December 9, 2013
HIS GAME OF THORNS
Paul Riley is set to succeed Cone as coach of NWSL champion Portland
By Michael Lewis
|For the first time in his coaching career, Paul Riley will direct a team far from the east coast.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Paul Riley is about to add another stop on his coaching resume.
The veteran women's coach is expected to be named coach of the Portland Thorns this week, perhaps as early as today, according to sources within the Women's Professional Soccer League.
The 50-year-old Riley will succeed Cindy Parlow Cone, a former U.S. international and a member of the 1999 Women's World Cup championship team who resigned last week due to personal reasons. Cone is on FIFA's short list for the 2013 world coach of the year for women's soccer and directed Portland to an 11-6-5 record. The Thorns defeated the host Western New York Flash in the championship game in Rochester, N.Y. in August, 2-0.
The Thorns boast some of the best women's soccer talent on the planet, including Canadian international star Christine Sinclair and USA scoring threat Alex Morgan, among others.
While some 3,000 miles away across the continent, the Portland job would be a perfect fit for Riley, who enjoyed success no matter where he has coach and who has emerged as one of the best women's professional coaches in the past few years. He directed the Philadelphia Independence into two Women's Professional Soccer finals. The team lost both times, but Riley gained national respect for his coaching as he was named WPS coach of the year. He was a candidate for the U.S. women's head coaching job before former Australian coach Tom Sermanni was selected last year.
Riley recently interviewed for the England women's national team in London, but the English Football Association eventually decided not to hire an American, even though Riley was born and grew up in Liverpool.
He eventually emigrated to the United States.
After a standout playing career that included All-American honors at Adelphi University, an unofficial title as the best amateur and semi-pro player in New York and a successful time with the Long Island Rough Riders, Riley turned to coaching.
At first it was the men's team at C.W. Post College before he guided the Rough Riders for six seasons (including a national championship in 2002) before he turned to coach girls soccer. He directed the HBC Fury before joining forces with the Albertson Soccer Club as he became the most successful coach in the history of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association State Cup as his teams won dozens of titles.
Wanting to tackle yet another challenge, Riley formed the Long Island Fury, which went on to win the 2006 and 2009 Women's Premier Soccer League crowns.
His success opened doors for him in the Women's Professional Soccer. Riley coached the Independence for two seasons, both times winning the WPS coach of the year honors and accolades for his coaching; Philly reached the WPS final, losing to the Western New York Flash on penalty kicks. But knowing Riley's competitive side, he would have traded every individual honor for a national championship.
In 2012, Riley coached the New York Fury in the WPSL Elite league and took over the coaching reins of the LI Fury again this past summer.