Jul 9, 2012, 8:29 PM EDT
PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Timbers’ owner Merritt Paulson addressed local media Monday afternoon, explaining the team’s decision to move on from the only coach its MLS version had ever known. He was joined by Gavin Wilkinson, who temporarily adds interim head coach to his general managerial responsibilities.
The reason for Spencer’s dismissal: “[F]undamental philosophical differences,” according to Paulson, who initially read from a prepared statement. The duo declined to go into detail, though a few things can be inferred: the decision was not an easy one (Paulson became emotional at one point during the press conference); the team is not meeting expectations (which were to make the playoffs this year); and management feels the squad has the talent to do so (with Wilkinson saying there’ll be no major chances).
Here are the big takeaways from Monday’s press conference:
“I’ve been responsible for signing all the players. I’ve been responsible for bringing the staff on board, and they’re quality people. We all have another level we can go to. It’s a matter of finding that level.”
“I’ve been responsible for bringing all those players here. Now it’s up to me to get a little bit more out of them. ” – Wilkinson
One of the bigger questions surrounding this year’s Timbers is where John Spencer’s input ended and Gavin Wilkinson’s authority began. Spencer had always maintained he had input, and on Monday, Wilkinson affirmed that personnel decisions were a product of a meeting of the minds. Those meetings go out of the window with Wilkinson’s appointment, though Paulson made clear: “I am a strong believer in the importance of separating the coach and GM role …”
“We’ve got, initially, 10 coaches we’ll be assessing,” Paulson said. He’s targeting the off-season, hoping to have a new, long-term solution in place by the end of 2012.
Until then, don’t expect big changes.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a major overhaul,” Wilkinson said. “We’re looking at maximizing the potential, the ability of the players have – getting a little bit more out of them, getting a little more consistent … just strive to make the playoffs.”
“… I think any time you step into this you have high expectations of yourself, and you work for an organization that lives it and breathes excellence. Of course you’re going to feel a little bit of pressure.” – Wilkinson
Paulson and Wilkinson avoided any indictment of Spencer, but with Wilkinson making it clear the current team won’t be blown up, the pressure moves onto his shoulders. Whatever Spencer wasn’t providing, he’s going to be expected to give, particularly since he was one of the cooks in the kitchen. He’s keenly aware of the expectations.
First, though, he has to figure out which is the real Timbers’ team: The one that shows up at JELD-WEN, or the one that can’t win on the road.
“If anything [the players] should feel a little bit more relaxed on the road – a little bit less pressure – and more at ease and be able to express themselves greater on the field. That’s something that we’re going to continue to tick boxes and see if we can work that one out, but that’s one of the major, main tasks that I do have.” – Wilkinson
This home-road schism’s no longer a cute, expansion year joke. It’s clearly one of the issues that’s preoccupying the team, and over the last week, the divide has reached extremes. Portland has beaten San Jose and Seattle at home while losing by an aggregate 0-6 at Colorado and Real Salt Lake.
“I’ve never been in this situation where I’ve seen such a drastic difference from a team at home versus away,” Wilkinson added. It’s his problem, now.
“We can talk about any of these things until we’re blue in the face,” Paulson interjected. “I prefer to actually go out and show it … that’s something I do expect to see development on.”
“Philosophy is today what it was when we kicked off our MLS existence in 2011. The expectations are exactly the same. We talked about building through youth and athleticism. In our second year, we had the expectations of making the playoffs. By our third year, we wanted to have a team that was competing for MLS Cup.” – Paulson
Portland’s not preforming to those expectations, but they’re not too far off. While it’s hard to imagine them making the leap to title contender by next March, they’re still in the playoff picture now.
Multiple times, Paulson stressed Spencer’s dismissal wasn’t a record-driven decision; however, there must have been doubts as to whether Spencer could take the team to the playoffs. It’s hard to see Portland dismissing Spencer if they believed he would keep them on course.
“I want to have a team that does as well as it can possibly do and is a consistenly elite team in this league,” Paulson would later say. “That decision wasn’t made by looking at performance right now, but really just how we were going about certain things.”
However Portland’s going to become a title contender next season, Paulson no longer saw Spencer as the man to take them there.
“You know people talk about, in similar press conferences in sports, what a great person the departing coach is – how much we like him. This is a case where that has the added virtue of being true. There’s nothing I like more in our games than looking down at John when we score a goal, see him first pumping and looking up at me. I like him a lot. This is a very painful decision to make.” – Paulson
It sounds like something out of a “How To Fire Your Coach With Class” handbook, but before recalling Spencer’s sideline enthusiasm, Poulson started to choke up, his desire to push through compromised by a voice tightening with emotion. The words are standard. The delivery was not.
