PORTLAND, Ore. – If there was one thing Portland Timbers fans were counting on heading into the 2012 season, it was goals from Designated Player Kris Boyd.
The Scottish Premier League’s all-time leading scorer came to the Rose City as a proven commodity. There were hopes from the front office on down that Boyd’s high-profile signing would prove the missing link on a team that so narrowly missed the playoffs in their inaugural season and transform an offense that was one of the league’s worst in 2011.
As it turned out, Boyd finished the season as the team’s leading scorer. But his total of seven goals ultimately proved to be another disappointment in a season in which not much went right.
And after head coach John Spencer was fired in July, Boyd was in and out of the starting lineup and missed the final month-and-a-half with an injury, adding to the speculation that he was never quite match-fit when he joined MLS.
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“Clearly we didn’t expect Kris not to be starting all the time,” Timbers owner Merritt Paulson told MLSsoccer.com in a wide-ranging interview last week. “And I would have had his goals, if I were predicting, higher than they were.”
Paulson said he’s hesitant to evaluate a specific player’s performance, leaving that to general manager Gavin Wilkinson, who took over for Spencer on an interim basis. But he did describe Boyd as a “good professional.”
Boyd is signed for another year, and Paulson said Wilkinson will determine his future with the team along with incoming head coach Caleb Porter.
“Gavin and Caleb have got to work that out with Kris,” Paulson said. “I’m sure they will, and they’ll keep me in the loop as to the plans. I’ve always said I’ll let the soccer guys make those decisions, and I keep them accountable for those decisions.”
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The hope is that the "soccer guys" make the moves that allow Portland to emulate the 2012 Supporters’ Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes, a team that finished below Portland in the standings last year.
The Earthquakes made just a few roster tweaks to bolster an already talented team, and that’s what Paulson suggested could be in store for the Timbers.
“I can promise you we’ll make some moves in the offseason,” Paulson said. “But as to whether it’s a major overhaul, I do think we have some quality pieces and it’s just a question of bolstering some positions and maybe putting some better compliments in place to what we have.”
Paulson admits that while he tries to stay out of the soccer-related matters as much as possible, he is more involved than some owners. He indicated that Wilkinson has provided him a blueprint of how he sees the offseason going, and Paulson said he is “very supportive” of it.
“I’m driven to get this thing right and get the city a winner, and selfishly I want a winner myself,” he said. “But I think that a patient approach there is necessary. You need breaks to go your way, and you need some time. But I do think that this is not a case of a mass overhaul of a disaster of a last-place or near the bottom-of-the-table team. Just talking to teams that we’ve played, particularly good teams that we’ve played against, some of the quality we have is there.”
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And while Paulson said he felt the fans’ desire to support a winning team, he said there were times that he wished they better understood the nature of the team’s foundation.
“I want them to understand that, but I’m realistic to know that the mentality of some is only going to be 'I understand what I see today,'” he said. “And I get that. We’ve had time to build something now in two years, and we’ve had a tough year.”
He noted how the club’s approach – as opposed to Seattle, who fielded a playoff team in their first year in the league with a group of veteran players – is to build with young, talented players.
“I do think that some of the fruits of our efforts are going to start to show,” he said. “I’m leery to even talk about it because talk is cheap in this regard.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.