PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Thorns have named former goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc as their new general manager to replace Gavin Wilkinson, who was placed on administrative leave by the team in the wake of sexual harassment and coercion allegations against former coach Paul Riley.
LeBlanc, also a former goalkeeper for the Canadian national team, is currently the head of women’s soccer for CONCACAF, the confederation for North and Central America and Caribbean soccer. She plans to step down from that post to focus on the Thorns.
“I know women’s football will continue to be a major priority at Concacaf. I am proud of how we were able to move the game forward. I loved the work I did there, but I missed being around the game, players and the energy of Portland,” LeBlanc said in a statement Monday. “This is an opportunity to do something that truly matters for a city, a club and a league that’s given me so much.”
Wilkinson was placed on administrative leave last month by the National Women's Soccer League team after two former players went public with their allegations against Riley.
Riley coached the Thorns for the 2014 and 2015 seasons but Portland did not retain him following a team investigation after a player complained. Riley went from there to the team that eventually became the North Carolina Courage, which fired him in late September following a published report about allegations that spanned his time with both teams.
NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird stepped down amid the scandal. The NWSL and U.S. Soccer are conducting independent investigations into the allegations.
Thorns players also called for Wilkinson's ouster. Management announced a short time later that he had been placed on administrative leave from duties connected to the Thorns, but not from Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers. Wilkinson will continue as GM of the Timbers.
LeBlanc was goalkeeper for the Thorns in the 2013 season, when the team won the inaugural NWSL championship. She went on to play for two season with the Chicago Red Stars.
LeBlanc also made 110 appearances for the Canadian national team between 1998 and 2015.
She has served in her role with CONCACAF since 2018.
“The global soccer network she has fostered during her career has perfectly positioned her to lead the Thorns, and it is hard to think of anyone with a more innate leadership ability and unique blend of skills than Karina," Thorns owner Merritt Paulson said.
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Anne M. Peterson, The Associated Press