PORTLAND, Ore. – With the search for a new head coach well underway, Portland Timbers owner and CEO Merritt Paulson along with president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson have been plenty busy.
“Our coach search has begun in earnest and to say there’s significant interest in the position would be an understatement,” said Paulson. “I can tell you, we are going to have some terrific candidates to choose from.”
The duo has already had multiple phone conversations and in-person discussions with numerous candidates and are aiming “in a perfect world,” as Paulson said, to be able to make a final choice by the end of the year.
“But the decision won’t be made unless there’s confidence in the fit,” he said.
In terms of what type of candidates the club is looking for, Wilkinson spoke to how the team’s identity has been formed over the past few seasons and how that will influence whom they are aiming to find. The club is casting a wide net looking across the United States and internationally as well as in the professional and collegiate ranks. Ideally, they would like someone who has MLS experience (either as a player or a head coach), has bilingual ability and is able to continue to build on the existing strong culture that can be found across the Timbers organization.
“Whomever we hire as a coach has to be progressive,” said Wilkinson. “They have to be tactically intelligent and they have to play the way that we see [this team plays] which is keeping the ball, replicated in what we’ve seen in the last five years but also be able to continue to grow as a club.”
Having MLS experience and a deep knowledge of the league and the club will be key given that the run up to the preseason and the 2018 regular season are only a few weeks away.
“We need somebody that can step in understanding who our players are and not spend several months figuring out our players’ best positions, our players’ best attributes,” said Wilkinson. “We want somebody to hit the ground running. Obviously, there is going to be a transition period, but for us, it’s very important.”
An emphasis has also been placed on providing the next head coach with resources necessary to further continue the team’s record of success and team culture.
“I also think the key decision here is we have to do what’s right to make sure the head coach is successful,” said Wilkinson. “With that, I think we have to empower any new coach and give him the ability to make key decisions on his staff.”
Though the coach search is ongoing, it won’t affect the team’s ability to make player decisions in the short term of the offseason. In fact, in some cases, they may counsel some of the candidates they are considering.
“I would say that as we quickly narrow ourselves to a short list of candidates, some of those decisions we’re even going to be discussing with candidates before the final hire decision is made, if necessary, to get input,” said Paulson.
At the end of the day, the search and process has also created an opportunity for the club to further develop, mature and progress.
“With any change, there’s great opportunity as well,” said Paulson. “You can always get better.”