PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s always nice to be wanted. And as far as Gavin Wilkinson and the Portland Timbers organization are concerned, wanting is about as far as the Colorado Rapids' overtures toward head coach John Spencer will go, thank you very much.
The Timbers denied Colorado’s official request to speak with Spencer regarding their recently vacated head coaching position, as first reported by The Oregonian.
Wilkinson, the Timbers general manager, told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday that he and owner Merritt Paulson sat down with Spencer after Colorado came calling on the heels of Gary Smith's departure on Monday.
“John works for the Portland Timbers, but out of respect for John and his family, we sat down with John and his family and said, ‘Honestly, OK, what do you want?’” said Wilkinson. “And the words out of his mouth were, ‘I want to be in Portland.’ So it’s something that we’re very, very glad [of] here, and we’re happy that he feels that way.”
Colorado weren’t required to ask permission, but Wilkinson said it was done out of courtesy to the Timbers. He said the Rapids' interest is a tribute to the job Spencer did during the Timbers’ first season in MLS.
“It’s always nice to be wanted,” Wilkinson said. “And for him, it’s a pat on the back for a job that has been appreciated by various people around the league.”
Outside of nearly leading the Timbers to the MLS Cup Playoffs, Spencer’s name surfacing in Colorado wasn’t much of a surprise.
The Scotsman, who played in Colorado from 2001 to 2004, led the Rapids to the playoffs three times, led the Rapids in goals two seasons, was a two-time MLS Best XI selection, and was a finalist for the league MVP in 2003. His 37 goals in a Rapids jersey ranks third on the club’s all-time scoring list.
And to top it all off, Spencer was inducted to the Rapids Gallery of Honor in 2009.
“Colorado, it’s a place that he holds very dear to his heart,” Wilkinson said. “His quote to me was, ‘Colorado is home, but Portland is the home of soccer.’ “You can see what value he brings to the [Timbers]. He’s done a great job. We love him here in Portland, and we want John to be successful here in Portland.”
Spencer is in the second year of a three-year contract, with the third year being a team option. Wilkinson said he has been in discussions recently with Paulson and Spencer about Spencer’s contract, but that the interest from Colorado won’t have any impact on a possible extension.
“We are committed to John,” Wilkinson said, “and coaches would love to see that in the form of a longer contract, and maybe we’re in a position to do that very soon.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.