Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By CAITLIN MURRAY
Portland Thorns FC coach Cindy Parlow Cone, who led the team to a title trophy this year, is stepping down from her position, the club announced Thursday.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to resign my position as head coach of Portland Thorns FC,” Cone said in a statement. “Coaching the Thorns has been one of the highlights of my career. However, due to the scheduling conflicts created by the job, I realized that despite being a great move for my career, it was less than ideal for the health of my marriage – which is the most important thing in my life.”
Cone, 35, led the Thorns to win the first National Women’s Soccer League championship in the club’s inaugural year, finishing with a regular season record of 11-6-5.
Despite the Thorns’ successful season, Cone had faced criticism from fans and media as the team failed to meet high expectations set by its roster – Portland had been allocated superstar forwards Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair at the outset of the season. But Cone’s style was unflappable and she steered the team through the playoffs victorious, even after Morgan was sidelined with injury.
Although snubbed from landing in the top three for NWSL Coach of the Year, she is on the shortlist for FIFA’s top coach honor, a category that includes former U.S. National Team coach Pia Sundhage. FIFA will announce three finalists next month.
A replacement coach will be named next week, Thorns owner Merritt Paulson said on Twitter Thursday. Asked about the demanding Portland fan base – the same base that tended to point fingers at Cone when the team struggled – Paulson replied: “We have someone lined up who is more than up to that challenge. Will be among top coaches in league, easy.”
Here’s a look at some other news from around the NWSL:
SEATTLE ADDS ONE FORWARD, TRADES ANOTHER FOR DRAFT PICKS
Seattle Reign FC continues to use the off season to stockpile firepower.
Seattle has acquired forward Beverly Goebel on loan from Japan, the club announced Thursday.
Goebel, a native of Moreno Valley, Calif., has been a top-scorer for INAC Kobe Leonessa of the Japanese Nadeshiko League, scoring a goal per game this year and leading her club to a third consecutive title.
“I am extremely excited to join Seattle Reign FC for the 2014 season and I am so thankful for the opportunity to participate in the NWSL,” Goebel said in a statement. “I think very highly of Seattle as an organization and their mission for the 2014 NWSL season.”
Goebel had previously played in Women’s Professional Soccer for the Western New York Flash.
Seattle also sent forward Liz Bogus to FC Kansas City in exchange for the No. 15 overall pick in the 2014 NWSL College Draft and FC Kansas City’s third-round draft choice in the 2015 College Draft.
Bogus, 29, was Seattle’s fourth-round selection in the 2013 NWSL Supplemental Draft. She finished the 2013 season with one goal and two assists in 20 appearances, 11 of them starts.
“Liz provides us with tactical flexibility that we haven’t had before,” FC Kansas City technical director Huw Williams said in a statement. “We love the tenacity, aggressiveness and determination she shows every time she steps on the field.”
Seattle’s latest additions come on the heels of some huge moves to add much-needed firepower to their attack – in the past three weeks, they’ve also acquired proven goal-scorers in forward Sydney Leroux and midfielder Kim Little.
BREAKERS SIGN COLOMBIAN NATIONAL TEAM STRIKER
The Boston Breakers signed Colombian National Team forward Melissa Ortiz, the club announced Thursday.
“I believe we have picked up a gem of a player,” Breakers general manager Lee Billiard said in a statement. “She’s young in age, but very experienced on the field due to her national team endeavors, and she’s someone with a good record of goal scoring.”
Ortiz, 23, is coming off a stint with Reykjavik FC in Iceland’s top flight league.
A native of West Palm Beach, Fla., Ortiz has 10 caps and four goals for the senior Colombian National Team, including two appearances at last year’s Olympics in London.
Because of her American citizenship, she will not take up one of Boston’s two international slots per league rules.
AVERBUCH SET TO RETURN TO THE U.S. FOR NWSL
U.S. National Team midfielder Yael Averbuch has officially confirmed she will return to the U.S. for the 2014 NWSL season.
In a column for the New York Times on Tuesday, Averbuch wrote: “I decided not to re-sign with my team in Gothenburg, Sweden, and return to the U.S. to play in the NWSL for the 2014 season.”
Averbuch, who played for Goteborg FC, joins Whitney Engen as the most recent U.S. national team player to commit to the U.S. Soccer Federation-backed NWSL in lieu of returning to play overseas. Christen Press and Meghan Klingenberg of Tyreso FF in Sweden are expected to make the jump as well, but have said they are still deciding.
Last month, U.S. Soccer began listing Averbuch as being unattached to any club and she had gone on record about wanting to play professionally in the U.S. again, but stopped short of confirming she’d join the NWSL.
HOUSTON DYNAMO DECISION STILL IN THE WORKS
Houston Dynamo are still hoping to become the NWSL’s ninth team and first expansion franchise.
Contacted by SBI earlier in this week, Houston Dynamo President Chris Canetti said, “We are progressing nicely and optimistic about reaching a good conclusion.”
(Update: Canetti said on Friday: “We continue to make positive progress in our exploration of an NWSL franchise and will have a final decision one way or another very soon.”)
Dynamo had initially told SBI that a decision was expected this week, but as negotiations continue, it appears a final decision will take longer.
The Major League Soccer franchise has been working with U.S. Soccer on exploring entrance into the NWSL for 2014.
What do you think of Cone stepping down after leading the Thorns to a championship? Who do you think their next coach will be? With their new roster, how will Seattle do next season?
Share your thoughts below.