"Work rate and effort was phenomenal ..."
Portland Timbers head coach Gavin Wilkinson earned a 3-1 victory in his professional coaching debut on April 21 over the Puerto Rico Islanders at PGE Park. He sat down with www.portlandtimbers.com to talk about Game 1 of the 2007 USL First Division season.
The Timbers scored their first goal of the season in the 2nd minute of play. Wilkinson describes his team's performance against the Islanders in the 2007 season opener.
"Overall we played well. It is the first game of the season and our performance still needs to be refined, but I was pleased with the outcome. The nerves and jitters were limited and the workrate and effort put forth by the players was phenomenal.
"The players arrived at the stadium before the game extremely focused; they were here to do business. They carried that mentality to the field and were highly motivated to succeed. They prepared themselves as professionals. If we can approach every match in the same way, we should do well this season.
"While it is a fairly new team, our players have quite a bit of experience - especially on the backline. No one looked intimidated and arrived for the game with a bit of confidence, maybe even a bit of arrogance, knowing they could come in and get the job done.
"You can tell the level of performance and committment from each player changed on Saturday. Each tackle, shot, pass meant something. The game experience during the preseason doesn't match the pace and environment of a regular season match and it's nice to finally have these games count."
Now with two weeks before the next match, the Timbers must work hard to keep the momentum going during the down time as they face the Seattle Sounders in each of their next two regular-season matches.
"Knowing we had a two-week break after our match against Puerto Rico put a little more pressure on us to get a result from that match. It's hard to sit on a loss for two weeks waiting for your next match. It certainly leaves time for nerves to set in, but our task as coaches is to keep that momentum going forward and not feel like we have to start over again. This is our longest stretch during the regular season without a game.
"The new players on this team will find out pretty quickly what the Portland/Seattle rivalry is all about. I sure did. I received 11 stitches in my first two USL First Division matches; both were against Seattle. The rivalry and the competition between these two clubs is really dictated by the players on the pitch. We swapped two good players in Gregor and Hugo, that certainly will add to the rivalry this season.
"If we continue to put out the effort and workrate that we displayed against Puerto Rico, there aren't going to be many teams who will want to play us. Teams will have to fight and work hard for any result against us."