Thorns coach Wilkinson resigns after NWSL title season

Portland Thorns FC head coach Rhian Wilkinson resigned Friday following one season and a National Women's Soccer League title.

In a lengthy message posted to Twitter, Wilkinson said the players asked for her resignation following an investigation into her conduct as head coach -- conduct she said she self-reported to the team's human resources officials.

Wilkinson said during a brief period of time in October, she and a player -- identified by The Athletic as defender Emily Menges -- "formed a friendship that turned into more complex emotions."

"While this was a human moment, it went no further than this expression of feelings for one another," she said, adding she immediately reported the action to human resources to make sure she hadn't "crossed any ethical lines."

A league and players association investigation found no violation of rules.

Still, Wilkinson, 40, told The Athletic that she was resigning because she had lost the confidence of her players.

"Once you've lost the locker room, which I have, there's no return," she said. "So that's why I recognized my time in Portland couldn't be salvaged a long time ago, because there were players who just wouldn't communicate with me.

"And that part I can live with. When the locker room -- whatever reason -- is gone, it's gone."

Actions by coaches and team officials have been in the spotlight since the release in early October of the Yates report, which revealed how reports of sexual and emotional abuse of players had gone ignored and how alleged perpetrators were allowed to keep their jobs.

This included former Thorns manager Paul Riley, who was fired for cause in 2015 after allegations of sexual coercion and harassment were leveled against him by former Thorns players Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly, but who was allowed to keep coaching in the NWSL due to the manner of his firing not being made public.

The Thorns won the NWSL title by defeating the Kansas City Current 2-0 on Oct. 29.

On Thursday, club owner Merritt Paulson announced he intends to sell the Thorns but keep the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer.

"The past year has been a challenging one for our club and our players. I regret the role our organization played in the failures identified by the investigations," Paulson said in a lengthy release.

"Despite these challenges, the Portland Thorns have a bright future ahead and a lot left to accomplish."

Information from ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle was used in this report.