Portland Thorns hires former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson as head coach: Sources

Portland Thorns FC has found a new head coach for the 2022 season, according to multiple sources. Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson, who played once for the Thorns in 2015, will succeed Mark Parsons after the 2021 season and take over the managerial position.

Wilkinson won two bronze medals with Canada in 2012 and 2016 and retired in 2017 with 181 appearances for the national team. In addition to her brief stay in Portland, she played the first 2013 NWSL season with the Boston Breakers. As a coach, she spent time as an assistant for Canada and managed the under-20 and under-17 programs for her home country.

Earlier this year, Wilkinson went to England to serve on the coaching staff of the Lionesses along with Hege Riise.

Sources indicated that the hiring will not be formally announced until after the NWSL post season is completed.

The Thorns enter the playoffs as the top team of the regular season, win the shield and advance to the semifinals. The Thorns also won the 2021 Challenge Cup this spring and the 2021 Women’s International Cup this summer. Parsons will leave at the end of the season to lead the Netherlands full-time.

The Thorns previously announced the appointment of Karina LeBlanc as the club’s new general manager. Sources said that while their hiring process was months in the making and in its final stages before being hired, LeBlanc was able to participate in the latest round of interviews. LeBlanc is no stranger to Wilkinson, who spent many years playing with her on the Canadian national team.

A source with knowledge of the hiring process said Thorn players were also involved and the original list of candidates contained more than ten names. Portland also ensured some continuity between the Parsons and Wilkinson eras by locking up director of goalkeeping Nadine Angerer – another former Thorn himself – on another multi-year contract.

There is more work for both Wilkinson and LeBlanc to do than just maintain the team’s success on the field and bolster the banners in Providence Park. The Thorns are still working through the consequences of the reporting the athletic about the behavior of former coach Paul Riley.

(Photo: Maddie Meyer/FIFA via Getty Images)

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