Spencer's dismissal weighing on minds of Timbers players
BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Portland Timbers started their new life without John Spencer on Tuesday with their first training session since the former head coach was relieved of his duties.
But Spencer was predictably still on the minds of many players, as well as interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson, after the morning session at the team's training facility.
"Yesterday was a sad day for everybody involved," said team captain Jack Jewsbury, who was lured from Kansas City to Portland by Spencer with the task of being the first player to wear the captain's armband in the team's inaugural season. "Still a little somber around here, but guys realize the task at hand is now to look forward to the weekend and to get back to business."
WATCH: Wilkinson at Timbers practice
Jewsbury said that while he was surprised when the news hit on Monday, he conceded that it is a business and a consequence of a series of bad results.
"It's one of those things in the game in the business that we all hate, especially for me seeing coach go," Jewsbury said. "He's the one who brought me here. So it's tough to see it go down because I think as players we hold ourselves responsible just as much as anyone else. So for me, love the guy and always will and always be thankful that he brought me here to Portland."
Wilkinson, who coached the second-division Timbers for four years before being named the general manager of the MLS club, said it felt "strange" leading his first practice, clad in a black Timbers kit rather than his usual suit and tie.
He didn't go into specifics regarding what changes would be in store, but he did say "everything's opened up," including who would wear the captain's armband.
"We've also got to look at decisions that affect the mentality of the team," Wilkinson said. "There's been a lot of change. How much more change can they cope with? There may be some changes this week; there may be more changes in the next couple of weeks.
"I'm not looking to come in and do everything overnight. That could be very, very disruptive. At the moment, we've got a game just around the corner and it's important to get the guys focused on that."
Another player whose role could be affected is striker Kris Boyd, who like Spencer is from Scotland and gained his fame after starring for the Rangers FC. Spencer's brother in law, Billy Davies, coached Boyd at Nottingham Forest, a major factor in his high-profile signing with Portland over the offseason.
"It's obviously disappointing with the coach leaving his post," Boyd said. "I said it was one of the big reasons I came here in the first place, but now we need to get on with it in a professional manner and look forward to the game against LA on Saturday. I'm a professional athlete; I turn out and do my job. I'll do that until I'm told otherwise.
"As I've said, I've enjoyed my time here, it's been great. As I've said, yes, it's disappointing that the coach has lost his job. But we need to move on in a professional manner."
Boyd, who said he has spoken to Spencer since his removal and that the two had grown close in his short time in the Rose City, said all he can do now is keep trying to score goals.
"I probably should have scored more," he said. "But I'm not a robot. You miss chances, as do the best strikers in the world."
Goalkeeper Troy Perkins credited Spencer with rejuvenating his career after bringing him to Portland in a trade with D.C. United.
"John's an incredible guy," Perkins said. "I think everyone in that locker room would put their life on the line for the guy. But unfortunately that's the bad part of this business, any business. We all know what we sign up for."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.