By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Back in 2001, Gavin Wilkinson faced a choice.
Out of contract professionally, the New Zealand international drew interest from a pair of USL clubs. On one hand was the Charleston Battery, established for almost a decade at that point, and coming off a strong season in the A-League.
On the other was the Portland Timbers, who were about to return to action after being dormant for more than a decade.
Fifteen seasons later, as his club prepares to compete for MLS Cup for the first time, it’s safe to say his choice to head to Portland paid off.
“We decided to make the jump,” Wilkinson told Sports Illustrated’s Brian Straus in an extensive profile published on Friday. “You could see the relevance the team was starting to evolve and there was tremendous support from fans and the city in general. It was basically the birth of a new era of soccer in Portland in many ways.”
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During his time with the club, Wilkinson has been one of the keys to its success. He went from player, to assistant coach and player in 2005, to Head Coach in 2007, and then General Manager when the club joined MLS in 2011. A two-time Coach of the Year in the USL, Wilkinson has helped assemble a powerful squad that will take the field against Columbus Crew SC on Sunday at Mapfre Stadium.
From wearing multiple hats within the club, Wilkinson now oversees the Timbers’ MLS, NWSL, USL, PDL and Academy teams, with the goal for success at every level. His commitment has won the trust of the club’s owner, Merritt Paulson.
“The guy bleeds green,” Paulson told Straus. “He gives everything he has and we truly believe he’s one of the best, if not the best, GMs in MLS. He knows a lot of fans appreciate him.”
As the Timbers search for the first championship in the club’s history, Wilkinson’s diligence and hard work has clearly paid massive dividends both personally and for the Timbers.“To say that the Timbers are one of the best teams in MLS is something we’d like to hear on a regular basis, and it’s something we know we’ve got to work very hard to maintain,” Wilkinson told Straus. “There are a lot of people in this organization that understand what this team means to this city and who want to help this team be successful. It means an awful lot to a lot of people.”