The Portland Timbers have made significant changes to their coaching staff and roster ahead of the upcoming 2018 season. In November 2017, Caleb Porter announced his resignation from the position of head coach after five seasons with the Timbers organization. Porter’s surprise departure came after a successful 2017 season where the Timbers finished first in the Western Conference before being eliminated in the semifinal round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. This past season was a strong recovery from the Timbers’ poor showing during the 2016 season, in which they missed the playoffs and failed to earn a single win on the road. About one month after Porter’s announcement, the Timbers signed Giovanni Savarese as their new head coach.
Savarese spent the last five seasons as the head coach of the New York Cosmos, a North American Soccer League club, posting a regular season record of 65-26-44 during that time and leading the Cosmos to three league championships. Before coaching, Savarese enjoyed an illustrious career competing with multiple clubs outside of the United States, including Swansea City in the England Premier League and Deportivo Italchacao in his native country of Venezuela. He also earned 30 caps (international appearances) with the Venezuela National Team. In addition to his tactical prowess, Savarese is capable of switching among four languages—English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese—which enables him to communicate with an increasingly international Timbers roster.
In addition to Savarese, the Timbers added a new assistant coach in Carlos Llamosa, as well as Guillermo “Memo” Valencia, who was named the club’s goalkeeper coach.
Another major development going into the 2018 season is the trade of Darlington Nagbe. It was announced in December of 2017 that the star midfielder would be traded to Atlanta United after being on the roster since the team ascended to the MLS. However, Ethan Snyder, a Timbers fan and junior at Franklin, explains how other players, like five-year veteran Diego Valeri and seven-year veteran Diego Chara, will respond to Nagbe’s permanent absence. “I feel like Valeri stepped up all the time regardless of Nagbe being there or not. I think Chara and Valeri are going to now have more of the spotlight when they’re playing,” he says.
Nagbe’s trade opened up spots on the roster for more recruitments as well. One of the many additions to the Timbers roster includes Andres Flores, a productive attacking player who joined after playing four seasons under coach Gio Savarese with the Cosmos. Flores has also been capped 59 times by the El Salvador National Team. Portland also signed forward Foster Langsdorf as an MLS Homegrown Player for the 2018 season. The Homegrown Player is an MLS program that allows teams to sign local players from their own development academies directly to first team rosters. A native of Vancouver, Washington, Langsdorf played for the Portland Timbers Academy from 2012-14, and was named the 2013 Timbers Academy Player of the Year. Additionally, Langsdorf played three seasons (2014-2016) for the Portland Timbers U23s in the Premier Development League, featuring in 17 matches, while registering three goals and an assist.
Many Portland fans are curious about how these significant changes to the coaching staff and roster will affect the upcoming season. Sitting seventh in the West, the Timbers have room to improve, and the organization is hoping Savarese will produce this boost. Justin Zoradi, an avid Timbers fan and member of the Timbers Army, says, “With the departure of both Porter and Nagbe, a lot of fans were signaling the alarm early in the off-season. But as Gio has settled and the transfer window moved along nicely, I think most fans are excited and hopeful about the changes. If anything, people are so passionate about the Timbers, it doesn’t entirely matter. Having soccer at this level in our city with the fan support we have is a unique gift.” The Timbers kick off their 2018 season on March 4 at 4:30 p.m. against the LA Galaxy.