Not like it wasn't on the runway
It certainly hasn't been a boring first half of the season for the Portland Timbers, and got more unboring Monday when the team fired coach John Spencer.
Relieved of his duties, or removed, or however nicely you want to put it.
The Timbers were a team struggling to put any kind of consistency together, and the constant highs and lows possibly caused by frequent line-up changes made the decision not one that was hard to see coming.
The road losses had to be a factor as did that one, disheartening loss to Cal FC in the US Open Cup, which hits its semifinal stage this week.
If only Kris Boyd had converted that penalty kick in that game.
I'm one of the people saddened by the news. I liked Spencer. And, the team played well at home, which is ideally what you want out of a team. And, it played well against quality opponents - they were at their best against the league's best, twice beating the No. 1 team in the league at Jeld-Wen Field. The team scored in front of the Timbers Army, and wasn't that far away from being a playoff team, either - just four points from fifth place.
But, the road. Man, those road games were painful to watch. Saturday's game at Real Salt Lake was one of the most painful, especially the final 30 minutes when the Timbers got absolutely thrashed. The game brought up plenty of questions. Why wasn't Boyd in the starting line-up? Why was Kosuke Kimura, brought in only Thursday in a trade, in the starting line-up? Why put so much attention on the team's defense, when it seemed to play so much better with some offense taking pressure off the defense - as any team does?
Spencer had exactly one-and-a-half seasons to build the Timbers into something of a playoff contender, especially as more than half the league qualifies for the playoffs. Didn't happen, even though the standings show the team is just four points behind the fifth-place Los Angeles Galaxy and has played two fewer games. The Timbers play the Galaxy Saturday, too.
Despite the struggles of the team, Spencer seemed to have earned the rest of the season to get the team into the top five based on its strong play at home (5-2-2, 17 points) and record (4-2-1) against the best teams in the league - games that have almost all been played in Portland.
Owner Merritt Paulson handled the press conference Monday and made mention of a philosophical difference between coach and management, and he's the final decision maker. At least he was on hand to make the official announcement. However you look at this decision, you knew were it came from. Paulson has done a great job of being visible and representing the franchise in a manner not a lot of fans get - in any of the major leagues. He at least seems to have a clue to where he wants the Timbers to go, which is something the Trail Blazers do not seem to have.
So, general manager Gavin Wilkinson is in as interim coach. At least he has some coaching experience, and successful coaching experience. A couple decades ago, there were plenty of teams that had coaches who were also general managers in professional leagues.
Thanks for the entertainment, coach Spencer. Now, let's see how the Timbers can continue to make the season more entertaining - by beating Los Angeles Saturday for starters.