PHILADELPHIA – The Timbers were quiet on the first day of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, but there were few people at the Pennsylvania Convention Center busier than Portland manager Giovanni Savarese.
The Timbers had no picks in the first two rounds and made no trades. But there was Savarese, working his way through the ballroom, shaking hands and accepting congratulations.
The new Portland head coach had many friends in the room from his days as a lethal striker for the MetroStars to his hugely successful tenure as head coach of the New York Cosmos. And even while he was quietly sitting at the Timbers table in the war room, Savarese was busy analyzing what the other MLS teams were doing in the draft.
“Just watching a little bit the way things are moving, the selections to pretty much see what the teams are looking for,” Savarese said on Friday. “It’s been a good experience, good for us to sit, watch, not having the necessity to pick any player at the moment.”
Savarese has been on the job for a little more than a month. It’s been a busy period for the Timbers, who traded Darlington Nagbe to Atlanta just before Savarese’s hiring was announced and then signed Costa Rican defender Julio Cascante and Peruvian winger Andy Polo shortly after he was brought on board.
“The transition has been good, it’s been busy in regards to the player movement,” Savarese said. “Glad to have Cascante and Polo now as part of the Timbers and it’s been great to be able to integrate with the staff and work with [General Manager] Gavin [Wilkinson] in order to start looking into the next pieces we have to bring in order to have the team we want at the start of preseason.”
The Timbers also made noise on the day of the draft when they announced they’d signed forward Foster Langsdorf out of Stanford as the club’s second Homegrown player.
Identifying and nurturing young talent is one of Savarese’s strong suits as a coach. He said that’ll be important for the club’s success, in both the short and long-term.
“We are going to continue to look for young players, especially players from our system,” Savarese said. “We are still looking to more youth in order to integrate them into the first team. I think this is important. We’re going to keep an eye on those young players, from within and also the national team programs and other youth programs and hopefully we’re going to be able to sign more players this year.”
Savarese is far from done tinkering the Timbers roster, but he likes what he sees as he gets ready to embark on his first preseason as an MLS coach.
“I think the good thing with us is that we have a very good base,” Savarese said “Now it’s about how we can improve some areas, how we can find some depth in others and then start working in preseason to make sure we implement the ideas and we are working toward the same direction.”