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Suspended Timbers coach John Spencer: I'm going bland

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT JOHN SPENCER

For being ejected from last Saturday's match against the Colorado Rapids, Portland Timbers coach John Spencer will serve a one-game suspension Sunday when his team faces the New York Red Bulls at Jeld-Wen Field. For his post-match criticism of the officiating during the match against the Rapids, Spencer was fined $2,500.

'John Spencer's recent public criticism of MLS officials was not constructive and will not be tolerated,' MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. 'We recognize that referee's decisions can be debated, but public comments cannot impugn the credibility of the officials or the league. MLS requires that its players, coaches, and club leadership maintain proper respect for the officials at all times.'

• For the time being, Spencer is taking a cautious approach with his comments to the media. After Friday's training session, Spencer uttered the phrase 'no comment' four times and simply shook his head and refused to speak in answer to another question. That is roughly five times more than Spencer has refused to answer questions all season.

'I'm not going to give you guys any more information,' Spencer said, unable to mask his smile. 'I'm just going to be a bland coach now for the rest of the time I'm here. For the full 2 1/2 years.'

We will see how long this quieter, gentler Spencer lasts. When he was asked if he was only going to be in Portland for three seasons, he pulled out this gem: 'Yeah. I'm going to take (Timbers owner) Merritt (Paulson)'s job. Buy him out.'

Spencer also laughed when he was asked where he would watch the match against the Red Bulls.

'I'm going to have a wire,' he said. 'I'm going to hang myself right above the center circle and watch the game. No, I'll be in the box somewhere.'

•• It will be hard for Spencer to watch a match he has no control over.

'It's going to be difficult,' he says. 'Obviously, you want to be out there to coach the team. But it's not to be. What are you going to do?

Assistant coach Trevor James will replace Spencer on Sunday. James, who coached with the Los Angeles Galaxy for five seasons before coming to Portland, has Spencer's full confidence.

'He'll be the head coach this weekend,' Spencer says. 'That's why he's here. I trust my coaching staff to do a good job. The message is going to be the same. The intensity is going to be the same. We know the way we're going to play. We'll talk as a team tomorrow more in depth and go from there.'

Spencer wants James to make decisions how he sees fit, rather than worry about what the regular head coach would do.

'You've got to coach the game how you see it,' Spencer says. 'I did that myself in Houston (with the Dynamo) once. It's difficult, because you're kind of like, 'Well, what would the head coach want?' Sometimes you've just kind of got to go with your gut feeling and how you see the game, because everyone sees the game differently. He's got to coach his own game.'

••• James says that the substitutions - perhaps the most important part of a soccer coach's job - against New York will be similar to what the Timbers have done throughout the season. That means it is likely that at some point in the second half midfielder Darlington Nagbe will be replaced by Sal Zizzo and that later in the match midfielder Ryan Pore may enter for Diego Chara.

'It won't be too much (different),' James says, of the likely subs. 'The game will determine what substitutions are made, like every week. It might not change drastically. I won't say it will be exactly (the same). We'll see how the game goes.'

•••• Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury says he doesn't need to take on more of a leadership role without Spencer on the sidelines.

'I don't think so,' Jewsbury says. 'The coaching staff as a whole preaches the same thing. And guys know what their job is when they get on the field, so once Sunday comes it's up to us to do the performance and get the right result.'

Jewsbury does say the Timbers will miss Spencer's Scottish accent, which will be replaced by the English accent of James.

'We'll miss (Spencer's) accent from the side, yelling and keeping us in order,' the midfielder says. 'But at the same time, we've got to take that upon ourselves to do that without him being in our ear. It might be a little bit different from that aspect, but nothing changes in our minds.'