After the Portland Thorns' first year in existence, and their first championship, the team's head coach, Cindy Parlow Cone, is stepping down. Grant Wahl first broke the story, which was quickly confirmed by Merritt Paulson on twitter.
Cindy will be missed. One yr and one championship. But moreso great ambassador for team in Thorns historic first year. Thanks @cone_cindy— Merritt Paulson (@MerrittPaulson) December 5, 2013
Under Cone's direction, the Thorns' went 11-6-5 in their inaugeral season. The Thorns ended the season in a three-way tie for first place with the Western New York Flash and FC Kansas City, both of whom the Thorns would beat in the playoffs on their way to becoming the first ever NWSL Champions.
Despite the team's success, there were regular murmurings of discontent with Cone and her style of play, which often seemed overly direct, particularly in light of the more possession and pressure oriented game being played by the Timbers this year. Rumors of locker-room discord also spread, typified by Danielle Foxhoven's comment that "most of us" were trying in the Thorns' regular season loss to FCKC.
Interestingly, Foxhoven was traded to the Seattle Reign last week for forward Jessica McDonald and the rights to defender Rebecca Moros. McDonald, who played at UNC while Cone was an assistant coach there, is the sixth UNC player to be brought in by the Thorns under Cone's direction.
The search for a new coach appears to be well underway, with Grant Wahl mentioning Paul Riley as a possibility for the position. Riley coached the Philadelphia Independence of the WPS in 2010 and 2011, was named the WPS Coach of the Year in 2010, and took the Independence to the finals in 2011 where they lost the the WNY Flash.
Merritt Paulson also tweeted about the coaching search, indicating that the position may not be vacant long.
The fallout from this move may affect Portland Timbers' fans as well as Cone is married to John Cone, the Timbers' Director of Sports Science. Cone is already the Timbers' third fitness coach through their third year in MLS and appears to have had a major impact on the team's conditioning, so losing him could be a serious blow to the Timbers. No mention has been made yet of him resigning as well.