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Van Hollebeke retiring to begin medical school

Rachel Van Hollebeke is retiring from Portland Thorns FC and the United States. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Rachel Van Hollebeke is retiring from Portland Thorns FC and the United States. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Rachel Van Hollebeke announced she will retire from professional and international soccer to begin medical school at the end of the month. Van Hollebeke will make herself available for the Thorns in their final games, but will leave Portland to begin medical school at the University of California, San Diego.

Van Hollebeke deferred acceptance to UCSD’s medical program in 2011 in order to pursue professional soccer. She won Olympic gold medals with the United States national team in 2008 and 2012, and she was part of the 2011 World Cup team which finished runners-up to Japan. She has 113 caps for the United States.

“It is difficult to express what a privilege it has been to play for both club and country,” Van Hollebeke wrote in her open letter on retirement. “If you’ve ever watched me during the National Anthem, I take it very seriously and sing with all my heart. Wearing the Red, White and Blue for over 100 games is the greatest honor of my life and playing in two Olympics has been the highlight of my career. I will never forget the feeling of standing on the podium, gold medal hanging around my neck. I remember thinking about the countless hours of practice, the challenges and successes, and the people who helped me get to that point. I was so thankful and proud.”

Van Hollebeke played in 44 games over three seasons with Portland, helping the Thorns win the inaugural NWSL Championship in 2013. She was one of the last players cut from this year’s United States World Cup roster.

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“Rachel has been a huge part of growing the women’s game over the past decade,” Thorns coach Paul Riley said. “I would like to offer my sincere thanks to her for inspiring the next generation of pure defenders, ones who are tough, no-nonsense and resolute,” said Paul Riley, head coach of Thorns FC. “She is a complete professional from her training dedication and game preparation to her ability to lead and educate her teammates. To me, her greatest qualities are her genuine humility, kindness, honesty and spirit. It has been an absolute pleasure to coach and get to know Rachel.”

Riley told The Equalizer on Saturday after the Thorns’ 1-0 loss to Sky Blue FC that Van Hollebeke did not play due to a pending “big announcement.”

Portland must win both remaining regular-season games and see the Washington Spirit lose all three remaining games in order to make the playoffs. The two teams play on Sunday in Portland, but Washington also plays on Wednesday against


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