By Portland Timbers Communications
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers today announced that John Spencer has been relieved of his duties as head coach with the club. Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson will take over as interim head coach for the club, effective immediately, while the team conducts a search for a long-term replacement. Timbers owner/president Merritt Paulson made the announcements at a news conference at JELD-WEN Field Monday afternoon.
“Obviously, this is a tough announcement,” Paulson said. “I want to thank John Spencer for his significant contributions to the Timbers. Our focus now is on improving the team and finding the right long-term head coach.”
Wilkinson, 38, has been with the Timbers organization since its inaugural United Soccer Leagues season in 2001. In his 12 years with the club, Wilkinson has served as a player, assistant coach, head coach and general manager. Paulson appointed Wilkinson as the team’s first Major League Soccer general manager on Jan. 18, 2010. Wilkinson will continue in his role as general manager while serving as interim coach for the remainder of the season.
As a head coach with the USL Timbers, Wilkinson assembled a 50-29-39 record and twice was named USL First Division Coach of the Year (2007, 2009) in four seasons (2007-10) at the helm of the second-division club. He guided the Timbers to three postseason berths, two Cascadia Cups (2009, 2010) and a Commissioner’s Cup in 2009, a season in which he led the team to a record-setting, 24-game unbeaten streak.
Wilkinson’s 13-year playing career included time with clubs in six different countries, including Portugal, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. A New Zealand native, Wilkinson earned 38 caps with the New Zealand National Team and competed in the 1999 and 2003 FIFA Confederations Cups. A defender, Wilkinson played for the Timbers in each of their first six USL seasons (2001-06) and served the dual role of player/assistant coach for two seasons (2005-06) before taking over as the team’s general manager and head coach in 2007.
Spencer, 41, was appointed as the first head coach in Timbers’ MLS history on Aug. 10, 2010, after spending the majority of the previous five seasons (2006-10) as an assistant coach for the Houston Dynamo of MLS. In 51 MLS matches at the helm of the Timbers, Spencer compiled a record of 16 wins, 22 losses and 13 draws over one-and-a-half seasons. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Spencer led the Timbers to an 11-14-9 record during their inaugural MLS season in 2011, including a 9-5-3 record at home. This season, Portland is 5-8-4 through its first 17 games, sitting in eighth place in the Western Conference.
In a separate release from the Timbers, Spencer said, “I want to personally thank Merritt Paulson and the Paulson family for the opportunity to be the first head coach in the history of the MLS Timbers. Also, I want to thank all the coaches, staff, players and fans associated with the team. I very much enjoyed my time with the club and wish everyone the best.”