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Rhian Wilkinson says she’s ‘earned’ opportunity to be Thorns coach

(Photo by Buda Mendes - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Rhian Wilkinson has officially been tabbed as the next head coach of the Portland Thorns.

The news comes after reports by The Athletic in early November that singled out Wilkinson as the club’s next head coach following the departure of Mark Parsons to the Netherlands’ 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 in a release. “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.”

The 39-year-old has spent time as an assistant coach with the England’s Women’s National Team and for the Canada Women’s National Team.

Wilkinson made one appearance for the Thorns in 2015 and spent time on the Canadian national team with recently-hired Thorns’ general manager Karina Leblanc.

“The hiring of Rhian is a testament to the work and dedication the players, staff and organization put into this coaching search,” said 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 an interview posted to the team’s social media accounts, Wilkinson emphasized how she’s not looking to change too much about the team, which won the NWSL Shield this season as well as the Challenge Cup.

“I will not be rewriting a successful book,” she said. “This team is doing a lot of things really, really well right now and I have to highlight the incredible staff. To follow that is an honor. This is the ideal situation to be walking into.”

She added that she’s excited to bring a new energy to the team. Still, she knows that with her experience as both a player and a coach, the opportunity has been earned.

“I don’t want to say this is a dream come true because then I think people feel like it’s being gifted,” she said. “I know I’ve earned this opportunity, I’m so excited to show what I can bring and to work with the amazing players that are already here and the incredible staff that are in place and the work they’re doing.”