Thorns make it official, Wilkinson is the team’s new coach — Woso links — Alana Cook talks USWNT down under

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, November 29, 2021

Here’s the “bit of breaking news” I tweeted about. There’s actually a LOT of breaking news. Soccer doesn’t sleep. First, it’s official! The Thorns have a new coach, Rhian Wilkinson! Details are here.

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Oh and there’s this little tidbit, too.

AND: The Orlando Pride and Amanda Duffy are parting ways.

AND: Alexia Putellas is the winner of the Ballon d’Or!

Breaking news out of the way, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and got a chance for family and friend! We moved back into our condo after three months of living out of suitcases in a temporary house. I’M NEVER MOVING AGAIN.

A LOT of stuff happened while I was away, so let’s just get into it.

Just a day after the Red Stars played in the NWSL championship game, coach Rory Dames stepped down in advance of a report from the Washington Post’s Molly Hensley-Clancy that detailed alleged verbal and emotional abuse.

The players went to U.S. Soccer to complain. In total, seven players reported abuse. Five players asked to be traded or left the team.

Christen Press was among those who complained.

“For so many women in this league, you think you don’t have any worth. And if you stand up and you say what you think is right or wrong, nobody cares.” — Press in an interview with the Post.

So that’s FIVE male coaches dismissed this season in the league: Dames, Richie Burke (Spirit), Paul Riley (Courage), Farid Benstiti (Reign) and Christy Holly (Louisville). Holly was dismissed “for cause,” the details of which have not been revealed.

This means an unprecedented number of teams are looking for head coaches right now — and a limited number of qualified candidates.

One reason is the pay: Elite coaches that go to prestigious college programs can potentially earn significantly more than NWSL coaches. There’s also more job security in college programs. And, it’s arguable that right now, jobs in Europe are more desirable.

Here’s the coaching situation for each team in the league:

REIGN: Laura Harvey is the reigning NWSL Coach of the Year. She replaced Benstiti this summer.

THORNS: Rhian Wilkinson is taking over for Mark Parsons, who is off to the Netherlands. The Athletic’s Meg Linehan first reported Wilkinson’s hiring, so it was not exactly a suprise. But it’s official now.

WAVE: The San Diego expansion team hired former Manchester United manager Casey Stoney as its first coach.

ANGEL CITY: The team announced that it was hiring Freya Coombe, the Gotham coach, in August.

RED STARS: VACANT. Rory Dames is former coach

COURAGE: VACANT. Paul Riley was fired in late September. Sean Nahas served as interim coach.

SPIRIT: VACANT. Richie Burke was dismissed in September. Kris Ward served as interim coach.

CURRENT: VACANT. Huw Williams has moved to the technical side after serving as coach the inaugural season.

GOTHAM: Scott Parkinson.

PRIDE: VACANT. Becky Burleigh was interim coach but removed herself form consideration for the permanent position.

DASH: James Clarkson.

RACING: Christy Holly was fired for cause. Mario Sanchez was interim coach.

You would think that most teams would like a head coach in place by the expansion draft on Dec. 16, and the regular draft two days later. But then this season is weird, and not in a good way, so who knows?


First off, Axios is doing a series of stories on women’s soccer. PS: I haven’t looked at this yet, diving into it this week.

Lindsey Horan addresses the latest allegations against Dames.

Alex Azzi did his NWSL timeline for NBC Sports’ On Her Turf.

Joyce Bassett with the Times Union with a column on the NWSL’s turning point.

Deadspin with a story on Trinity Rodman.

My friend Dan Orlowitz with a story on the WE League looking to avoid the NWSL’s turbulence for the Japan Times.

Sandra Herrera for CBS Sports on Abby Dahlkemper becoming the Wave’s first player.

Virginia’s Diana Ordonez skipping last year of eligibility, going pro.

Steph Yang wraps up the Spirit’s turbulent season for The Athletic.

Good analysis of the evolution of the USWNT ahead of the World Cup from The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf.

The Irish Times on Roma McLaughlin’s decision.

Keeper Notes has assembled an NWSL Championship almanac! You can buy it here.

Hot Time in Old Town did a good column wrapping up Dames’ tenure in Chicago and the allegations.’s Seth Vertelney looks at the young stars in the USWNT’s victory over Australia.

Really wonderful story from the Guardian on Haley Rasso.

