Savarese’s tenure in Timbers and the battle to ‘fix the ship’ in 2021
The head coach seat Giovanni Savarese sits on got even hotter on August 31, 2021, when Austin FC scored three goals against the Portland Timbers for the second time in as many months. Sebastian Blanco said it best in his post-match interview with Jake Zivin, “Disappointed with the result and disappointed to play like this sometimes.”
The 3-1 loss came a week after the team’s 6-2 demolition job at the hands of Cascadia rivals the Seattle Sounders and sharp criticism over the team’s poor defensive start to the season. have led some fans (including myself) to question Savarese’s tactics and team management.
The negative rhetoric surrounding the club led owner Merritt Paulson to post an interview with Talk Timbers on August 25, addressing his overall disappointment with the team’s performance in 2021, while also trusting Savarese’s ability to reverse the results. (at least for now being).
This week, Merritt Paulson joined Talk Timbers for a candid discussion of Timbers form this season, Ebobisse’s trade and his expectations for the rest of the year.
Listen: https://t.co/Le65okdpew | #RCTID
– Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) 25 August 2021
The interview offered a lot to unwrap for Timbers fans, especially Paulson’s comments on Savarese’s tenure with the club. “Our coaches, Gio, are people who have proven themselves in our league. They have my confidence to right the ship. After listening to the interview, my biggest question was “Did Savarese do enough during his tenure as head coach of the Timbers to be considered a success with the Timbers and to maintain his role as head coach at the beyond this season? “
In an attempt to answer the question for myself, I wanted to look at Savarese’s record, stats and accomplishments during his tenure as head coach of the Portland Timbers.
Savarese was announced as the Timbers’ head coach on December 18, 2017, about a month after the team parted ways with former head coach and 2015 MLS Cup winner Caleb Porter. Almost 4 years with the club, Savarese’s records and notable achievements with the team are as follows:
- Savarese has coached 137 games for the Timbers so far, winning 62 times, drawing 47 and losing 32 times. This equates to a winning percentage of 45.26%.
- Savarese’s sides have scored 225 goals and conceded 198 during his tenure at the club, for a positive goal difference of 27 goals.
- The Timbers reached the MLS Cup final with Savarese at the helm in 2018, his first season at the club, before ultimately losing 2-0 to a top team from Atlanta.
- The Timbers were eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs in the first round by Real Salt Lake in 2019 and FC Dallas in 2020, losing 2-1 and 7-8 on penalties, respectively.
- In 2020, Savarese won the MLS is Back Tournament with the Timbers.
- So far in the 2021 MLS regular season, the team’s record stands at ten wins, ten losses and three draws in 23 games, scoring 32 goals and conceding 39 in the process.
To be fair, the jury is still out, at least until the end of the season. For example, what if the Timbers push through the remainder of the 2021 MLS season and earn a playoff berth, but suffer another loss in the first round? I’m not sure that an MLS Cup finalist medal and a glorified preseason trophy is enough to justify three straight playoff outings in the first round. In my opinion, the team needs to have a thorough playoff run this season for Savarese to justify another season as a head coach.
That said, Savarese and the Timbers are showing the first signs of “righting the ship” and repaying the faith Paulson placed in them in his interview. Since the 3-1 loss to Austin, the Timbers have recorded three straight shutouts on the road, highlighted by wins in Seattle and Vancouver. If the team can build on those performances, secure a playoff berth and have a long run in the MLS Cup, I would bet that will be enough for Savarese to continue as the team’s head coach at- beyond this season.
As much as I have criticized the results this season, I also want to pay tribute to what is due. The fight shown in the last few performances has given me a boost of confidence in Savarese and the ability of the team as a whole. May this continue for a long time.