Thorns FC

Thorns: Mark Parsons leaving Portland largely for family reasons

Thorns FC

No matter the ending to the 2021 NWSL season, it will be bittersweet at best. 

Portland Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons has accepted the head coaching position with the Netherlands national team and will leave his position in the Rose City at the conclusion of this season. 

The Athletic’s Meg Lineman first reported the move and it was later confirmed by the organization. 

Since being hired in 2016, Parsons has coached the Thorns to be the premier club in the NWSL winning the NWSL Championship once (2017), NWSL Shield once (2017), the NWSL Challenge Cup once (2021), the NWSL Fall Series once (2020), four playoff appearances, and two berths in the NWSL Championship game (2017, 2018). 

Now, he's onto a new challenge overseas which will allow Parsons, a former Chelsea Reserves coach of six seasons, and his family to be closer to England. 

"I've been extremely grateful, first of all, for the club's support," said Parsons while speaking with the media Thursday afternoon.

"We've lived out here (the United States) for ten years and [that's challenging] being away from family," he explained before citing the pandemic as making it more difficult to see anyone. The "six, seven, eight" trips his family would make throughout the year were not possible in 2020 or 2021 so far. 

"It got to the point in January, February, that I felt like I needed to look forward and be more proactive," said Parsons.


"Mainly, my wife and daughter have lived a different life than I have. I've seen people and been around people every day and [I've felt] normal for the last nine, ten months and they live a different life. While it's improving it's still tough. 

"We made the commitment to opening our minds to try and get back [to Europe]."

'With Mark having a young daughter that has lived in isolation in many ways for a period of time that puts more stress on Mark and his incredible wife," explained general manager Gavin Wilkinson. "The right thing for the family was to allow this to happen although I don't believe this is in the best interest of the Thorns right now."

When Parsons first approached Wilkinson about entertaining a return to Europe, the Thorns FC executive wanted to see if there were any solutions to keep him as a part of the organization. However, with his decision made up following the national team offer, the club fully supports Parsons and is focused on winning it all this season.

"The most important thing is today, tomorrow, and this game on Sunday. 2021 is critical," added Parsons before saying he sees this as the first year of a new era of Thorns soccer. 

"The Thorns are the pinnacle of club football." 

Given the immense success in the last year, perhaps even a dynasty?

To achieve that, Wilkinson needs to nail the next coaching hire. However, he said "probably ten" coaches have reached out to him to succeed Parsons that the organization is excited about. 

"I think once we start to work through, we will be able to share who those names are, with their blessing," he concluded.