After a busy weekend that saw both the Timbers first team and reserves play at Jeld-Wen Field, the Timbers held a short practice session at their Beaverton training facility this morning. With all the furor around the possible announcement of a new head coach this week and this morning's announcement about the lack of a raise in season ticket prices, team owner Merritt Paulson was at practice and spoke to the press despite being in obvious discomfort due to a herniated disc.
"Certainly after a year last year where we kept 80% of the prices the same it was our expectation going in to this year to have some moderate bump but as I said in the release, at the end of the day it just didn't feel right." Paulson said before touching on the state of the team. "In a year when we have clearly underperformed our own expectations and our supporters expectations and sitting at a point in time, which is hopefully not going to last, where we are last in the west right now when we need to announce this, to me and to all of our folks, we felt like it was better to hold the prices."
Of course the second question asked was about the coaching search and although he was cagey with his answers, Paulson did give out a few details. The new coach will, probably, be named tomorrow, confirming what he told Ryan earlier in the week. He also stated that he had spoken with Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann in the course of the Timbers' search for a new coach.
More notes on the new coach, practice, and full quotes from Merritt Paulson and Gavin Wilkinson after the jump.
After practice Gavin Wilkinson also dropped some hints about the team's new coach as well. Wilkinson described the new coach as "an up and coming coach that has the potential to be one of the best in the league." Wilkinson also mentioned that the team was looking for a coach that was "cerebral".
Practice itself was short, with nobody missing due to injury. Jose Adolfo Valencia was still training with the team and seems to be lasting longer and longer into the warm ups before breaking off to work individually with the team's trainers.
Kalif Alhassan, who was working on returning to fitness last week, fully participated in today's practice an looked to be playing a central role in the short field games that the team played for most of practice.
Trialist Pablo Di Fiori and practice player Cam Vickers were both with the team in training as well.
On the decision to not increase season ticket prices
Certainly after a year last year where we kept 80% of the prices the same it was our expectation going in to this year to have some moderate bump but as I said in the release, at the end of the day it just didn't feel right.I think that we are in a unique position, when you look at the demand we have. I mean, heck, we have had over 14,000 people show up to a reserve game on Sunday.
This is not a typical market and I think that what doesn't get talked about is that our average ticket price, we didn't come out of the game overly aggressive there either. We are still in the lower half of average MLS ticket prices, so there is no question that we could have renewed at a very high rate with a bump, but I think the right thing is really the long term relationship here.
In a year when we have clearly underperformed our own expectations and our supporters expectations and sitting at a point in time, which is hopefully not going to last, where we are last in the west right now when we need to announce this, to me and to all of our folks, we felt like it was better to hold the prices.
On if he has rethought how he sets expectations for the club
Publicly, yeah. Not internally. We are always going to have expectations. Do I think that we should have been as vocal about getting into the playoffs in year two and contending for an MLS Cup in year three when we've got the second youngest team in the league? Those are very good expectations to have and other teams have shown that you can come into this league and be successful, but that said I think that conditioning the market publicly has a certain downside to it. That is something in retrospect that I think we will be a little bit more careful about going forward.
On the coaching search
There should be an announcement very shortly. So I would expect something this week. It is something that we are very excited about, something that we put a lot of work into. I am thrilled with the guy that we've got and I am looking forward to announcing that hopefully this week.
I am not going to comment beyond what I just said.
On the recent leaks about the coaching search
I am actually surprised at all the leaks, right or wrong, that happened this week. We've talked to quite a few coaches. There are a lot of excellent candidates out there and none of them have leaked. Even the reports of who we've talked to, some of them have not been accurate. I think we wanted to be fairly private with it and there are certain advantages there.
A lot of work has gone into it. Gavin has been burning the candle at both ends between his first responsibility to the team, doing the GM job, and the coach search job. I've been heavily involved in the coach search, as have our other assistant coaches as well and this has been a lot of in person interviews, I've watched games with coaches, I've talked to people like Jurgen Klinsmann, Bob Bradley, all sorts of people around the league.
I certainly feel a lot better prepared for the coach search at this point with going through what we've gone through with making a change and I am very optimistic that we have got this one right.
