For the last few years, Scott Parkinson has been a well-liked and well-known assistant coach for a few NWSL teams. Now he’s getting his first chance to be in charge.
Gotham FC announced Tuesday that Parkinson, the Chicago Red Stars’ top assistant, will succeed Freya Coombe as manager after she left for expansion team Angel City FC. The club also hired former NWSL player Bev Goebel Yanez to be Parkinson’s top assistant.
“Scott and Bev are a really great fit for the club on the field, when it comes to their really in-depth knowledge and passion for coaching, of the craft, and where they want to take the game,” Gotham’s interim general manager Yael Averbuch West told The Inquirer. “They truly are players’ coaches who want to develop players and develop the team as a whole. And I think these players are so hungry for that.”
A native of Liverpool, England, who has lived in the U.S. for 12 years, Parkinson takes charge of a team that is winless in its last six games, but remains firmly in the playoff hunt. Gotham (5-6-5, 21 points) is tied with Houston in seventh place, two points back of sixth-place Washington for the last postseason berth but just seven points back of second-place North Carolina.
Parkinson’s new squad has ample veteran leadership in Carli Lloyd, McCall Zerboni, Allie Long, and Estelle Johnson. It also has big-time young players in Margaret Purce, Sabrina Flores, Évelyne Viens and rookie Brianna Pinto, and one of the NWSL’s best goalkeepers in Kailen Sheridan. If Parkinson can get the mix right, Gotham should get back to winning.
“The club have done a really good job with acquiring, drafting, developing,” Parkinson told The Inquirer. “And obviously, with veteran players, they’re veterans for a reason: they’re normally really good.”
Parkinson’s contract will run through the 2022 season. West said the Red Stars granted Gotham’s request to interview Parkinson, and no compensation was paid to hire him.
Coach with a conscience
Though the NWSL hasn’t been at the forefront of social justice campaigns the way the WNBA has been, Chicago and Gotham have been leaders within the league. Parkinson was part of the Red Stars’ efforts.
In April, he gained national attention when he backed up defender Sarah Gorden’s claims that she was racially profiled by a security guard at the Houston Dash’s stadium. The NWSL opened an investigation, and later closed it without taking formal disciplinary action. Players in Chicago and leaguewide were unhappy, as were fans across the country.
“What we’re doing to improve the world, to improve our communities here in the United States, across the country, is way bigger than football. Football is just the platform,” Parkinson said. “As a privileged white man who comes to this country and was given everything because I had an accent and I could play soccer OK, I’ve seen what I’ve been able to have and achieve that others haven’t. And it breaks my heart.”
He said emphatically that he wants to win and “play a good style of football.” But he was just as forceful in saying “there’s more to life than football.”
That means, he said, “the opportunity to now not only have the backs of my players at a different club, but the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with them — maybe with a slightly bigger profile now — and not only kick some butt on the pitch and make our fans proud, but also make our community better.”
Gotham’s new assistant
West and Yanez have known each other for a long time, including as teammates with multiple NWSL teams.
Yanez ended her playing career in early 2020 and immediately went into youth coaching in her native California. Her most recent job was with the Juventus Academy (yes, it’s run by the Italian giant) in the Bay Area.
“I obviously think so highly of [West], who she is, who she was as a player, how she carried herself, her professionalism — her fight for more in the women’s game in general,” Yanez said, alluding to West’s past leadership of the NWSL Players Association.
“When I initially spoke to Bev about this, I was so impressed, because I know Bev as a player and a teammate, but I didn’t know Bev initially as a coach,” West said. “For me to get to know Bev in this new professional sphere has been really interesting and impressive, and I think there’s such value that she will add to this group.”
Coincidentally, Gotham’s first game of Parkinson’s tenure is against the Red Stars on Saturday at Red Bull Arena (7 p.m., Paramount+). But Parkinson won’t be there because of a family commitment that would have kept him from the game no matter what. His first game with Gotham will be Sept. 25 against North Carolina.
Yanez and Becki Tweed, a Coombe assistant who is staying with Gotham, will oversee things on Saturday.
That the new hires are contracted through next year raised an inevitable question for West: Does she want to have the interim tag removed from her title?
She hasn’t even been in the job for a month yet, having quickly replaced Alyse LaHue after she was fired amid a harassment investigation. Because of that, there haven’t been many opportunities to ask the question. Here was one, and West didn’t hesitate to answer.
“This is my hometown club and I’ve always felt that way,” said West, who grew up in Montclair, N.J., and began her pro career at Sky Blue FC in 2009. “I feel really invested in the long-term future here. Nothing’s been 100% decided or finalized, but I am invested here in seeing out a future plan that goes beyond this season.”
This story was updated after the NWSL rescheduled what was to be Scott Parkinson’s first game as Gotham’s manager. Gotham’s Sept. 10 game at Kansas City was moved to Oct. 22. Parkinson’s first game in charge will now be Sept. 25 vs. North Carolina.