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December 10, 2013
It's official: Riley to coach Portland Thorns

Paul Riley's next challenge will be the Portland Thorns FC.
Paul Riley's next challenge will be the Portland Thorns FC.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
It's official.

Paul Riley is the new coach of the Portland Thorns FC.

Thorns owner Merritt Paulson confirmed the hiring on twitter Tuesday afternon.

"Welcome Paul Riley to @ThornsFC! Terrific head coach & tactician. Look forward to seeing the team evolve under his leadership #baon," Paulson tweeted.

Riley, who coached the Long Island Fury last summer, directed the Philadelphia Independence to a consecutive Women's Professional Soccer finals.

He replaces former U.S. international Cindy Parlow Cone, who resigned last week due to personal reasons.

Cone, a former U.S. international and a member of the 1999 Women's World Cup championship team who is on FIFA's short list for the 2013 world coach of the year for women's soccer, 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.

Riley looked forward to his latest challenge.

“It is a fantastic opportunity with a club renowned for its success both on and off the field,” he said in a statement. “It’s a great challenge and I look forward to integrating a style of play that fans in Portland will embrace. Portland is a special place for soccer and I share their passion, a love and appetite for a creative, attacking style of play.

“We have a fabulous core group of players and I’m excited to work with such a hungry, motivated and talented group. Our goal is to bring another championship to Portland and further cement the Thorns in the mystique of this great soccer city.”

Thorns and Portland Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson was hopeful that Riley would continue the team's success in its second season.

“Paul is an accomplished coach and we have been very impressed with his knowledge of the Thorns FC organization, the NWSL and the women’s game at the highest levels,” he said in a statement. “His experience in managing top-level players was of paramount importance. Paul shares our belief that the Thorns should be perennial championship contenders. We, the staff and players, are delighted to welcome Paul to the organization.”

Riley has enjoyed success no matter where he has coached as he 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, 50, 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 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 LI 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.
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