“These decisions aren’t easy,” he later added, asked about the moment. “There’s a human factor to it, and I don’t take that lightly. If I seem emotional, I guess I’m …” He paused to pick the right words. “[It was] a little bit surprising, as I was reading [the announcement].
“It is what it is.”
You only fire your first MLS coach once.
Portland Timbers’ fan blog Stumptown Footy has video of today’s press conference, in which you can see Paulson struggle toward the end of his prepared remarks.
Jun 19, 2013, 11:05 PM EDT
MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Thursday’s United States women’s national team match falls smack in the middle of the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season. It’s a friendly. It’s against the same team, Korea Republic, that the United States just handily defeated 4-1 on Saturday. But its relevance is critical, particularly to Abby Wambach – and for…
Jun 19, 2013, 10:21 PM EDT
Among the many assets in Jurgen Klinsmann’s portfolio, few are trending down.
Jun 19, 2013, 8:44 PM EDT
Confederations Cup completely worth it when it provides matches like these.
Jun 19, 2013, 7:35 PM EDT
There’re no shortage of players to praise after the U.S. completes a nine-out-of-nine run.
Jun 19, 2013, 6:47 PM EDT
Most U.S. players were still in the locker room an hour after final whistle Tuesday … watching a basketball game. Hmmm.
Jun 19, 2013, 5:58 PM EDT
Even while struggling, LA’s still the standard, but can they turn things around enough to keep Portland from the top of the West.
Jun 19, 2013, 5:25 PM EDT
Neymar’s show compounded problems for CONCACAF’s champions.
Jun 19, 2013, 4:52 PM EDT
The 42-year-old American revealed he is taking coaching courses to prepare for whenever his career is over.
Jun 19, 2013, 4:17 PM EDT
Some of those old issues of communication and understanding between Jones and Michael Bradley were on display once again in Utah:
Jun 19, 2013, 3:32 PM EDT
Montréal can open a gap atop the East with a win tonight. If Houston springs the upset, they’ll be within one point of the conference leaders.
Jun 19, 2013, 2:44 PM EDT
He didn’t exactly say much, but Pepe Reina’s club is Liverpool – at least, right now.
Jun 19, 2013, 12:04 PM EDT
Cameras caught a message from Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, could it foreshadow a move?
Jun 19, 2013, 11:22 AM EDT
Fabio Capello is the latest manager to say “no” to the defending Ligue 1 champions.
Jun 19, 2013, 10:23 AM EDT
Liverpool take a huge net loss on the 24-year-old while West Ham set their transfer fee record.
Jun 19, 2013, 9:48 AM EDT
Tragedy struck Chivas USA’s youth squad Monday night.
Jun 19, 2013, 9:15 AM EDT
At the call of fans and media alike, the FA Cup final at Wembley will return to its post-league date.
Jun 19, 2013, 8:35 AM EDT
The United States had the perfect lineup to slowly whittle away at the Honduras defense before it finally broke.
Jun 19, 2013, 7:45 AM EDT
The 24-year-old American has found a new team after spending 5 seasons at Villa Park.
- Stock Falling: Which U.S. players’ statures are slipping … 2
- Get to your DVRs as soon as possible, because that Italy-Japan match was a classic 1
- Stock Rising: United States men whose values are rising out of Salt Lake 2
- MLS Preview: Portland Timbers at LA Galaxy 0
- Goal, assist from Neymar give Brazil win, prolong Mexico’s woes 2
- Graham Zusi keeps making it harder for Landon Donovan to get back into U.S. national team (29)
- Broadcast of U.S. v. Panama was second highest audience for World Cup Qualifier (14)
- Marseille’s hideous away kit one of the worst of all time (14)
- Orlando City dumps Sporting Kansas City out of U.S. Open Cup, extend unbeaten streak to 14 matches (13)
- It’s time FIFA reconsiders the Confederations Cup bid to the Oceania region (13)
- Blackhawks win OT thriller
- PHT: Blackhawks rattle Rask in Game 4
- PFT: Report: Hernandez accused of prior shooting
- CSN: Report: Hernandez 'not ruled out' as suspect
- PBT Extra: Will the Spurs recover for Game 7?
- PBT: Celts, Clips restart Doc, KG trade talks
- HBT: Hamilton dropped to 7th in Angels lineup
- Play Video: Police clash with protesters in Brazil
- Play Video: Highlights: Sounders win in final minutes
- Play Video: Highlights: Revolution dismantle Galaxy
- Play Video: What does New York FC have to do to succeed?
- Play Video: The Hype: Bending the screen like Beckham
- Play Video: Galaxy's Rogers talks about coming out to the public