Portland Thorns manager Paul Riley is thought to be a candidate for the vacant U.S. women's national team coaching job. (Cal Sport Media)
Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley was a candidate to replace Pia Sundhage as U.S. women's national team coach in 2012. He was a candidate for the England women’s national team job in 2013. Now that the United States job has opened up again with Tom Sermanni’s firing, he said anybody would be interested in filling that position, himself included.
“The U.S. job is the No. 1 job in the world,” Riley told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “I’m very happy in Portland, but to say you wouldn’t be interested would be a lie. There’s no question.”
Riley, 50, has been the Thorns’ coach since December, when he was passed over in favor of Mark Sampson for the England job. Under his predecessor, Cindy Parlow Cone, the Thorns won the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League title in 2013, and the team boasts the U.S. and Canada’s best players in Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, respectively.
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“I’ve got great ownership here. We train in probably the best facilities in America every day,” Riley said. “When we travel, we get treated first-class. It’s hard to argue with it. I’m in a great position.”
Riley's coaching resume is lengthy. He coached the Philadelphia Independence in the defunct Women's Professional Soccer league, winning Coach of the Year in both seasons. On the men's side, Riley coached Long Island University Post. He remains the director of coaching for Albertson Soccer Club in New York.
But is it conceivable that Riley — or any other coach, since the NWSL likely houses a couple candidates to replace Sermanni — would coach both a club and country at the same time?
“I think it is, yeah — definitely in the short term. Obviously, our season’s finished in September, so I think that’s definitely feasible,” he said. “I don’t know whether it would be done in this country, but it has been done in other places. … I’m not the decision-maker on things like that. I’m just the coach in Portland.”
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As Riley said, the NWSL season will be over by late August or early September. After Thursday's friendly against China -- for which Jill Ellis will serve as interim coach -- the U.S. currently has one other friendly scheduled, May 8 in Canada, before World Cup qualifying in October (The Thorns host the Seattle Reign two days after the Canada-U.S. game).
While Riley was far from declaring himself a candidate for the U.S. job, it seems he would at least entertain the notion. Even if it meant pulling double duty until the Thorns’ season ended, Riley might yet get his chance on the international stage.