A familiar face is back on the MLS sidelines, as the Portland Timbers announced on Monday, November 6 they’ve hired Phil Neville as their new head coach. He’s signed a multi-year contract through 2026.
Neville previously led Inter Miami CF for two-and-a-half seasons before being let go June 1, a move that preceded the Herons’ summertime turnaround that was overseen by Tata Martino and headlined by Lionel Messi’s arrival.
Portland’s manager position opened August 21 when they parted ways with longtime coach Giovanni Savarese. Miles Joseph, an assistant on Savarese’s staff, oversaw the remainder of their 2023 season as Portland Timbers fell just short of reaching the Audi Cup Playoffs.
“We are thrilled to welcome Phil Neville as the new head coach of the Portland Timbers, and we look forward to making Phil and his family feel at home in Portland,” general manager Ned Grabavoy said in a release.
“Phil’s character makes him the right person to lead this team forward as we continue to reshape the group with the goal of returning to sustained success. His leadership qualities, diverse experience as a coach, and ambition to evolve made him a terrific fit here with us in Portland.”
Neville led Miami to the playoffs in 2022, riding the one-two punch of legendary Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuaín (since retired) and former MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo (now playing in the United Arab Emirates). He’s a close friend of Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham from their Manchester United playing days, and worked alongside sporting director Chris Henderson, a former Seattle Sounders FC executive, to remake IMCF’s roster amid financial sanctions.
In Portland, the 46-year-old Englishman is tasked with revitalizing a squad that hosted MLS Cup 2021 but has fallen on hard times by failing to qualify for back-to-back postseasons. They ended 2023 with 43 points, one shy of the Western Conference’s ninth-and-final playoff spot.
“I am massively excited about the challenge ahead, and from the very first moment I met the staff I knew it was the right opportunity for me, the right club for me and the right city for me,” said Neville.
“The fans are the most important part of this football club with their intensity and support, and I think this journey is going to be something special. I have great memories visiting Portland, which reminds me of Manchester, my hometown, and I can’t wait for my family to get to know this beautiful city.”
The Timbers, in 2024, are expected to be built around club-record signing Evander, their Brazilian playmaker who joined last December. They’ll have at least one Designated Player spot open after declining striker Jarosław Niezgoda’s contract option. Other key pieces include Colombian right back Juan Mosquera, veteran d-mid Diego Chara, striker Felipe Mora and more.
With that core, and year-end roster decisions expected soon, Neville has plenty to assess in returning to the MLS arena.
Aside from Inter Miami, he also previously steered the England women’s national team and took assistant roles with Valencia CF, Manchester United and the England men’s Under-21s. Most recently, Neville was part of now-Toronto FC coach John Herdman’s staff with Canada’s men’s national team during the 2023 Concacaf Nations League Final and the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup.