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Thorns’ assistant coach, head athletic trainer fired after NWSL investigation

An investigation into misconduct has resulted in the Thorns firing Sophie Clough and Pierre Soubrier.

NWSL: San Diego Wave FC at Portland Thorns FC Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

In the wake of an NWSL investigation into allegations of misconduct, the Portland Thorns have fired assistant coach Sophie Clough and head athletic trainer Pierre Soubrier.

Clough was under investigation for an incident where she made a Thorns player feel uncomfortable by kissing her neck during the team’s celebration after winning the 2022 NWSL Championship in Washington, D.C. last year.

The Thorns leadership reported the incident of unwanted physical contact to the league in early November, 2022.

The league conducted an investigation via a third-party attorney, and after the investigation’s conclusion the claims of unwanted physical contact were substantiated and found to be in violation of league policy.

During the investigation, claims of bullying behavior by Clough were also raised. The third-party investigator found that the reports were unsubstantiated and “did not exceed the bounds of appropriate coaching”, as shared in an official statement from the NWSL.

The investigation into Soubrier’s conduct was initiated by a self-report from Dr. Breanne Brown, the Thorns’ team physician, to the team’s general manager in late November, 2022. Brown raised concerns that Soubrier informed her that he had given two players a medication that contained codeine during the Thorns’ NWSL semifinal win at home on October 22, 2022.

Codeine is a controlled substance that requires a prescription and should only be administered by a physician, and the administration of it without a prescription and physician supervision is a violation of federal and state laws and league policy.

Soubrier was placed on administrative leave by the league on December 7, 2022.

The investigation led by a third-party attorney found that the concerns were substantiated and in violation of league policy, as well as state and federal laws. Soubrier administered the controlled substance to the players on multiple occasions without a prescription and physician supervision. Additionally, the medication was administered by Soubrier to one player without her informed consent.

The investigation also confirmed, as self-reported by Dr. Brown, that Dr. Brown provided Soubrier access to a controlled substance, upon his request, to give to a Thorns’ player if needed. Dr. Brown “became uncomfortable with this decision and promptly communicated to Soubrier that it should not be administered.” The medication was then retrieved by Dr. Brown, and she was not found to be in violation of any federal or state law or league policy.

Both incidents were self-reported to the league by the Thorns.

“Portland Thorns FC remain committed to following all NWSL policies. The club reported to the league and fully cooperated with the league’s investigation into the allegations of misconduct by head athletic trainer Pierre Soubrier and assistant coach Sophie Clough,” the team shared in a statement to Ryan Clarke of The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Upon receiving the NWSL’s final investigative findings, the club has terminated the employment of both Soubrier and Clough. The health and safety of the players is our utmost priority.”

Soubrier was hired as the Thorns’ athletic trainer in 2019, and is married to current Thorns player Crystal Dunn. Clough has been with the club since 2016, when she came on as a member of Mark Parsons’ staff as an assistant.

Both Clough and Soubrier were suspended by the league without pay through the end of the 2023 NWSL season, and the Portland Thorns took the step of firing both staff members. Soubrier has also been reported by the league to the Oregon Board of Athletic Trainers (Oregon Board) and the Board of Certification (BOC).

Both individuals are eligible for future employment at the Commissioner’s discretion, providing they have met the criteria for reinstatement.

The report of the NWSL investigation also names former Washington Spirit head coach Kris Ward as ineligible to work in the league without Commissioner approval, for substantiated claims “verbal abuse and emotional misconduct” against Spirit players.