sports

Portland Thorns embark on the NWSL's second season as the defending champions

  • FILE - In this April 21, 2013, file photo, the Portland Thorns celebrate after Kathryn Williamson, third from right, scores during the first half of a National Women's Soccer League soccer game against the Seattle Reign in Portland, Ore. The defending NWSL champion Thorns will open the season Saturday, April 12, 2014, against the expansion Houston Dash in Houston. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)

    FILE - In this April 21, 2013, file photo, the Portland Thorns celebrate after Kathryn Williamson, third from right, scores during the first half of a National Women's Soccer League soccer game against the Seattle Reign in Portland, Ore. The defending NWSL champion Thorns will open the season Saturday, April 12, 2014, against the expansion Houston Dash in Houston. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • CORRECTS SOURCE TO THE OREGONIAN - In this April 9, 2014 photo, Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley talks with the media after the Thorns practiced in Portland, Ore. The defending NWSL champion Thorns will open the season Saturday, April 12, against the expansion Houston Dash in Houston. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Randy L. Rasmussen)

    CORRECTS SOURCE TO THE OREGONIAN - In this April 9, 2014 photo, Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley talks with the media after the Thorns practiced in Portland, Ore. The defending NWSL champion Thorns will open the season Saturday, April 12, against the expansion Houston Dash in Houston. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Randy L. Rasmussen)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this April 9, 2014 photo, Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley talks with his teams during practice in Portland, Ore. The defending NWSL champion Thorns will open the season Saturday, April 12, against the expansion Houston Dash in Houston. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Randy L. Rasmussen)

    In this April 9, 2014 photo, Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley talks with his teams during practice in Portland, Ore. The defending NWSL champion Thorns will open the season Saturday, April 12, against the expansion Houston Dash in Houston. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Randy L. Rasmussen)  (The Associated Press)

Paul Riley is in a rare position for a new coach: He has inherited a championship team.

Riley is taking over the defending NWSL champion Portland Thorns, who open their second season Saturday night against the expansion Houston Dash.

The Thorns' former coach, former U.S. national team midfielder Cindy Parlow Cone, unexpectedly stepped down to spend more time with her family a few months after Portland's 2-0 victory over the Western New York Flash in the league's inaugural title game.

Parlow Cone is a tough act to follow, Riley said. But the Thorns will tweak a few things in their quest to repeat, adopting their new coach's aggressive, attack-oriented system.

That could be daunting for the Dash, who were just announced as the league's ninth team in December.