After yet another no-show on the road, the Portland Timbers decided they’re ready to move on with a new leader.
General manager Gavin Wilkinson takes over for fired coach John Spencer on Saturday night when the Timbers host the Galaxy, who hope Beckham can provide a spark in one of the league’s toughest venues for visitors.
Portland (5-8-4) finished four points out of a playoff spot in its inaugural MLS season in 2011, but a lack of progress in year two inspired the franchise to make a move. The Timbers fired Spencer on Monday, two days after a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake dropped them to 0-6-2 on the road.
The move comes exactly halfway through Portland’s season. Though the Timbers are in eighth place in the West, no team has played fewer games and they trail the fifth-place Galaxy (7-10-2) by four points for the conference’s final playoff spot.
“We are by no means waving the white flag for the 2012 season,” team owner Merritt Paulson said. “There are still many games to play and we continue to have high expectations for the season.”
Portland has been a different team at Jeld-Wen Field, where it is 5-2-2 and has gone unbeaten in six straight (4-0-2).
Bringing in Wilkinson shouldn’t be too hard on the Timbers, as the GM-turned-interim-coach has been with the franchise since its inception in 2001, moving from player to assistant to head coach before joining the front office.
“It’s not a big adjustment for them,” Wilkinson told the team’s official website.
Los Angeles surely won’t mind needing to adjust to having Beckham back in the lineup. The midfielder missed the Galaxy’s 2-1 home loss to Philadelphia on July 4 due to yellow-card accumulation for a booking at the end of a 4-3 loss to San Jose on June 30.
He was then suspended for his actions against the Earthquakes, which involved kicking two balls at San Jose’s Sam Cronin.
“I never regret anything in my life, in my career,” Beckham told the Galaxy’s official website. “There’s moments I wish (it) hadn’t happened, but I always try to go through life and my career never regretting stuff.
“It’s over and done with now, as far as I’m concerned.”
Los Angeles survived without him Sunday in Chicago, winning 2-0 on a pair of goals from Robbie Keane.
Landon Donovan came off the bench against the Fire due to a hip injury and set up Keane’s second goal, but he figures to be starting again Saturday. The former MVP scored once and set up a goal by Beckham in a 3-1 win over Portland on April 14.
Beckham assisted on Todd Dunivant’s goal as the Galaxy beat the Timbers 1-0 on June 17.