New coach wants Timbers to talk
Success on the field will come from solid communication
Saturday, July 14, 2012
PORTLAND -- Gavin Wilkinson would like his Portland Timbers to make a statement today. Make that numerous statements.
The Timbers general manager and interim head coach will be listening for communication between players throughout today's 8 p.m. home match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"You're not going to get the ball if you don't ask for it," Wilkinson said, describing his team as a quiet bunch. "We're trying to get players to be a lot more vocal."
In other words, the new man in charge wants all 11 players to take it upon themselves to talk with their teammates — rather than rely upon a few veterans to navigate the squad through the 90-minute match.
"If we talk a lot and move guys around, it will make our job easier," midfielder Lovel Palmer said.
Good communication can limit excess running, and thus improve movement off the ball, Palmer said.
Like any aspect of the game, constantly communicating with teammates is a learned habit.
"Communication comes with experience. It comes with practice," Palmer said.
Wilkinson said one of his priorities is to coax younger players — of which the Timbers have many — to put their stamp on this Timbers squad.
"We've got to see if they can mature, if they can take more responsibility, more ownership over the game — and impose themselves a little bit more on the game," Wilkinson said. "I think we have a lot of young players who are capable of doing that."
Will the Timbers be able to put behind them the emotions of seeing their popular coach fired? Will the anxiety that comes with trying to please a new boss spark the team or hold it back?
"It's a game that we need to win, so it doesn't matter what's going on around us or what changes we've had," defender Futty Danso said. "As players we don't have any say in (who coaches). All we have to do is get ready for the game."
To prepare this week, Wilkinson has added some video and on-field sessions to cover a lot of new information.
"We're not trying to re-invent the wheel," Wilkinson said. "It's a matter of getting players to concentrate and making sure that they're motivated — which they will be at home — and understanding their tasks."
Danso, who in 2010 played for the second-division Timbers team coached by Wilkinson, said none of his current teammates asked him about Wilkinson's coaching style.
"I guess everybody has to figure that out on their own," Danso said. "It will help me in a sense that I worked with him before. But, still, it doesn't make any difference. It's going to be the same level of commitment (as it was under Spencer)."
Defending against the dynamic Galaxy attack demands commitment. Not only because of the talent of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, but because the Galaxy players will rotate positions throughout the match.
"It's going to be a big challenge," Danso said. "It's always pressure when you play players that move around a lot."
It's a task that demands players concentrate and communicate for 90 minutes. Which sounds a lot like what the new coach is asking for.