PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Timbers head coach Gavin Wilkinson was named the 2007 USL First Division Coach of the Year, it was announced today by United Soccer Leagues. In his first year as the Timbers head coach, Wilkinson led the team to a second-place finish and the USL First Division semifinals for the first time in modern franchise history.
Voted on by coaches and general managers, Wilkinson is the Timbers' second coach to earn coach-of the-year honors since the Timbers joined the USL First Division in 2001. Former coach Bobby Howeearned the league's top coaching honor in 2004.
In 2007, Wilkinson, 33, led the Timbers to one of the most successful seasons in modern franchise history. Under Wilkinson, the 2007 Timbers led the league in fewest goals allowed (18) and shutouts (15), and assembled an unbeaten home record (8-0-6) during the regular season - just the third team in the USL First Division to accomplish the feat since 2000. With a record of 14-5-9 (51pts), the 2007 Timbers recorded the best turnaround season in USL First Division history, finishing in second after tying for last in 2006.
Also in 2007, Wilkinson led the Timbers to their fifth playoff berth since joining the USL and helped the club advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2001 season. After defeating the defending-champion Vancouver Whitecaps by a 3-1 aggregate score in the first round, the Timbers made the club's first appearance in the USL First Division semifinals. In their semifinal series against the Atlanta Silverbacks, the Timbers ultimately lost the series on penalty kicks after battling Atlanta to a 1-1 aggregate score through two matches and series overtime.
Named head coach and general manager on Sept. 26, 2006, Wilkinson first joined the Timbers as a defender for the team's inaugural USL First Division season in 2001. He played in each of the Timbers first six seasons including the 2005 and 2006 seasons as a player / assistant coach. He ranks among modern franchise leaders in both minutes (10,181) and games (124) played. A New Zealand native, Wilkinson has earned 38 caps as a member of the New Zealand National team and recently represented his home country in the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in France.
The USL First Division announced the 2007 Coach of the Year award along with the league's MVP, Defender of the Year and Rookie of the Year on Friday leading up to the 2007 USL First Division Championship match between the Seattle Sounders and Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday.
USL First Division Award Winners:
Coach of the Year: Gavin Wilkinson (Portland Timbers)
Most Valuable Player: Sebastien Le Toux, forward (Seattle Sounders)
Defender of the Year: David Hayes (Atlanta Silverbacks)
Rookie of the Year: Jay Needham, defender (Puerto Rico Islanders)