The Equalizer’s John Halloran with a look at Casey Murphy’s performance for the USWNT.

Five at The IX: Alana Cook

Defender Alana Cook spoke to the media ahead of the USWNT’s second game in Australia. Here’s what she said.

Question: I’m wondering on that note how important that familiarity with Tierna is from your Stanford days?

Alana: I think it’s been really helpful. We’re obviously really close off the field. And I think anytime you have that relationship off field it always benefits communication on the field. I think it’s been really exciting getting to play with T getting to play with Andi in front of us, kind of reuniting that little triangle that we’ve had before at Stanford. I’ve seen quite a few of my cardinal teammates here. So it’s just really exciting getting to see us all progress and continue to grow.

Question: Did you guys have a little special moment or no?

Alana: No, nothing too formal like that. I don’t think we’ve really talked about it but I do think we are aware and kind of appreciate how special it is that we’ve gotten to progress together through the ranks.

Question: How has your NWSL experience been comparative to PSG and what were the biggest differences?

Alana: I think just stepping into the NWSL and getting, obviousy more minutes than I was getting over PSG, it’s been really helpful for me. I think being a young player, just the minutes, the experiences, getting to go against all the quality players in the NWSL every week, it’s been really important for me, and I’ve grown so much over the past few months. I think one of the most exciting parts is, and I talked about this a lot with our internationals who came from Lyon is every weekend it’s a toss up, how the game is gonna go. There’s no cakewalks, there’s no real blowouts. I think every weekend you show up and you have to give everything you have. And even then that’s not always enough, the opponents are always going to be quality. So I think it’s just been really exciting for me, that transition into the NWSL.

Question: It seems like the last game you guys were trying out a couple different things tactically. And I wanted to ask what the discussion has been like? Particularly in the defense?

Alana: I think coming to this camp, with a bit of a newer group, it’s just been a big focus on learning and sticking to the U.S. mentality, the U.S. defending and attacking ways. And I think, a lot of ways, it’s just on the newer players in the group to kind of get up to speed as quickly as possible. I think we came into that game, we workshopped a lot of it, we’ve gone through a lot of it, we’ll try to improve on the little tweaks that we’ve made and the things that Vlatko is trying to teach the group. But I think it is just kind of sticking with the style of play that we’ve always had and kind of fine tuning it to the people we have in those spots.

Question: I know you’ve had a couple of call ups to the national team in the past but big picture what are your thoughts on where you are right now in your career, in terms of where you thought you would be five years ago and where you hope to be five years from now?

Alana: I guess what, five years ago would have put me at the beginning of my college career, so I think from that standpoint it’s a dream to be here and absolutely an honor. But it was always going to be the long-term goal to be in this environment. I think taking it step-by-step, the first was earning a spot and earning the right to be called in. I think now it’s earning playing time, earning the right to be on the field . We obviously have a really competitive group here, especially within the defense, within the centerback pool. So I think long-term it’s just continuing to progress in this environment, learn as much as I can and just continue to develop.

Question: With 2023 World Cup in mind, how important is it to have this experience with two matches in Australia?

Alana: I think obviously, first we’ll have to start with World Cup qualifying, we can’t look past that. But I think it’s so important to get these massive fixtures against really quality opponents, learn how to do the travel. For me, this is the longest I’ve ever traveled for soccer, I think a lot of us it’s that case, and I think that experience benefits us all greatly, to get to go through this before we look down the road at what could possibly be, the fixtures we have. Obviously being in Australia, it’s not too bad here, we’re right on the water. We’ve been close to the beach and the water both places. So I think we’re all really enjoying kind of the off-the-field side of it. Honestly wish the trip was maybe a little longer.

Question: I just wanted to ask you what it’s been like for you personally to be back with the team and some of your club teammates getting a first cap?

Alana: I think on an individual level, it’s always really exciting to get to be in this environment. As I’ve said, we have such quality players here, obviously, and staff as well. So, every time I step into this environment, I’m learning something, I’m getting better, whether that’s coming from Vlatko and the coaching staff or my fellow teammates, teaching me things, showing me things. So I’m always super happy to be here and super happy to learn as much as I can, and to continue to develop. And I think in that same vein, it’s super exciting to see when your friends and teammates do that. So just wishing the best for all of them and hoping that we can continue to keep getting called in.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson