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Thorns Shield season earns Parsons Coach of the Year

Mark Parsons beat out his Portland predecessor and his Washington successor to win 2016 NWSL Coach of the Year. (Photo: Portland Thorns FC)

Mark Parsons beat out his Portland predecessor and his Washington successor to win 2016 NWSL Coach of the Year. (Photo: Portland Thorns FC)

One day after absorbing one of the toughest defeats of his coaching career, Mark Parsons has been named NWSL Coach of the Year for 2016. Parsons jumped from the Washington Spirit to the Thorns last fall and made good on the move by leading his new club to the NWSL Shield and the first home semifinal in club history. That match, in front of a league playoff record 20,086, saw the Thorns lose a thrilling encounter, 4-3 to the Flash in extra time.

Parsons took over a team long on talent but coming off a disappointing 2015 season. They did not sit idly by though, adding Meghan Klingenberg, Lindsey Horan, Nadia Nadim, and Amandine Henry plus other significant players. With a target squarely on their backs the Thorns came out the blocks by playing their first dozen games without a loss. They fell behind the Spirit in the Shield race entering September, but took all 12 available points during the month and when the Spirit dropped their last two matches, Parsons and the Thorns sneaked in and took down the league’s regular season championship.

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Perhaps Parsons’s best work was during the stretch when his national team players were at the Olympics. The Thorns managed several results with many of their best players away. The highlight was a 1-0 victory over Seattle Reign FC in the final match before the Olympic break. They finished 12-3-5 (41 pts) to give Parsons his third straight trip to the playoffs.

To win the award Parsons beat out the coach he replaced in Portland and the coach who replaced him in Washington. Paul Riley went to the Flash after being sacked in Portland. After Parsons went to the Thorns, Jim Gabarra took over the Spirit.

NWSL Coaches of the Year
2013: Vlatko Andonovski, FC Kansas City
2014: Laura Harvey, Seattle Reign FC
2015: Laura Harvey, Seattle Reign FC
2016: Mark Parsons, Portland Thorns FC

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