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After a historically poor start to the season, the Portland Thorns have removed Mike Norris as head coach as the franchise reorganizes its soccer operations department. Norris will pivot to a new role as technical director and promoted Rob Gale as interim head coach, the club announced on Tuesday. The franchise will begin a global head coaching search immediately.

"After an in-depth review, we have decided to start to reorganize our soccer operations department to better serve our club and our athletes," said general manager Karina LeBlanc. "Thorns FC have set the standard for excellence in the league. These changes will help us maximize our strengths as we continuously pursue championship-level success."

Who will be a good fit for next head coach?

With a new ownership group for the Thorns with RAJ Sports led by Lisa Bhathal Merage and Alex Bhathal, the next head coach will need to be someone who can somehow both get the program back on track and into a new era. 

Here are a few candidates that the Thorns could target:

Twila Kilgore: Okay, so this is a bit of a long shot as she's currently with the national team and about to pivot into a full-time assistant with incoming manager Emma Hayes. But Kilgore is no stranger to coaching in NWSL as a former assistant with Houston Dash, and clubs are no strangers to prolonging a timeline to get their ideal candidate. 

U.S. Soccer has done that with Hayes and she'll join the sidelines after Chelsea's season. Seattle Reign FC did it for Laura Harvey to get her back to the Pacific Northwest. Harvey took back over the squad when her time with the USWNT was done after the Tokyo Olympics. So not so stranger things have happened. 

Sarah Lowdon: She's already on the squad as an assistant with the Thorns and has had extensive time as an NWSL assistant and experience at the collegiate level with the University of Florida, Sam Houston University, and Penn State. She's also had to wear the interim head coaching hat twice while with Houston Dash and holds a USSF pro license so maybe she should get a shot at the actual full-time role for once. 

Julianne Sitch: A former NWSL player and NWSL assistant, she led Loyola University to its first-ever NCAA Division III national champion. She made history as the first woman head coach to win with a men's soccer team in any NCAA division. She's currently coaching the women's soccer program at the University of Denver. 

Mark Parsons: Perhaps the most obvious candidate here. Left the club on good terms to pursue a national team position as manager of the Netherlands women's national team. It was a short stint, and he came back to NWSL to coach with the Spirit for another short time and hasn't been on the sideline since. He's already back in the Portland area and has been spotted at the Thorns games this season, but it can't be that obvious, right? Still, it's hard to ignore the former head coach who is also the club's winningest manager of all time. 

What's gone wrong?

The Thorns have zero wins in their opening four matches and currently sit in last place in the league table. Their lone point came by way of a late equalizer in the 99th minute of stoppage time against ninth-place Racing Louisville FC. They have a massive amount of talent on their roster, including U.S. women's national team players Sam Coffey and two-time reigning NWSL Golden Boot winner Sophia Smith.

The franchise has never had an official technical director role and the newly created title for Norris comes after 25 NWSL matches as head coach. The new position will "focus on scouting, talent acquisition, and player development," per club release. 

He went 10-7-8 during his time as manager and was an assistant under former head coach Rhian Wilkinson during the club's 2022 NWSL Championship season, and he was named head coach ahead of the 2023 season. 

Gale takes over as interim after joining the Thorns before the 2023 season. He was previously a youth coach with New York City FC in the club's academy and was coach and general manager of Valour FC in the Canadian Premier League from 2018-2021. He'll be on the sidelines with the Thorns as they face Houston Dash on Saturday.