By JOSE M. ROMERO
The four walls of Gavin Wilkinson's office are covered with white boards on which there is much of the information the Portland Timbers' technical director will need for next week's MLS expansion draft.
But first, Wilkinson and other representatives of the organization will head to Toronto to be part of the MLS Cup festivities and gatherings this week. When they all return, the focus turns immediately to an important day for the new franchise.
"The preparation for [the draft] has been under way for some time," Wilkinson siad. "We've identified the players from every roster who we like."
Wilkinson said the Timbers will be looking for perhaps a veteran who can make an impact, but also a younger player with an upside. The Timbers are also willing to talk trades with other teams once they have made all 10 of their picks, to help ensure they get the players they seek.
Portland selects first, followed by the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps, and then the teams will alternate picks from round to round. The full list of unprotected players from all MLS teams will be given to Portland and Vancouver on Monday, with the draft on Wednesday, Nov. 24.
"For ourselves, picking first is brilliant, but coming into 2011 with Vancouver is not necessarily great for the Timbers," Wilkinson said. "We've got to make sure we maximize picks one through five so we get the best players we can get."
That is to say that the players the Timbers are really after must be chosen as early as possible, as the talent and potential could drop in picks 11 through 20.
In Wilkinson's office, every roster from every MLS team is on the boards, with player name tags that can be moved from one list to another. Then there are sub-lists of designated players, internationals and Generation Adidas players from all teams.
For Wilkinson, the first pick figures to be the best player available on the board, regardless of need or position.
"After that, it's a a matter of balancing out the squad," he said.
In making selections, the Timbers also want players that fit the club's philosophy of hard-working, blue-collar guys who will be contributors that the fan base can identify with. Coach John Spencer likes a 4-4-2 formation with wide players who get forward, and the Timbers, who already have their first four players signed from USSF Division II, will also consider box-to-box midfielders.
Wilkinson said the club hopes to announce a couple of more signings from the USSF Timbers before Christmas. Goalkeeper Steve Cronin, midfield wing Ryan Pore and forwards Eddie Johnson and Bright Dike are under contract for 2011.
"We want to be known as an organization known for being loyal to its players," Wilkinson said.