Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson
fired coach John Spencer
today, ending the tenure of the team's first Major League Soccer coach after a season dotted inconsistency and embarrassment.
The Timbers (5-8-4, 19 points) have spent the entirety of this second
season in or near the cellar their conference. They've shown themselves able to
beat some of the best teams in the league at home (Sporting Kansas City,
San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders) while losing to some of the
worst (New England Revolution, Toronto FC) on the road.
reported in April, the drumbeat among fans (and even Timbers Army loyalists) picked up when the team lost 1-0 to an amateur side.
The decision by Paulson wasn't without warning. Though Paulson had said in May that he didn’t want to make the mistake of being impatient with his coach and making an early firing, Spencer in recent weeks had developed the habit of alluding to his job being on the line during press conferences.
At a Monday afternoon news conference, Paulson declined to answer any questions as to the specific reasons behind Spencer’s ousting. He did say that the decision was “not a team record decision” but rather a result of differences in philosophy.
Paulson appeared to be near tears as he described Spencer’s class and honesty, and the sight of him happily fist-pumping after a Timbers goal.
Paulson also said that the team would be making an additional assistant coach hire to assist Gavin Wilkinson, the team's general manager who will coach for the remainder of the season.
Wilkinson was a player for the Timbers during six seasons in the USL league, and was both head coach and general manager of the USL Timbers team from 2007 until the team's move up to MLS.
Wilkinson said there are no large shake-ups planned for the team. This should come as no large surprise. Although the Timbers have been conspicuously mum about their player acquisition process, Wilkinson as general manager would have been heavily involved in all team and staff hirings. Wilkinson’s offensive system as a coach also did not differ greatly from Spencer’s in terms of game play.