It's official: Thorns name Rhian Wilkinson next head coach
The Portland Thorns on Monday made official the hiring former Thorns player Rhian Wilkinson as the club's next head coach.
Wilkinson replaces Mark Parsons, who left after six seasons to become head coach for the women's national team for the Netherlands.
"Rhian has tremendous leadership qualities, character and soccer acumen that will help us grow in new ways and sustain our success," Thorns owner Merritt Paulson said in a statement announcing Wilkinson. "I expect her to ensure the club culture we have built is maintained while also putting her own stamp on the Thorns."
Most recently an assistant coach for England's women's national team, Wilkinson was an assistant coach for Canada's women's national team in 2019 and 2020.
As a player, Wilkinson appeared in 181 matches for Canada and played in four FIFA Women's World Cups and three Olympics. She finished her club career as a member of the Thorns' 2015 team.
"I know that I am inheriting a successful, winning culture on and off the field, and I have immense respect for what everybody at the club has built," Wilkinson said. "This team has a strong foundation with not only top players but great people. For me, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to join this club and organization, and I am looking forward to getting to know Portland again."
Wilkinson, 39, is a native of Pointe-Claire, Quebec and a graduate of the University of Tennessee. She is the fourth head coach in Thorns history, the second female head coach and the first to have played in the National Women's Soccer League.
Thorns general manager Karina LeBlanc, herself recently hired to replace Gavin Wilkinson (no relation) as the club's GM, called Rhian Wilkinson a culture-first coach.
"Since leaving the field, Rhian has quickly accrued valuable coaching experience and knowledge at the international level, helping her stand out in a deep and competitive candidate pool," LeBlanc said in the statement. "She knows how to challenge players in an inspiring, motivating and honest way and she will bring integrity to the role, while being a player-first person and coach."
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