Portland Thorns hire former goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc as new GM

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Thorns Football Club announced a new general manager as an investigation into alleged abuse continues.

The Thorns have hired Karina LeBlanc as their general manager, replacing Gavin Wilkinson — who was recently placed on administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation into his role in the abuse scandal in 2015. Wilkinson served as the general manager for both the Thorns and the Portland Timbers leading up to the investigation.

LeBlanc is a former goalkeeper for the Thorns and the current Head of Women’s Football for Concacaf. According to the Thorns, she will be responsible for the overall management of the technical soccer operations of the club, reporting directly to Thorns Owner/CEO Merritt Paulson.

The football club says LeBlanc will “serve as the central leader for Thorns FC on all soccer aspects while also having an integral voice on key business decisions related to the club, helping to create, cultivate and manage the culture of Thorns FC.” 

“I could not be more excited to welcome Karina back to Portland,” Paulson said. “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.” 

LeBlanc has been at Concacaf since 2018, where she was responsible for overseeing the efforts of 41 confederations across North America, Central America and the Caribbean Island to strengthen and grow the women’s game. 

“When I left in 2014, I felt there was unfinished business for me here,” LeBlanc said in a press release. “The way the community, the club and the team made me feel, was something that I would never forget. I thought I might come back as a player, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be coming back as the general manager of what is for me, the greatest club in the world. My experience as a Thorn helped shape me into the woman I am today.”

LeBlanc said it is hard to leave her Concacaf family and thanked its president, Victor Montagliani, for creating a role that allowed her to learn and grow. She said she knows women’s football will continue to be a major priority there and that she’s proud of how they 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. This is an opportunity to do something that truly matters for a city, a club and a league that’s given me so much. To have the belief of Merritt, the players, and the staff made me realize that this was an opportunity I had to lean into.”

Former teammate and current Thorns FC Captain Christine Sinclair shared her support for the club’s move. 

“With Karina, the sky is the limit. I’ve never met someone more passionate and set on growing the game,” Sinclair said. “To have her back in Portland for me is a dream come true because she is going to take this club to places I don’t think people think are possible. She’s going to help this club be the benchmark for women’s football around the world and I just can’t wait to get started.”

The Thorns’ next match is Sunday, November 14th when they host the semifinal match of the NWSL Playoffs at 2:30 p.m. at Providence Park. They will face the winner of this week’s Red Stars, Gotham FC game. 

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