Maple Ridge’s Karina LeBlanc is the new general manager of the Portland Thorns. (Portland Thorns Facebook/Special to The News)

Maple Ridge’s Karina LeBlanc is the new general manager of the Portland Thorns. (Portland Thorns Facebook/Special to The News)

Maple Ridge’s LeBlanc joins Portland Thorns as GM

Reunited with longtime teammate Christine Sinclair

Maple Ridge’s Olympian Karina LeBlanc is going back to professional women’s soccer – as a general manager.

The Portland Thorns have announced that their former goalkeeper has been appointed GM. It reunites LeBlanc with her longtime friend and Team Canada teammate Christine Sinclair, the all-time great forward from Burnaby who captains the Thorns.

“When I left in 2014, I felt there was unfinished business for me here. The way the community, the club and the team made me feel, was something that I would never forget,” said LeBlanc.

“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.”

The 41-year-old Maple Ridge native is also the current head of women’s football for Concacaf – a role she has filled since 2018. She has been in charge of building the game in 41 soccer federations across North America, Central American and the Caribbean.

“It is hard to leave my Concacaf family. I’d like to thank Victor [Montagliani] for creating a role for myself that allowed me to learn and grow. 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,” she said. “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.”

A club press release said she will be responsible for the overall management of the technical soccer operations of the club, reporting directly to owner and CEO Merritt Paulson. She 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.

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

“She will make an impact in the Portland community and help push the NWSL forward, as well as strengthen our influence and standard in the international game. Lastly, I am grateful to Victor Montagliani and Concacaf for fully supporting Karina in making this change.”

LeBlanc started her namesake foundation in 2018 to help female athletes reach their goals.

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In her playing career, LeBlanc spend 18 years at the international level, played in five FIFA Women’s World Cups and two Summer Olympics, winning bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. She retired from Team Canada in 2015, after 108 starts and 110 appearances.

With Portland, she helped the club win the NWSL Championship in 2013, getting seven shutouts in 21 games.

“With Karina the sky is the limit. I’ve never met someone more passionate and set on growing the game,” said Sinclair. “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.”

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