Gluck: #Portland @Timbersfc hire Gio Savarese

Ironic?  An epithet created by the Timbers Army, which had sincere meaning in the playoffs last year, might have even more meaning this year.

The Path Long, The Way Unknown, You are the mapmakers.

Caleb Porter is out and Gio Savarese is in.


In case you missed it – my thoughts on why Caleb left  Porter Pulls out of Portland

Last week I mentioned I’d give Gio Savarese a year before offering thoughts – for me it’s worthy to give him a chance to settle in before setting expectations.

But alas, my good friend Steven Lenhart (Nevets) called me ‘an old man sitting at the end of the bar’ because I wouldn’t offer an opinion.

Here’s what I’ve heard so far; Gio Savarese:

  • creates a great locker room environment,
  • has an understanding of tactics and setting his teams up to play different formations based upon his player’s availability or the opponent’s style of play,
  • has an understanding in the value of controlled possession-based soccer,
  • has an ability to read the game, as it’s being played, making tactical adjustments and/or substitutions that maximize the opportunity to earn points.

That’s a lot of strengths, perhaps in some areas where there may have been weaknesses under the leadership of Porter?


So far I’ve heard nothing negative, maybe that’s a good thing? 

If you want a strong dose of positive hyperbole take some time to read this from Dave Martinez as a contributor to MLS.

Personally I wouldn’t call coaching in MLS as being at the top of the soccer pyramid but that’s just me. 

Anyhow, stepping off my soap box – for me I’m not going to offer anything negative or positive about Gio Savarese, I can’t.

I’ve never watched a game he’s managed and I’ve never spoken with him…  so the pat answer, based on how I’ve been raised, is “let’s wait and see”.

But to scratch Nevet’s itch, I’ll offer these thoughts that (may?) balance expectations a bit more.

  • Major League Soccer is not the North American Soccer League; it’s a fully functioning league that has a strong foothold across the country.
  • Across the pitch the level of technical skills and mentality of players is higher in MLS; said differently, the amount of mistakes (both technical and mental) are fewer in MLS than NASL.
  • The length of the season is longer in MLS and there’s no mid-season break to reassess.
  • The schedule is un-balanced in MLS.
    • Good or bad, Portland plays Vancouver and Seattle three times a year – no other derby in MLS has three stronger teams playing against each other three times.
    • With the departure of Chivas USA there are no ‘soccer mules’ in MLS – yes there are some weaker teams but those weaknesses don’t really become apparent until a third of the season is completed.
  • Controlled possession based soccer is not a popular style for most teams in MLS; for the most part teams can’t afford to have those higher skilled players on the pitch.
  • MLS screams of parity, NASL doesn’t.
  • The home team, in the last four years, wins about 66% of the time.
  • We don’t know who Gio’s assistant coaches will be.
    • When you’re a head coach having assistants who speak your thoughts (maybe with different words) is critical to your success – especially when working muscle memory mentality.
    • Also critical to coaching success is having at least one assistant who thinks differently than you, as the head coach.  Surrounding yourself with people who think like you is folly – a balance in leadership is just as critical as a balance in style of play.

Those thoughts (may?) not scratch the itch but maybe my first point of evaluation on Gio will.

If the loan agreement of Lucas Melano allows it, I’d expect Lucas Melano to be at spring training this coming year.


Caleb failed to get the best out of Lucas for one reason or another and the Timbers look to have wasted a considerable sum of money on him.

Here’s what I offered about Lucas Melano some time ago.

If Gio can reverse that, and get Lucas to add value, then it’s a success for Lucas, the team, the front office, and Gio.  A win-win-win-win….  there is no downside.

If it doesn’t work you’re where you are today; a lesson learned on how not to scout and sign a player.

I know if I were in Gio Savarese’s shoes I’d certainly want to test my (and my teams’) mettle/ability to get the best out of Lucas; it’d be rude not to.

However viewed, when opening day comes we’ll see (and hear) the Timbers Army (and everyone else) give Gio Savarese a spine tingling roar of support.

Best, Chris




  1. Fred Dobbs


    Very reasonable analysis of Coach Savarese, especially in light of how almost no one in local soccer could possibly have seen him coach in the NASL, and how NASL’s structure and schedule would make for a different coaching environment.

    But, like Caleb, who came to us from the college coaching world of wild variation in opponent talent, unlimited sub’s, an American-style game countdown clock and recruitment via scholarships, Gio should adapt quickly to the new reality.

    Most interesting- can he possibly do something worthwhile with GW’s most problematic player acquisition (other than Kris Boyd)? My belief- there are statistical outliers but what a senior player brings to the table as an innate skill set and competitive drive stays fairly constant through their career. So, I hope that Melano comes back an improved player, but I’m not holding my breath.


    • Chris Gluck

      Fred, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your kind words. I had a number of other thoughts but felt these the most relevant. Indeed, the structure and dynamics of MLS will most likely present the greatest challenge to Gio – and his choice of assistants will be critical. I’m hopeful they won’t be the same guys (in total) that supported Caleb. I do believe Gio shows the pedigree (words from others who’ve seen him coach) to bring the best out of the much maligned Melano. In saying that it reminds me of my article I wrote about Lucas some time ago; think I’ll add it as a link in this article to refresh some peoples minds of his strengths and weaknesses. Best, Chris


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