Rachel Van Hollebeke, Thorns vs. Sky Blue, 7.3.15
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Thorns FC defender Rachel Van Hollebeke announces retirement from club, international soccer

PORTLAND, Ore. – Defender Rachel Van Hollebeke today announced her retirement from international and professional soccer at the conclusion of the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season. Van Hollebeke retires after playing six professional seasons, including the last three with Portland Thorns FC in the NWSL.

“While I’m sad to announce my retirement, I am very excited to pursue my other long-held dream of becoming a doctor,” said Van Hollebeke. “I start medical school at UC San Diego in just a few short days. I have had an amazing soccer career and it is difficult to express what a privilege it has been to play for both club and country.

“It was an incredible honor to wear the Red, White and Blue and represent the United States for over 100 games. I feel blessed to have been a founding member of the Thorns and to have played here for the past three seasons. Portland is a very special city and organization and our fans are the best in the world. I cannot say thank you enough to my family, teammates, coaches, staff and fans who have supported me throughout my career. Soccer has been the greatest teacher in my life. I will always love the game, but I am ready and excited for my next adventure.”

Van Hollebeke, 29, is set to begin medical school at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine at the end of the month. She will remain on the roster and will be available to the team for the duration of the 2015 season.

“Rachel has been an instrumental part of this team and organization through its first three seasons. She is a true professional who has dedicated herself day in and day out to the team and the community here in Portland,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager of Thorns FC. “Rachel will be remembered as a leader on and off the field for Thorns FC and will be greatly missed. We wish her all the best as she begins the next part of her life in pursuing her goal to become a doctor.”

In three seasons with Thorns FC, Van Hollebeke appeared in 44 regular-season matches (38 starts), logging 3,429 minutes. Van Hollebeke helped guide Portland to the 2013 NWSL Championship, featuring in both postseason matches during the team’s inaugural campaign. The 2013 Thorns FC Defender of the Year, Van Hollebeke earned NWSL Second XI honors, playing the full 90 minutes in 20 of the team’s 22 regular-season games in 2013. Additionally, Van Hollebeke played an active role in community events through the club’s Stand Together community platform and was named 2014 Community Player of the Year for all of her efforts.

“Rachel has been a huge part of growing the women’s game over the past decade. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to her for inspiring the next generation of pure defenders, ones who are tough, no-nonsense and resolute,” said Paul Riley, head coach of Thorns FC. “She is a complete professional from her training dedication and game preparation to her ability to lead and educate her teammates. To me, her greatest qualities are her genuine humility, kindness, honesty and spirit. It has been an absolute pleasure to coach and get to know Rachel.

“She will be missed by the Thorns and our fans, but her lasting legacy will be her competitive ‘never-say-die’ attitude to everything she does. She is a brilliant teammate, consummate professional and a superb young woman who will go on to great things in life.”

The Del Mar, Calif., native began her professional career in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) in 2009 with FC Gold Pride, starting 17 matches. In 2010, Van Hollebeke captained FC Gold Pride to the 2010 WPS title and was named to the WPS Best XI, playing and starting all 22 matches for the club. Van Hollebeke signed with the Boston Breakers in 2011, helping guide the Breakers to the WPS playoffs.

On the international level, Van Hollebeke earned 113 caps with the U.S. Women’s National Team, playing in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and two Olympics (2008, 2012). Van Hollebeke helped the United States to gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, starting all six matches at the 2012 tournament. She also appeared in five of the team’s six matches in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, earning a silver medal.