With the surprise of Caleb Porter's departure as Portland Timbers head coach receding, the team is turning to the next phase of their history.
Timbers owner Merritt Paulson and general manager Gavin Wilkinson held a conference call for reporters on Wednesday where they discussed the process of searching for Porter's replacement, who left as manager on November 17, in a move that shocked the league. Paulson began by reiterating the club's appreciation for Porter's tenure, which included the 2015 MLS Cup win.
"Five years is a long tenure with any pro soccer club, and the Timbers are fortunate to have had Caleb for that time. The club definitely matured and developed over that period, and we enjoyed some terrific success," Paulson said.
"Our coach search has begun in earnest, and to say there's significant interest in the position would be an understatement. I can tell you we are going to have some terrific candidates to choose from. … We're going to be in the fortunate position of making a very difficult decision," he continued.
While it seems like the candidates will for the most part have pro coaching experience, both in the US and abroad, Wilkinson did note that they will also look at college candidates. Prior to being hired by Portland, Porter built the University of Akron into a NCAA powerhouse.
"We've started to, and we're in the process of identifying the best available coaches in this country, and that includes the divisions below MLS, it includes the coaches no longer in MLS that have MLS experience, and it does include the best college coaches. I think we did a tremendous job in hiring Caleb in 2012," Wilkinson said.
"So I don't think we can eliminate any coaches in this country. With that, we will be identifying the best foreign candidates and putting them up against what we consider to be the best candidates in the US."
Among the list of attributes of candidates, Wilkinson noted, "We do want a progressive coach, we prefer a coach that's bilingual, we prefer a coach that's managed in different countries." Wilkinson then clarified that is an ideal profile, and they would be willing to look at candidates that may not fit all of their desired attributes.
As for the timeline, training camp will not open until January, and while Paulson and Wilkinson did not have a hard and fast date set, they would like the process to be wrapped up by the first part of the new year.
"I don't have a specific timeline to provide other than to say in a perfect world we'll have identified the candidates to be the next coach by the end of the year. But the decision won't be made unless there's confidence in the fit.
"In the meantime, this isn't going to slow down soccer decisions this offseason, and in fact I would say if we quickly narrow ourselves to a shortlist of candidates, some of those decisions we'll be discussing with the candidates before our final hiring decision is made, if necessary, to get input," said Paulson.
Beyond the coaching search, Wilkinson said this offseason the Timbers are seeking an international-caliber attacking piece, as well as a younger central defender who can be a building block for the future of the backline.
He also explained the team is looking to add to the team's medical staff, and may also add sports science personnel in order to help keep the team healthy, something that was a major issue for the Timbers by the end of the season, when they were eliminated in the Western Conference Semifinals in an upset by the Houston Dynamo.