Savarese, 46, played for three MLS teams during an 18-year career and as Cosmos head coach won three NASL titles (2013, 2015, 2016) prior to leaving the team last week. In NASL regular-season games he compiled a record of 65-26-51.
The team announced the hire Monday on its Web site and via e-mail. It will formally introduce Savarese in January.
“After an intense coach search, I am very pleased to introduce Gio Savarese as the head coach of the Portland Timbers,” said Timbers majority owner Merritt Paulson in a team statement. “Gio is an intelligent, attack-minded coach and is a driven individual who is both a great fit with us on and off the field. We are extremely pleased to welcome Gio and his family to Portland.”
Savarese was born in Caracas and came to the United States in 1990 to play at Long Island University. He started his domestic pro career with the Long Island Rough Riders in 1994 and went on to play mainly as a forward for the MetroStars, New England Revolution, and San Jose Earthquakes as well as clubs in England, Italy, and his native country. In MLS league and playoff games he scored 52 goals in 121 games; at the international level he earned 30 caps and scored 10 goals.
He started his coaching career in 2005 with the MetroStars youth programs and departed in 2007 after working for several months under new ownership hired by parent company Red Bull. He joined the Cosmos as youth academy director in 2010 and when the team launched its NASL operations in 2012 it promoted him to head coach.
During his tenure with the Cosmos he was considered a serious candidate for several MLS head coaching jobs. He turned down an opportunity to interview with the Houston Dynamo in 2014 and Minnesota United elected not to hire him last year for its MLS startup when the Cosmos demanded compensation to sever his contract.
“We are excited to bring Gio on board as the club’s head coach,” said Timbers president and general manager Gavin Wilkinson. “Gio brings a wealth of experience across all levels of the game, and his playing philosophy aligns with the expectations of the club and suits the playing personnel.
“His leadership and man-management, coupled with his core values and previous accomplishments, made him the right fit for this club, and we are delighted to welcome him to the Timbers.”
In Porter’s five seasons in charge the Timbers won two Western Conference regular season titles (2013, 2017) and the 2015 MLS Cup, and fell short of the playoffs in 2014 and 2016. The team has sold out every home game at Providence Park (formerly JELD-WEN Field) since its MLS launch in 2011. Last month it started an expansion project that will add 4,000 seats to Providence Park at a projected cost of $55 million.
Savarese is the third head coach since its MLS launch, following Porter and John Spencer. Wilkinson served as interim head coach after Spencer was fired midway through the 2012 season.
“I am both excited and proud to become the head coach of the Portland Timbers, and this is an ideal fit and outstanding opportunity for me as I take the next step in my coaching career,” Savarese said. “The passion, ambition and support surrounding this club is truly inspiring, and I am sincerely honored and grateful for this opportunity to lead it on the pitch and to build on the club’s history of success for the community and the incredible supporters of the Portland Timbers.