NWSL: Thorns name Canadian Rhian Wilkinson as head coach

The Portland Thorns have named Canadian Rhian Wilkinson as their new head coach, replacing Mark Parsons, who left after six seasons to become the Netherlands women's national team coach.

Wilkinson, 39, has no professional coaching experience but she has worked in recent years with the Canadian and England women’s national team programs.

Most recently, the Quebec native worked on the coaching staff for Team Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics. In 2019, the Quebec native became the head coach of Canada’s U-20 and U-17 women’s national teams and served as an assistant coach for the senior women’s national team. Prior to that, she worked with various Canadian youth teams while continuing to play.

The University of Tennessee product earned 181 international caps for Canada, winning Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016 and appearing in four Women’s World Cups (2003, 2007, 2011, 2015) and three Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016) before retiring in 2017. Most of her pro career was spent with LSK Kvinner in the Norwegian Toppserien.

One of her Canadian teammates for many years was Karina LeBlanc, who recently left Concacaf to become the Thorns general manager.

LeBlanc said in a statement:

“The hiring of Rhian is a testament to the work and dedication the players, staff and organization put into this coaching search. Culture is at the core of this team’s success, and Rhian is a culture-first coach, who I believe can navigate and lead us where we want to go. 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. 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.”

Wilkinson is no relation to Gavin Wilkinson, the Portland Timbers general manager and former Thorns general manager.
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