UP hires Michelle French as new women’s soccer coach

By Kyle Garcia | December 15, 2017 9:28pm

Natalie Muth handling the ball for the Pilots
by Brennan Robinson / The Beacon

On Friday, University of Portland Athletics announced Michelle French as the new head coach for the women’s soccer team.

The change comes after Garrett Smith left the program in November, after finishing a disappointing 5-13-1.

“Michelle brings a wealth of experience, passion and leadership to our storied women’s soccer program,” Athletics Director Scott Leykam said in a press release sent out about the hire on Friday. “Among a diverse and highly-qualified pool of candidates, Michelle really stood out to be a great fit… We are thrilled to have her back on The Bluff and know that she will infuse a great deal of excitement into the program.”

French is a former Pilot herself, graduating from the program in 1999 after finishing a strong career under former coach Clive Charles. She was the 1995 WCC Freshman of the Year and earned Soccer America Freshman All-America honors, was twice All-WCC First Team honors in 1997 and 1998, and was also one of three finalists for the MAC/Hermann Trophy national player of the year award during her senior year. She led the Pilots to three NCAA Final Four appearances during her time there.

She played professionally after college, and has spent the last 12 years as a coach in the U.S. Soccer system, most recently as a full-assistant with the senior Women’s National Team. She was also a part of the staff during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

During her playing days, French earned 14 caps as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1997-2001, including being a part of the 2000 Olympic Team that earned a silver medal in Australia. She also played for the U.S. Under-21 team from 1994-1999 and was team captain those final two years. 

She also played at the club level, in the Women’s United Soccer Association the only three years it existed from 2001 to 2003, and also for the Washington Freedom and the San Jose CyberRays. She then played for the Seattle Sounders in the W-League, leading the league in assists in 2004 and earning multiple league titles until she stopped playing in 2009.

“I’m thrilled to return to the University of Portland,” French said in the release. “I’m overwhelmed and honored to now represent this great institution and the storied history of the women’s soccer program.”

The university will officially welcome and introduce French as head coach on Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Hall of Fame Room in the Chiles Center on campus.