The Timbers' off-season started just days ago, but Gavin Wilkinson is already scouting for 2012. That means he'll soon be going on another adventure.
"Just going to a few different countries," Wilkinson deadpanned during the Portland Timbers' training session at Jeld-Wen Field on Tuesday. In the coming weeks the team's General Manager and Technical Director will be traveling to Colombia, Ghana, Togo, Europe, and even the faraway land of Los Angeles, scouting new talent for the Timbers' second year in MLS.
"So, it's gonna be a busy month."
"We do need to add depth, we do need to add some quality pieces," said Wilkinson. "We're just looking at the future, and the fact that we do need to get better. We need to have more depth in this squad and for those players to put more pressure on one another."
Overall, Wilkinson considers the Timbers' first year in MLS a successful one. In particular, although Wilkinson and the rest of the staff were surprised by the team's poor performances on the road, they were encouraged by the successes later in the season.
"As a group we developed over the year, and the maturity of the group definitely improved. I think the consistency and performances on the road started to develop and started to improve."
"We've got an ambitious owner and ambitious fans, and rightfully so. I think the challenge is to meet those demands and expectations," said Wilkinson.
"But we fell short of those expectations."
So, what will he be looking for in his epic trek across the globe? He declined to talk about specific positions, but he did make it clear his recipe for success remains the same.
"We will have a young, athletic team, who will continue to work hard on a daily basis and hopefully improve in the standings next year." That means bringing in new young talent, even while young players like Kalif Alhassan, Darlington Nagbe and Sal Zizzo continue to mature and learn.
One of the key places Wilkinson will visit is Colombia, the home country of striker Jorge Perlaza and midfielder Diego Chara. The success that the team's two Colombian players have had this year, in addition to the relationships the team has built there, has encouraged Wilkinson to continue to focus a share of his scouting efforts on the South American country.
Wilkinson said he expects "to sign one more, maybe two more" Colombian players to the team this off-season or early next season.
"We've seen that Colombians can be very successful in this league," Wilkinson said, referring specifically to Perlaza and Chara. "We think they're great players, we think highly of them as people, and their ambition in this organization is to succeed and win a championship."
"I think when you've got two good Colombians, two great people and great professionals, it's easier maybe to bring in a younger Colombian. They'll be great role models." Citing the examples set by other organizations, Wilkinson said providing that kind of support is important for young people playing internationally, helping them settle into the new environment.
After Colombia, his next stop will be Ghana, where he will pursue a similar strategy. "We'd love to get the most out of certain pockets" of the world, he said.
Special thanks to Timbers Insider's Kelly McLain for hitting the 'record' button on his microphone while Mr Wilkinson was speaking, which I had failed to do.