PORTLAND, Ore. -- Chris Agnello resigned Tuesday as coach and general manager of the Portland Timbers, and the team elevated assistant coach Gavin Wilkinson to both jobs. Agnello coached the team to a last-place finish in his one season with the club. The Timbers scored 25 goals in 28 games, the fewest in the United Soccer League First Division. "As a team, we fell short of our goal to make the playoffs and contend for a league championship this season," Agnello said in a statement released by the team. "But overall, we had a great group of young players, and it was a pleasure to be a part of Portland's vibrant soccer community and to work with so many great people." Agnello was hired last December to replace coach Bobby Howe and general manager Jim Taylor, who had been with the club since its inaugural season in 2001. Howe and Taylor had led the Timbers to five straight winning seasons. To reverse the team's rapid decline, the Timbers turned to Wilkinson, who has spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach while continuing to play. Wilkinson, 32, a defender from New Zealand, is the only player to participate in each of the team's six seasons. He played limited minutes this season as he concentrated on coaching. Wilkinson said he has a passion for coaching and hopes to stay with the Timbers for a long time, rather than use the promotion as a springboard to another job. He said the team's problems were tied more to personnel than Agnello's coaching. Combining the coaching and general manager duties is a juggling act, Wilkinson said, and Agnello's December appointment was a handicap. "January, February is a late start to acquire players," Wilkinson said. "I've got the bonus of going out now to find players that will be beneficial to this franchise." Though the Timbers had trouble scoring goals, Wilkinson said the team needs help in several areas. "I think we need an experienced defender, I think we need an experienced midfielder and I think we need a proven goal scorer," he said. "The problem isn't isolated to just the players playing up front. I think the problems associated with the team were maybe the lack of experience and the overall discipline of the team."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press