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Portland Thorns Make It Official, Name Mark Parsons Head Coach

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Stacey Neve

We all knew it was coming but now it is official: the Portland Thorns have named Mark Parson as the club's head coach for the 2016 season.

The turnaround has been a quick one for the Thorns. The team parted ways with Paul Riley two weeks ago and Parsons left his position as the head coach and general manager of the Washington Spirit just last week.

With rumors of offseason changes on the way, the addition of Parsons gives the Thorns a head coach who has experience rebuilding a team into a playoff contender. Parsons took over the Spirit in 2013 late in the club's inaugural season as they put together just three wins; the following year, under Parsons' guidance, the Spirit won ten games on the way to their first of two consecutive appearances in the NWSL playoffs.

Parsons inherits a Thorns side heavily shaped by Riley that includes a number of players from Riley's time as head coach of the Philadelphia Independence. Despite a reputation as a pragmatic coach who will fit his system to his players rather than the other way around, expect Parsons to have free reign to go after players to build that team that he wants.

The Thorns press release:

THORNS FC NAME MARK PARSONS AS HEAD COACH FOR 2016 SEASON
Former Washington Spirit head coach to lead Portland in fourth NWSL season


PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC today named Mark Parsons as the club’s head coach for the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League season. 

The former head coach and general manager of the Washington Spirit of the NWSL, Parsons, 29, helped guide the Spirit to consecutive league playoff appearances during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, posting a record of 18-15-11 in his two full seasons as head coach for the club. Assuming the role of head coach in July 2013 and general manger in September 2013, Parsons helped engineer one of the most successful turnarounds in league history as the Spirit went on to a 10-win season and secured a berth in the league playoffs in 2014 after winning just three games the previous season.

"We are excited to announce Mark as the new head coach of Thorns FC. His coaching philosophy, skill set and personality are a very good fit for the organization and we are excited to see what he can do with the considerable resources he will have," said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager of Thorns FC. "Mark is a well-respected, ambitious young coach with experience and understanding of the NWSL – all attributes we believe essential to success."

Under Parsons’ guidance in 2015, the Spirit ranked among the top three teams in the league in goals scored (31). In addition, the Spirit Reserves won the W-League Championship, the U20s were national finalists and five Super Y Academy teams were also national finalists with Parsons at the helm as general manager.

"I am honored and grateful to be given the opportunity by Merritt Paulson and Gavin Wilkinson to take over as head coach of the Thorns," said Parsons. "During my visits and time here I have developed a strong admiration for the fans, the city and their passion for soccer. I am excited to get started with the players and commit to holding the highest possible standards of excellence in everything that we do. I can’t wait to hear that first roar from the Riveters in 2016." 

As the head coach of the Spirit Reserves in 2013, Parsons led the team to a third-place finish at the National Championships, while also helping launch the club’s academy programs. In 2012, Parsons helped guide the D.C. United Women U20s to the National Championship match, earning a runner-up finish. 

Before his arrival in the United States, Parsons was with Chelsea FC from 2004-10, working with both the girls and boys academies during his tenure, while also serving as the head coach for the Chelsea Ladies Reserves from 2008-10. During the 2008-09 campaign, the Reserves won the League Cup, the County Cup and the League Title for the first time in history. As an assistant coach with the U16 Girls Academy, Parsons helped lead the team to an academy championship in 2007. 

The Cranleigh, Surrey, native holds UEFA A and B Licenses, a US Youth Soccer National Youth License and US Soccer B License.