Another wild week in the NWSL – Two clubs for sale

The IX: Soccer Monday with Kathleen Gier, Dec. 5, 2022

In less than 24 hours, the National Women’s Soccer League effectively saw two teams go up for sale and lose the coach who won this year’s title with the Thorns. WoSo Twitter was all over it with competing statements from National Team captains and so much more.

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I am Kathleen Gier, filling in again on Soccer Monday for Annie Peterson who is doing a marvelous job covering the FIFA World Cup, and I will do my best to break down what we know and where we go from here.

Paulson is out in Portland

On Thursday, owner Merritt Paulson announced his decision to sell Portland Thorns FC. The decision is the latest fallout from the Yates Report which detailed allegations of sexual misconduct and coercion around former coach Paul Riley. In his statement, Paulson said:

“I believe it is in the best interest of the Thorns to have a new owner so that the Club can operate at the league level with a fresh voice to be a driving force for the NWSL. This has been a difficult decision for me, but I believe this is the best way to position the Thorns for continued success during this next chapter of the NWSL and the sport.”

He also committed to a $1 million pledge to the new NWSL Player Safety Office which was recommended to the NWSL and USSF at the end of the Yates Report.

Now to Twitter. Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, who just won the NWSL title with Portland, released a short statement on Twitter thanking Paulson for his leadership:

Emily Menges also tweeted her thanks for Paulson.

American captain Becky Sauerbrunn, another Thorn, followed a few hours later with a much different approach sending out her thoughts to the players while not directly criticizing Sinclair or Menges. Angel City FC forward Sydney Leroux and Thorns defender Megan Klingenberg released similar statements.

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Sportico Says Chicago is Up For Sale

A few hours later, Sportico released a story about Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler hiring investment bank Inner Circle to help facilitate the sale of his majority ownership stake. The potential sale again ties back to the Yates Report which revealed that Whistler, who has had an ownership stake since 2009, had tolerated an abusive culture under coach Rory Dames. Bekki Morgan reported more on what this sale means for the future of the Red Stars over at The Equalizer. Dames resigned in 2021 and Whisler was removed as a chairman two days after the Yates Report was released.

Portland Drops Another Bombshell

Not to be outdone, Portland jumped right back into the spotlight Friday morning when coach Rhian Wilkinson suddenly resigned with a lengthy statement on Twitter. Included in that was the admission that “During my time as the Thorns coach, a player and I formed a friendship that turned into more complex emotions. In mid-October the player shared her feelings for me, and I reciprocated.”

She went on to say “I can understand that the Portland players feel hurt and have to deal with another non-soccer related situation. The result of this being that the players have asked for my resignation, and I have agreed to it.”

The League and Player’s Association both investigated Wilkinson and found no wrongdoing after she self-reported the matter to club leadership. Portland players also sent a letter to NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman. Also, Annie wrote more on Wilkinson for The AP.

Moves on the Pitch

And, of course, we cannot forget that there continue to be several high-profile transfers across the league including Kristen Edmonds signing with Gotham FC, Estelle Johnson signing with North Carolina and Danielle Colaprico joining San Diego.

For updates on transactions across the league, check out the NWSL Transfer Tracker maintained by our friends at The Equalizer.


Whew. As is the tradition at Soccer Monday, let’s look at some of the other fun stuff going on in the world of women’s soccer:

Bekki Morgan wrote about former Red Stars defender Julianne Sitch who led the University of Chicago the NCAA Division III title. She is the first woman to lead a men’s team to an NCAA title and her squad went undefeated with a 22-0-1 record.

Annie wrote this super fun article about attractions at the World Cup. A camel pageant is at the top of my to-do list now.

At The Athletic, Meg Linehan and Steph Yang made some predictions for the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup roster.

UNC is set to make its 27th NCAA championship game appearance TONIGHT when the Tarheels face UCLA in Cary, N.C. College Soccer News recapped the semifinal matchups and previewed the final.

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 Kathleen Gier