NWSL News: Portland Thorns FC hires Rhian Wilkinson as head coach

Rhian Wilkinson playing for Canada, 2011. By Thewomensgame at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

PORTLAND, OREGON – Portland Thorns FC have named Rhian Wilkinson as the club’s head coach entering the 2022 NWSL season, it was announced today. Wilkinson, the fourth head coach in Thorns FC history, is a former Canadian international and most recently served as an assistant coach with the England Women’s National Team.

“After an extensive and collaborative search process, I am thrilled to welcome Rhian Wilkinson as the head coach of the Portland Thorns,” said Thorns FC owner and CEO Merritt Paulson. “Rhian has tremendous leadership qualities, character and soccer acumen that will help us grow in new ways and sustain our success. I expect her to ensure the club culture we have built is maintained while also putting her own stamp on the Thorns.”

Wilkinson, 39, arrives in Portland after her time as an assistant coach with the England Women’s National Team. During her tenure with the Lionesses, Wilkinson was part of the coaching staff for Team Great Britain at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Prior to her time with England, Wilkinson served as assistant coach for the Canada Women’s National Team in 2019 and 2020, working with the senior team during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“The hiring of Rhian is a testament to the work and dedication the players, staff and organization put into this coaching search,” said Thorns FC general manager Karina LeBlanc. “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.”

In 2019, Wilkinson became the head coach of Canada’s U-20 and U-17 women’s national teams, while serving as an assistant coach for the senior women’s national team. Prior to joining Canada Soccer full time, Wilkinson was the head coach of the Girls Elite REX program, helping provide a pathway for youth in Canada to professional soccer, scholarships and the Canadian national team.

Wilkinson began her work within the Canada youth national team system in 2014 as an assistant coach for the U-20 Women’s World Cup team, while also gaining experience with the U-17s and senior team from 2017-2019. At the youth level with Canada, Wilkinson was the head coach at the U-15 Concacaf Tournament in 2018 and helped guide the U-17s to a fourth-place finish at the 2018 U-17 FIFA World Cup in Uruguay.

“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,” said Wilkinson. “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.”

With Canada, Wilkinson earned 181 international caps, winning two Olympic bronze medals (2012, 2016), appearing in four FIFA Women’s World Cups (2003, 2007, 2011, 2015) and three Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016) before retiring in 2017. A member of the Canada squad that claimed the Concacaf Championship in 2010, Wilkinson helped her country win gold at the 2011 Pan American Games, silver in 2003 and bronze in 2007. She was named Quebec’s Female Player of Excellence six times throughout her international career (2013, 2012, 2011, 2008, 2007, 2005) and in 2012 was honored on the All-Time Canada XI women’s team.

At the club level, Wilkinson played professionally in first division in Norway from 2005-12 with LSK Kvinner, winning the Norwegian Toppserien in 2012. Wilkinson was a member of the Boston Breakers for the team’s inaugural NWSL season in 2013, making 14 appearances and registering two goals. She made her final club appearance with Thorns FC during the 2015 NWSL season.

The Pointe-Claire, Quebec, native holds UEFA A and B Licenses. Wilkinson is a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications.

COURTESY NWSL COMMUNICATIONS

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