The Portland Timbers head coach, Giovanni Savarese; general manager, Gavin Wilkinson; and technical director, Ned Grabavoy, today gave a joint press conference to wrap up the 2018 season and look forward to next year. Here are the biggest takeaways from that conference.
Club looking to strengthen in 3 or 4 positions
Wilkinson was unwilling to discuss specifics as to which positions the club was looking to strengthen, but that the club will look to add “three to four starting-caliber players that provide competition for places.”
Alvas Powell “slim to none” to return in 2019
Gavin Wilkinson today confirmed the reports that Alvas Powell is likely on the way out, saying “the likelihood of him being back in Portland next year is slim to none.” He explained that he and Savarese sat down with Powell to discuss him potentially not returning, and told reporters “it was a very emotional meeting, it was very upsetting, and I think everyone walked away from it just realizing how special Alvas is as a person and how much he means to the group in the locker room, and it’s probably one of the hardest meetings I’ve ever had to be a part of.”
That said, Wilkinson made sure to stress that no deal for Powell has been finalized yet.
Grabavoy promoted to technical director
The Timbers today announced that director of scouting and recruitment Ned Grabavoy has been promoted to the new title of technical director.
In his role, Grabavoy will continue to manage all aspects of the scouting, identification and evaluation of prospective professional, youth and college players, while managing a team of scouts for early identification and recruitment. He will manage and oversee pathways from the Portland Timbers Academy, to T2, to the first team and will work closely with the technical staff on first-team and T2 roster management as well as academy development, while continuing to develop key markets for recruiting players – domestically and internationally – for each level within the club’s developmental pyramid.
Asked about his new role with the developmental side of the club at today’s conference, Grabavoy spoke about recruiting outside of the club’s own homegrown area, saying, “That’s something that we need to rely on as well. We’re making a big investment to try and bring in and also develop some of the better prospects in our country.”
Wilkinson expanded on the subject, saying, “The club is vertically integrated in a special way between the first team and the second team. That has to extend beyond the second team and into every academy team.” Part of Grabavoy’s job will be to ensure that the processes and protocols in place in the first and second team are “adhered to at every level within the club.”
Eryk Williamson will be recalled from loan for the preseason
When asked about Eryk Williamson’s future in 2019, Wilkinson said that he will be recalled from loan and be back in time for the preseason. He continued to discuss the importance of having players in preseason, saying, “Last year we missed him in preseason. He was with the youth national team, and it was hard to integrate him. It was hard to set the standard; hard to see in him what we needed early on. There’s no doubt that he is a very talented young player.”
New DP may not arrive until the summer window
While discussing roster additions in regards to the potentially available designated player spot, Wilkinson explained, ”We have several ways in which we can use that DP slot. We’re evaluating several different ways right now and going through the process and again. What I would say is that DP has to come in and help us win games.”
Wilkinson also stressed that the club is not someone who needs a “name forward” and isn’t necessarily interested in finding a player who has an established name in world football, pointing out that players like Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, Diego Chara, and Liam Ridgewell were not big names, but have done excellently for the club. He further stressed that a DP signing isn’t something you want to rush, and, while there are profiles in place and some potential targets have been identified, it is a “work in progress.” There are “still no guarantees that we’re going to have them by the start of preseason or by the start of the season.”