“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 in the Thorns’ press release. “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.”
Wilkinson, 39, previously served as an assistant coach with the England Women’s National Team. She was part of the coaching staff for Team Great Britain at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Wilkinson was also the Canada Women’s National Team assistant coach in 2019 and 2020.
“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 became the head coach of the U-20 and U-17 Canada women’s national team while serving as the assistant coach for the senior national team. Before joining the Canadian federation full time, she coached the Girls Elite REX program which helps provide youth in Canada a pathway to scholarships, professional soccer and the Canadian national team.
“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.”
Wilkinson worked within the Canada youth national team system beginning in 2014 as an assistant coach for the U-20 Women’s World Cup team. She also worked with the U-17s and the full Canada Women’s National Team from 2017-2019. Wilkinson was the head coach of the U-15 Concacaf Tournament in 2018. Wilkinson guided the U-17 team to a fourth-place finish at the U-17 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Wilkinson was capped 181 times by Canada and won two Olympic bronze medals (2012, 2016). She spent a large portion of her club career in Norway with LSK Kvinner. Wilkinson played for the Boston Breakers in the team’s inaugural NWSL season in 2013. She played her last club match with the Portland Thorns in 2015.
The full release is available here.