The Portland Timbers are in a bad spot. Timbers fans are rightly frustrated with their team's recent performances, and they've been searching for the responsible party. Many have focused their frustration at John Spencer, with a vocal minority calling for him to be sacked immediately. A few have laid the blame solely on the players, while others blame the lack of quality on Gavin Wilkinson's choices as General Manager.
An argument can be made for and against John Spencer, and Geoff has asked the community how long John should get to turn it around. With that in mind we'll ask the same question about Gavin Wilkinson that we asked about John Spencer.
First, a bit of background. Gavin Wilkinson has been a part of the Timbers organization since 2001, as a player and a coach, most recently as the team's Technical Director and General Manager. He has played a part in nearly every success, as well as nearly every failure, this club has experienced in its modern era.
Fellow Stumptown Footy Editor Andrew Wheeler contributed to this report. More after the Jump.
Perhaps his most important contribution is the work he has done outside the Timbers organization, building East Side United and with it a culture in local youth soccer that prepares promising young players for a professional experience. The foundation he laid years ago is now the Timbers development system
Count current Timber Brent Richards among Wilkinson's successes. When he first started playing for East Side United, Richards says he wasn't even sure he wanted to become a professional soccer player.
"It was good to have a coach like Gavin," says Richards. "It was completely different from the practice environment that I had been in. It was kind of a different standard, so that's where I started to develop a lot of my skills."
As Stumptown Footy community member grogancp has posted over the past few weeks, Richards could be the first of many exciting local players to someday join the Timbers first team.
And with the continuing deterioration of the quality available in the SuperDraft, future Timbers rosters will increasingly be built from the development system. The full effect of Wilkinson's work in this area may not be felt for many years.
But as successful as Wilkinson has been with the development programs, many fans question the wisdom of carrying the same mantra of "young, athletic players" to the first team, especially when the team is led by one of the league's least experienced coaching staffs.
His critics have also pointed to the trades he has made and the international prospects he has considered for the team. For example, when the team needed improvements at the fullback and center midfield positions this winter, Wilkinson dealt mainly in strikers, sending away Kenny Cooper while adding Sebastian Rincon, Jose Adolfo Valencia, Kris Boyd and the aforementioned Brent Richards during the offseason.
Moreover, many point to the intra-MLS trades on Wilkinson's record as evidence of his failure as a General Manager. As Kevin Alexander wrote on Slide Rule Pass last weekend, "At times it seems like there's no guiding principle as to how the Timbers are working their trades."
Many Stumptown Footy commenters have expressed similar viewpoints over the past couple of months.
"We knew going into the winter that fullback was an issue. Yet we didn't address it. We know that Jewsbury was coming off his strongest year and it might be a good time to cash in our chips. We didn't. We needed another creative central midfielder. We didn't get one." - Dan Brunell
"His signings have ALWAYS struck me as ‘hey this guy is kinda good, let's throw him on the team.'" - zaggy
With that, I leave the discussion and poll to y'all. What do you think? How long should Wilkinson stay in the GM role if results don't start to come in?