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Timbers owner voices support for interim coach Wilkinson

Gavin Wilkinson

Portland Timbers interim coach Gavin Wilkinson stands on the sideline before their MLS soccer game against the Los Angeles Galaxy in Portland, Ore., Saturday, July 14, 2012, in Portland, Ore. The Galaxy won 5-3. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)


My, oh my, it is unseasonably hot in the Portland Timbers’ kitchen these days.

And there’s not a centigrade of relief in Rose City site.

Timbers’ owner Merritt Paulson took time Monday to ensure that everyone knows right where he stands. And he stands doggedly behind interim manager Gavin Wilkinson (pictured) – never mind that unsightly 0-5-2 record since John Spencer’s controversial firing.

Fan discontent just keeps rising following one bad result after another. What Paulson told The Oregonian on Monday, citing recent improvement in team performance, in his opinion:

Gavin is not going anywhere. More big changes is not what this team needs right now.

“We’ve stripped the team down and are implementing a whole new system. What we’re doing now is starting to bear some fruit. Our statistics are up and even though our wins are not, we’re starting to play on the road like we do at home. We’re scoring goals and playing attractive soccer.”

I’ve said all along that Spencer’s removal was premature, that tearing up the original blueprints and drawing up new plans so early in the process (this is Portland’s second MLS season) was a mistake that will do more long-term harm than good.

What’s new here is Paulson playing the “we are getting better” card. I understand why he’s doing it, hoping to lift some pressure off players and off Wilkinson, straining to give them a wee bit of precious breathing room.

(MORE: why quick-trigger dismissals are usually a bad idea)

But it looks desperate. Whenever managers or GMs start trying to convince everyone that things are better than they seem, it reeks of spin. Personally, that’s when I just tune out, preferring to believe my own eyes, ears and instincts. And I check the results.

In this case, Portland needs to win. Period. Don’t tell me things are getting better because they are losing less hideously than before.

Just win a couple of doggone games.

Or don’t. Use the time to evaluate young talent and build for the future, and explain to everyone that results are secondary now, that winning in the future is the new target.