Portland Timbers President of Soccer Gavin Wilkinson was part of his team's season-ending press conference on Thursday, December 3, 2020. Here are the transcribed highlights from his 50-minute session, which also included the team's head coach, Giovanni Savarese.
Wilkinson's opening remarks...
"Obviously, it was a disappointing end to the season. When you dominated in a game and you lose in PKs, it never sits well. The good news is that that provides motivation for 2021. Losing several Designated Players and other key players took its toll on the group, but that's not to take away from the team that we finished with.
"I think, in reflection on 2020 as a whole, we have to look at it and say it was relatively successful. And while there's still a bitter taste in our mouths, I think the professionalism, the performance of the staff and the sacrifices of the staff and the players, and the performance of the players, was remarkable. And that's during a challenging year. We look at it and say that's actually an admirable trait for the club.
"When we dealt with what we dealt with in the challenging year, it is a strong, strong reflection of the club culture. It's a massive positive. And then when you start to look at it and say, OK, but we also won MLS is Back, and again, the way in which we managed that tournament -- the team's performance; the staff's performance -- to enable us to be successful and win that tournament, I think it's huge. And that also gives us a Concacaf berth in 2021.
"That is another challenge that we're looking forward to. It will be a relatively busy offseason, moving a few players, bringing in a few players, but we are looking forward to 2021. And hopefully, we get our fans back, which we think is a differentiating factor and a major influence in the way the team performs. But fingers crossed it's somewhat of a normal `21."
On roster moves before the 2021 season...
"We'll be coming out with a club announcement relative to options and extensions eventually, but mainly options, today. I will say in general terms we want to strengthen the wide areas defensively. We also want to get another young central defender to come through the system. And whenever we talk about this, it's relative to the cap, relative to the benefit certain transactions give us.
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"We've already moved two players, but that will be announced when the trade window opens in the middle of December, and those are trades where players are fully involved in the decisions. We're no longer moving players just to the benefit of the club. This has been a challenging year with COVID not only for players but for their families, and we went about it a different way: to actually sit down with the players; to actually talk about their careers; talk about the next steps within their careers; and, see what they wanted.
"So there two players that we have moved already, that we cannot announce right now out of respect for the clubs that they're going to and the individuals that have been traded, but this is something the players actually wanted, they were fully invested in, and we were able to solve that. I'm proud of how the staff and the club managed that and involved the players in that movement, but we will be bringing in, are looking to bring in a young central defender. We will be looking to bring in a wide defender.
"As we know, football and squads are fluid. We're expecting to get one or two offers for some of the players that we have, and then we have decisions to make relative to those players and how we strengthen and how we rebuild.
"We're in discussions with Pumas to try and bring Felipe Mora back. He is a key piece to the team, to the club, and a well-liked player in the locker room. With us with Concacaf next year, there are multiple reasons why he would be a benefit to this organization."
On preparing for a new season with Concacaf Champions League on the horizon...
Using 2020 as a platform for our depth and saying, 'how do we recreate that depth?' That's the biggest question, and that's the biggest challenge right now. How do we make sure the players that we bring in can be both beneficial in Concacaf and in the regular season.
"There are some parameters we're working with -- obviously, the salary cap being one - but [there are] a lot of tough decisions that need to be made on the current roster and how we're going to use our funds to prepare for that tournament, which we still don't know the dates. So there's a sense of security that we need in getting those players sorted early so we can start to prepare.
"The challenges that COVID has presented for 2020 will be present for 2021, as well. We need to make sure we can manage those. We need the players sorted early. We need the players in a rhythm, and obviously, for me, the biggest challenge then becomes organizing preseason for a world that we don't know and making sure that we as a club and technical staff and team are fully prepared."