Portland Timbers fire head coach John Spencer

Just Not Enough

As per numerous sources close to the Portland Timbers and a report on Oregonlive.com, John Spencer will be out as the head coach of the Portland Timbers following a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake that saw the Timbers surrender three goals in 13 minutes to Alvaro Saborio.

Though it should not come as a shock to Timbers supporters around the nation, the firing of Spencer highlights what has become a disappointing and frustrating atmosphere in the city of Portland.

Spencer, Portland’s inaugural MLS coach, will finish with a 16-22-13 record at Portland (.313 winning percentage) with just two wins on the road in two seasons (0-6-2 away in 2012; 2-9-6 away in 2011).

A press conference has been called for 2:30pm to discuss the matter.

John Spencer

John Spencer will be released as head coach of the Timbers officially at 2:30pm. (photo; mlssoccer.com)

Coaching Style

A wonderful player at all levels of soccer, Spencer just could not translate his winning ways to his head coaching position at Portland.

While many coaches around the league like to emphasize their wisdom and knowledge of the game over their players, Spencer always seemed to be just one of the guys on the bench. While this type of mentality is great in building relationships with players, it did not help when it came to devising strategies for putting streaks of wins together.

Spencer will always be remembered (at least from his Portland days) as one of the ultimate players coaches. He took a blue collar mentality into the Rose City as was largely successful at home, but struggles away from the friendly and boisterous confines of JELD-WEN field really resulted in the downfall of Spencer.

As a result of his blue collar mentality with the Timbers, Spencer implemented an attack-oriented style of play that was very exciting to watch. Though they did surrender their fair share of goals over the seasons, the Timbers have always been one of the more exciting teams to watch in the MLS.

What Went Wrong?

While it is easy to look at the Real Salt Lake game as the ultimate catalyst in the firing of Spencer, Portland’s head coach has been sitting on the hot seat for a better part of this season.

A difficult start to the season that saw the Timbers sitting in last in the Western conference coupled with a loss to Cal FC in the US Open Cup really engineered the basis for frustration with the Timbers and Spencer.

The firing of Spencer is not a result of just one game, it is the result of a tumultuous season in which the Timbers and Spencer never found the right connection.

Though Spencer is partly to blame, much of the blame rests on the players themselves. Lack of motivation away from JELD-WEN and errors in play really brought the Timbers down this season. Timbers management needed to make a statement, and they had to do so by firing Spencer, and unfortunate consequence the players put upon themselves.

John Spencer

Spencer was known as one of the most animated coaches in the league. (photo credit: John Canzano)

Future Outlook

The only way it can go from here is up, right?


With some of their toughest games ahead of them, expect the Timbers along with interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson to limp through the rest of the season as the front office begins their quest for a new coach that can instill a winning mentality in Portland.

The Timbers still face tough games against Seattle, San Jose, Vancouver, and San Jose.

Unfortunately for the Timbers, the best parts of their season are likely behind them and they will likely be one of the bottom two teams in the MLS Western Conference.

In reference to their future coaching situation, as mentioned earlier, Gavin Wilkinson will assume the title of interim head coach for the Timbers the rest of the season as the front office will look to find a replacement for the 2013 season.

Fortunately for Portland, the Timbers have already gained quite the international reputation as one of the best teams to come to; something that players and coaches around the world have surely taken note of. While it is unclear as to who can really be targeted as a head coach for the Timbers, expect the candidate to be well-respected amongst the international coaching community.

As a new era ensues in Portland Timbers soccer, John Spencer was just not the right fit.

Though it is more a result of poor play by the Timbers’ players than any of the coaching, Spencer needed to be fired to send a message to all of Timbers nation: losing will not be permitted.

Despite the bad blood that may rest in some Timbers fans’ minds, we here at NW Sports Beat wish John Spencer the best of wishes as he embarks on his next journey, hopefully it will be more successful and filled with more motivated players.


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About Chris Anderson

NWSB Editor. Chris hails from Eugene, Oregon; home of the Fighting Ducks. If he is not viewing, writing about, or attending sporting events, Chris is running on the trails Eugene offers or out-and-about. Aspirations to exceed expectations. Connect w/ Chris today!
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  • NWSportsBeat

    Its tough to be a Coach these days isn’t it?

    • Chris Anderson

      Unfortunately the coaches sometimes get blamed for what is ultimately the players fault. Such a case happened with Spencer and the Timbers.

      Good coach, bad team.

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