Giovanni Savarese introduced as Portland Timbers manager
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Giovanni Savarese was formally introduced as the Portland Timbers' new coach on Monday.
The 46-year-old former player had been coach of the North American Soccer League's New York Cosmos since 2012. He led the team to three Soccer Bowl championships in five seasons.
"With Gio it was -- I hate to use the proverbial cliche, 'check the boxes' -- but the off-the-field, on-the-field philosophy, the way he thinks about the game, it was pretty seamless," Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said.
Savarese replaces coach Caleb Porter, who unexpectedly parted ways with the Timbers in November. In five seasons under Porter, Portland posted a 68-50-52 record and won the MLS Cup championship in 2015. The team finished atop the Western Conference last season.
Paulson said he was impressed when Savarese brought a scouting report of the team to one of their first meetings.
Savarese said many of the pieces are already in place.
"It's good not to start from zero," he said.
The coach said he has spoken to a few of the players, including MLS Most Valuable Player Diego Valeri, midfielder Diego Chara and forward Fanendo Adi.
"I think this was the right time for me to make this transition," he said. "And I couldn't have found a better club to make the transition, because of what the club represents and the culture. I think culture is very important in soccer.
"This club has a tremendous culture. I'm a person, I cannot just work for a club to coach, I have to feel it. I'm passionate about what I do and I need to be with a club that has the same beliefs."
Savarese, who is from Venezuela, played for 18 seasons in Europe and in the United States, including stints with Major League Soccer's New York MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), New England Revolution and San Jose Earthquakes.
Under Savarese, the Cosmos were 65-26-44 in 135 regular-season games. The team went 20-7-5 in 2016 and had an undefeated spring season the year before.
Paulson smiled and nodded when Savarese said the Timbers would play their first match against the LA Galaxy on March 4 as if it were a final.
The Timbers finished this season as the top seed in the Western Conference but fell in the conference semifinals 2-1 on aggregate to the Houston Dynamo. The Timbers were hampered by injuries in the semis, including to Chara, who broke a bone in his foot.
Savarese said he is already getting acclimated to rainy Portland and its quirks.
"Yesterday I went to cut my hair and of course it was raining," Savarese said. "So I bring my umbrella and the lady who was cutting my hair says, 'You are not from here, this town, right?' And I say, 'Yes, you know because of my accent.' And she said 'No, no, no. Because you have an umbrella. Usually people here don't use an umbrella.'
"Good to know,' I said. Next time I'm not bringing the umbrella," Savarese said, laughing.