As has been rumored, University of Akron head coach Caleb Porter was named the new head coach of the struggling Portland Timbers (6-13-6, 24 pts.) today. He will be the third coach in the team's troubled two-year history, following John Spencer, who was fired on July 9, and Timbers' general manager Gavin Wilkinson, who has served interim head coach since.
Porter will finish out his season as head coach of the University of Akron, which logged a national championship in 2010 with the help of current Timbers player Darlington Nagbe.
"Put simply, I believe Caleb Porter is the best young soccer coaching mind in the country,” Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said in a statement.
Under Wilkinson, the team has put in a disappointing 1-5-2 performance, which has led many fans to call for the general manager's dismissal, both in signage at Portland's Jeld-Wen Stadium stands and in on-line soccer forums.
Porter's early hiring announcement is just one of a number of conciliatory measures that Paulson has offered to disgruntled Timbers fans in the past week.
Paulson also announced this week that the team would not be raising the prices for season tickets for next year, specifically because of the team's spotty win-loss record. "We had expected to have some moderate bumps," Paulson said at practice August 28, "but at the end of the day it just didn't feel right."
In another public-relations move, the team has also released an extended ad spot, "Portland Timbers Anthem," by Wieden+Kennedy refugee Jelly Helm. Behind inspirational sounds by Portland's Marmoset Music, the ad depicts game-day preparations for Nagbe, various suburban fans and Timbers supporter Devin Chapman, who is a Portland competitor of a different breed: the Coava barista is the Northwest Regional Champion coffee puller for the second year running.
Here's the ad:
The combination of lassoing a new coach, keeping ticket prices unchanged and putting money into a new ad-—all in the same week—show Paulson is serious about mending fences with fans. Given the team's 7,500-strong waiting list for season tickets, he's got some margin for error even if these efforts fail.