Giovanni Savarese directed the Cosmos to three NASL titles in five seasons. (Photo by Joy Rubenstein)
By Michael Lewis
Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is heading cross country for his next challenge.
That will be in Oregon as Savarese has been selected to coach the Portland Timbers, according to reliable sources.
The former Venezuelan international will succeed Caleb Porter, who stepped down as coach last month.
The Timbers probably will make the signing official Thursday, sources said.
ESPN’s Taylor Twellman first reported that Portland had hired Savarese.
Savarese had known nothing but success and excellence with the Cosmos, directing the club into the North American Soccer League playoffs in each of the past five seasons since the team returned to competitive soccer. That included three Soccer Bowl championships in four tries.
Thanks to his success, the 46-year-old Savarese has been a sought-afte by several Major League Soccer clubs the past several seasons, including the Houston Dynamo and Minnesota United.
While the Cosmos allowed Savarese to bring in some high-priced talent in Marcos Senna and Raul, he combined his world-wide contacts to bring in an impressive supporting cast with his superior tactical knowledge to make the team a dangerous side.
It might sound like a cliche, Savarese also stressed having a happy locker room. He decided against signing players who had poor reputations off the field. In other words, his players loved playing for him.
Savarese was named Cosmos head coach in late 2012 and guided the team to the 2013 NASL fall season title and Soccer Bowl championship. During his five seasons directing the Cosmos, Savarese’s teams reached the playoff every time. New York was eliminated in The Championship semifinals in 2014, but bounced back to win the 2015 and 2016 crowns.
During a tumultuous 2017 season in which new owner Rocco B. Commisso saved the team from extinction, Savarese was forced to build the team from scratch, having only three players under contract as of mid-January.
Through much trial and tribulation, which included using seven systems and formations, Savarese created a competitive side during the fall season as it reached the playoffs on the final day of the regular season through a 5-2 home victory over Puerto Rico FC. The Cosmos surprised runaway regular-season champion Miami FC in the semifinals, prevailing on penalty kicks, 6-5, after a scoreless draw.
In the final, the Cosmos succumbed to the first-year San Francisco Deltas, 2-0.
“It was a very, very difficult season,” he said in a recent interview with FrontRowSoccer.com, “probably the most difficult season I had to deal with in my time with the Cosmos.”
During his five-year tenure with the Cosmos, Savarese directed the Cosmos to a 65-26-44 regular-season mark.
A former Venezuelan international, Savarese made his mark in the U.S. as a high-scoring forward at Long Island University Brooklyn.
He went on to score 33 goals for the Long Island Rough Riders during their 1995 run to the U.S. Interregional Soccer League title. He played for the MetroStars (41 goals in three seasons), New England Revolution and San Jose Earthquakes in MLS.
Savarese also played for Swansea City (Wales) and Millwall (England), Perugia, Viterbese and Sassari Torres in Italy and Deportivo Italia, Caracas, Deportivo Tachira and Deportivo Italchacao in his native Venezuela.
He retired in 2004 after a 10-game stint with the Rough Riders in which he tallied five goals.
Savarese scored 10 goals in 30 international appearances for Venezuela.