As the Portland Timbers transition fully into wheeling-and-dealing mode, general manager Gavin Wilkinson has been racking up the minutes collaborating over the phone with new coach Caleb Porter.
Despite the geographical distance between the two as Porter ties up loose ends with his former employer, the University of Akron, the two were able to come together to pull off two major trades Monday in acquiring Michael Harrington and Will Johnson.
But in less than two weeks, Wilkinson will only have to stroll down the hallway at JELD-WEN Field if he wants to talk strategy with Porter.
“His focus changed once Akron were knocked out of the college playoffs, and he’s been engaged in every move and every piece that we’ve spoken about,” Wilkinson told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “So I would say in some ways and mentally he’s fully on board now. Physically, he arrives in Portland later in December.”
Wilkinson said Porter’s input weighed heavily on the additions of Harrington and Johnson as the front office begins to remake the team to Porter’s specifications. In that respect, Porter is effectively working two jobs at once.
“He works long hours, he’s always accessible, it’s a passion of his,” Wilkinson said. “The number of hours that are being put in at the moment we hope are not going to be the norm for him, but there’s an awful lot of hours going in. He’s watching a lot of video, spending a lot of time with the assistant coaches and the players we have on board now, players we’re acquiring, myself, the owner. He’s fully engaged.”
Still, Wilkinson said he’s eager to have Porter make the leap completely, because there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Wilkinson recently returned from a South American scouting trip and said he expects Monday’s roster movement is only the beginning.
“There will be a couple more tweaks,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to have a good offseason and acquire the players that we’ve identified. There's going to be a few more moves, yeah, and we need to keep moving forward as an organization. So there’s constant communication with Caleb and the coaching staff, and we will continue to pursue different targets that we’ve identified both in internally in MLS and overseas.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.