Portland Thorns fire head athletic trainer, assistant coach following NWSL investigations into misconduct

The Portland Thorns have fired head athletic trainer Pierre Soubrier and assistant coach Sophie Clough following an NWSL investigation into two separate incidents involving staff members, the team announced Tuesday.

Soubrier was under investigation by the NWSL for administering medication containing codeine to players in the team’s Oct. 22 playoff semifinal game against the San Diego Wave. Clough was under investigation for an unwanted kiss on the neck of a player during the NWSL championship celebration on October 29. The Thorns self-reported both incidents to the NWSL.

NWSL investigators substantiated the allegations against Soubrier and Clough, violating league policy. The league recommended a year of unpaid leave for both Soubrier and Clough, but the club went ahead and terminated them.

“Portland Thorns FC remains committed to abiding by all NWSL rules,” the Thorns said in a statement to The Oregonian/OregonLive. “The club has reported to the league and has cooperated fully with the league’s investigation into allegations of misconduct by head athletics coach Pierre Soubrier and assistant coach Sophie Clough. After receiving the final findings of the NWSL investigation, the club terminated the employment of both Soubrier and Clough. The health and safety of the players is our highest priority.”

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Soubrier is the husband of Thorns midfielder Crystal Dunn and was hired as the team’s head athletic trainer in 2019. The NWSL also found in its investigation that team doctor Breanne Brown gave Soubrier a separate controlled substance at his request, but later felt uncomfortable with the decision and told Soubrier that must not be applied. The league determined that Dr. Brown did not violate the law or league policy.

In the case, codeine-containing medication was administered to two players, including one without informed consent, the league found.

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“Soubrier was found to have administered a controlled substance to players on multiple occasions without a doctor’s prescription and supervision, in violation of federal and state laws and league policy,” the league’s investigative report said. “Furthermore, Soubrier administered medication to one of the players without her informed consent.”

Clough joined the club as assistant coach under Mark Parsons in 2016 and remained on staff during manager Rhian Wilkinson’s only season with the Thorns. Claims of Clough’s abusive behavior towards players were also investigated by the NWSL but were not substantiated.

Tuesday’s firings are the latest chapter in a series of scandals that have plagued the Thorns over the past 16 months, dating back to revelations in 2021 that former coach Paul Riley allegedly sexually harassed and coerced former players Manu Shim and Sinead Farrelly. Since then, the Thorns have faced multiple investigations, fired directors Mike Golub and Gavin Wilkinson, won the NWSL Championship and watched Rhian Wilkinson suddenly resign, all culminating in Merritt Paulson’s departure as CEO and later the announcement that they would sell Thorns.

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Just last month, Rhian Wilkinson — who led the Thorns to the title in her first season as coach — resigned after an NWSL investigation cleared her of an alleged affair with player Emily Menges. The two expressed their mutual romantic feelings to each other via text message.

The NWSL also fined the Thorns $1 million for the club’s role in Riley’s alleged abuse of players.

Paulson has not provided an update on his efforts to sell the Thorns since announcing in December that the club would be sold.

— Ryan Clarke, [email protected], Twitter: @RyanTClarke


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