On if Gavin Wilkinson will finish out the season as the interim head coach
Yeah. There is no way I am going to put in a new head coach with this few games to play. That would just be disruptive.
If the reports of Caleb Porter being the new head coach are correct
No comment. I think that a bunch of guys have run that with no confirmation from any source, certainly from the Portland Timbers. You are not going to have to wait long, I don't think.
On when the new coach would arrive in Portland
If I answered that question I might be a little bit leading. We will be clear with that tomorrow. It is Labor Day week, guys. I don't want to announce stuff Thursday or Friday when people are taking off for the holidays, so I think hopefully we will have something out sooner rather than later.
On today's practice
It was good. It was light-hearted. The players had a regen session Sunday for the starters, yesterday off, and were just getting their feet back under them.
On breaking the team's winless streak
I think that everyone is just a little bit relieved. I think it has been a long time coming, to be honest. There have been some positive building blocks and that has been the result of the players putting a lot of hard work and doing what is asked of them.
On ending the search for a new coach
I think I have said from day one that this is not a position that I want to be in but I will be in it until the end of the year and we will keep managing. We will get hte most out of the players and we will keep looking at the players and at what pieces we need to move forward, but to be able to bring on a head coach and to be able to start having them look at the organization as well is a big relief.
On the new coach
Just an up and coming coach that has the potential to be one of the best in the league. I think that once you start looking at what we were looking for in a head coach, somebody that was cerebral, somebody that would process a game, somebody that would also develop the younger players, I think that this coach gives us everything we need.
On how long the new coach has been targeted
I would say that it has been definitely in the last seven days when the list has been narrowed down. It was quite an extensive list. There were a lot of views a lot of conversations took place. We had a lot of people here in Portland and we went and saw one or two of them as well in their environment as well. It has been a long process and to get to this stage this early is tremendous for the organization.
On if the candidate has MLS experience
Dealing with MLS players, dealing with international players, dealing with good up and coming players, I think that fits the bill nicely.
On how the new coach will be integrated into the team
I will remain as head coach through the remainder of the season and we will look to bring them onboard in December.
On preparing to play the Colorado Rapids twice in a row
Colorado is a team that we have not faired well against. They are coming off a bad result for them and we are coming off a positive one. We will have to lift our game again. We have got to start to get wins back to back, consecutive wins, and we have to keep looking to develop this group. I think we've played some good football, but now it is can we play good football and get wins on a regular basis.
Colorado is a team that I think we can expose in various areas and we need to look to go after them. We need to look to play with the same passion that we played with against Vancouver and then hopefully bring the confidence of that game in to Colorado.
On being the center of attention for the last few weeks
With me taking the full blast of it, as such, I think it has been healthy for the players. The players have been able to relax and play. If you are in my situation and you are trying to maintain a healthy locker room, a comraderie in the locker room, I think it has worked out great for them.
It is part of the job, I understand that. I have always said that we have different ways of expressing themselves and people, when they don't have all the information, jump to conclusions and maybe that has been the case but the players have done very well. I'll put it back on the players and for them, if we can continue to do well hopefully the environment will continue to change. Having a head coach announced is also a positive because now these players can identify with who is going to be in charge next year and look to improve for that individual. It raises the level of accountability.
On how the players and coach can get to know each other when he is not going to take over until December
It is a small world with social media, with games and how you can view them, with the stats that you can get form games now these days. Every bit of information that we have up to this date and every bit of information we will get from now until the end of the season will be exposed and the head coach that is coming in will have access to all of that.
On the possibility of the field being widened
Yes, there are motions in place to widen the field for next year. We are looking at, I believe, two yards on each side.
On the decision to widen the pitch
I think it is something that would be a natural development for us as a team. I think that as an expansion team we wanted a tight area in which to play to feed off of the emotion and also until we had the pieces on board. Not allowing too much space to play in was a positive for us and now we are trying to increase the size of the field, giving some of our players more space in which to play. We are also going to continue to be a very athletic team and to maximize the space on the field would benefit us.
On if the new coach had any influence on the widening of the field
No. It was in place well before that.
This is a philosophical decision from the organization about the way in which we want to be recognized and the way in which we want to play and also the way in which we want the game to develop in Portland.