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ANNOUNCEMENT OF PORTLAND'S NEW NWSL COACH NOT FAR OFF, SOURCE SAYS



TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The Portland Thorns already have zeroed in on a replacement for former head coach Paul Riley, a source says.Although the Portland Thorns only just announced coach Paul Riley’s contract will not be renewed, the club has all but settled on a candidate to replace him.

An announcement naming the new coach is expected within the next two weeks, but the hire is expected to be finalized in the coming days, according to a source close to the club.

Two candidates who will not be filling that role are former U.S. women’s national team coaches Tom Sermanni and Pia Sundhage, although the club looked at both of them. Sundhage has publicly vowed to remain with Sweden’s national team through her contract ending in 2016, and the club considered Sermanni but opted to pursue another frontrunner who emerged, the source said.

Although the National Women’s Soccer League has seen a slow influx of coaches from England, with the Boston Breakers most recently hiring Matt Beard from Liverpool Ladies in England, the Thorns’ new coach will be close to the American game.

“You can bet that whoever is brought in will know the NWSL really well – the league, the players in it and the women’s game in general,” the source said.

The club’s front office wanted a new coach who has been proven to work well with young talent and maintains a good relationship with the U.S. national team program, the source added.

The Thorns announced on Wednesday that the club would not renew Riley’s contract, but did not offer details on the search for his replacement. A spokeswoman only told the Tribune the replacement search would be “an expeditious process.”

Riley finished his two-year tenure leading the Thorns with a 16-17-11 record. He told the Tribune earlier this week that he knew his job was on the line.

“You’ve got everything you need to win in Portland,” Riley said. “It’s the best women’s club in the world, I’ve said it time and time again, and they deserve better than they got this year. If I have to leave to make it better, so be it.”

The next coach will have his work cut out for him, as next season again will be one where national team players depart over the summer for a major tournament, this time the Olympics.

The Thorns’ new coach will be given full autonomy to identify players and build a roster, the source said, because the front office plays a much more limited role on the scouting efforts of the women’s side.

“There will probably be a fair amount of player activity in this offseason,” the source said. “The Thorns are a talented team, but there are some chemistry issues.”

With a recent report that Orlando City SC is expected to soon join the NWSL, rumors immediately began swirling that Thorns star Alex Morgan could end up there, where her hustand, Servando Carrasco, plays.

Morgan is highly valued in Portland, and the Thorns are not looking at a trade, the source said, but the new coach will be at the helm of any player trades in the offseason once hired.