Insider news and notes from the soccer world:
• First-year Portland coach Caleb Porter is the favorite to win MLS Coach of the Year after leading the Timbers to first place in the West, and though the team has yet to announce it, SI.com has learned that Porter has been rewarded with a contract extension to give him a new five-year deal. Porter took a pay cut to leave his secure job at the University of Akron for Portland, but he wanted to challenge himself in the pros. So far that risk is paying off.
• Italian sources tell me Toronto FC and Genoa are close to agreeing on a $5 million transfer that would send Italian national team forward Alberto Gilardino to Toronto in August. Gilardino, 31, would make as much as $5 million a year with Toronto. He played in three World Cup 2014 qualifiers for Italy, scoring one goal, and his aspirations of playing in the World Cup mean he would wait until August to join MLS.
Gilardino’s agent has been in New York and Toronto in the past week meeting with league and team officials. On Thursday I spoke to Toronto boss Tim Leiweke, who wouldn’t confirm or deny those details, but he did say Toronto is aiming to sign two Designated Players who are reliable goal-scorers. Gazzetta dello Sport was the first outlet to note Toronto’s interest in Gilardino.
• There’s more potential for MLS teams poaching coaches from other league teams this year than in the past. Dallas is interested in trying to pry away Óscar Pareja from Colorado and bring him back to the team where he spent 13 years as a player and assistant coach. Pareja has one year left on his Colorado deal that could be bought out, and this could test how much low-spending Colorado is willing to pay to keep him. (Pareja is the lowest-paid head coach in MLS.)
Another potential poach is Jason Kreis, who is out of contract with Salt Lake at the season’s end and, as SI.com’s Brian Straus reported recently, has already met with New York City FC. Kreis does have an offer on the table from Salt Lake, and his future is expected to be decided within a week from the end of RSL’s season.
• With Frank Yallop taking over in Chicago, the other open MLS coaching jobs are Columbus and Vancouver. In Columbus a decision is expected in the next five days, and I’m told Gregg Berhalter’s stock has been rising for the Crew job. Vancouver has been radio silent after being beaten out by Chicago to sign Yallop. John Hackworth is expected to be safe in Philadelphia, but the jobs of Montreal’s Marco Schällibaum and D.C.’s Ben Olsen are still very much up in the air. MLS Playoff Roundtable: Red Bulls failures without Cup victory?