Report: Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson urged Paul Riley against USWNT job

The Portland Thorns are the center of controversy once again following a new article published by ESPN.
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 10:44 AM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - The Portland Thorns are the center of controversy once again following a new article published by ESPN.

The article is accusing Thorns owner Merritt Paulson of urging former coach Paul Riley to withdraw from applying to be the head coach of the US Women’s National Team. Some claim Paulson was hoping to keep the details of Riley’s firing private because it was prompted by sexual misconduct allegations.

Riley was fired back in 2015 after violating the terms of his contract. That came after complaints from a former Thorns player accusing Riley of sexual harassment and coercion. Another teammate also came forward last year, sharing similar experiences with the then head coach.

After his firing, Riley went on to coach the North Carolina Courage. ESPN reports that Paulson reached out, urging Riley to withdraw his application to coach the USWNT, warning that the details of his firing would become public.

The Thorns responded to the article saying the information was “based on a privileged and confidential video call regarding the dismissal of Paul Riley in 2015.” They go on to call the article “biased and misleading” and that “Paulson initiated none of these conversations but agreed with Riley’s decision to step aside from US Women’s National Team consideration.”

Former Portland Thorns player Alex Morgan responded to the article by tweeting, “We (the players of the NWSL, especially the player in Portland) deserve so much better than a boys club protecting their own.”

Morgan went on to say the response from the team was “just pathetic.”

Mana Shim, the former Thorns player who accused Riley of sexual misconduct, also tweeted, saying “The problem was not just that that they knew and said nothing. They did everything they could to keep the truth from coming out. We need to protect players and hold people accountable when they don’t.”