Caleb Porter (@MLS)
During his initial presentation press conference introduction, Caleb Porter spoke about the challenges that faced his young, inexperienced Timbers side. He spoke about creating a philosophy, a culture, a system. Porter knew that it would be a season of growth, challenges and opportunities. Owner Merritt Paulsen knew it, GM Gavin Wilkinson knew it and most of all, the fans knew it.
Expectations were high on Morrison St. The coach, having lead the University of Akron to back to back NCAA championship games and winning it all in 2010, was known for his attack minded, possession dominated, tiki taka style of play, Porterball as it is affectionally known. Porters style was heavily relied upon by attacking mids, wingers and a striker who would “…score goals, thats the most important thing a striker can do.”
While Porter was making the jump to MLS from the college game, he credited his time with the U-23s and the London Olympic qualifiers as having prepared him to make the move to Portland. He was ready to show that he could lead men, not just college kids. He spoke with confidence, even grading on cocky. He was ready to lead the Timbers. To make Soccer City USA, Porterball Town.
From the onset, Porter was eager to make his mark not only on the style of play, but on the squad as well. His foreshadowing of how “Kris Boyd was going to struggle to adapt to his style of play.” He was also clear, that Darlington wasn’t guaranteed a spot, despite their history together at Akron. “Everyone is going to have to earn their spot, no one is going to get a free pass” The personal changes Porter has brought to Portland, signing Diego Valeri and Will Johnson subsequently handing Johnson the captains armband, letting go of Kris Boyd shows the type of players that were going to fit into the Porter system.
The implementation of Porterball in Portland was never going to be a fast transition. It took many weeks on the training ground, retooling and reteaching the squad how to dictate pace of play. Porterball also requires a high level of passing accuracy. It requires an even higher level of fitness, that being one of the reasons, of the few staffing changes he made, the most crucial was the physio.
In his first year, Coach Porter has shown he not only has the potential to lead a team of professionals on the pitch, he has completely bought in to the culture of what the Timbers are trying to create off the pitch. His participation in the Make-a-wish match for Atticus, leading Atticus’s Green Machine to a decisive victory over the Timbers. Porter is committed to being in an integral part of the grassroots, fan first movement in the Rose City.
The results on the pitch haven’t always been the best, especially as of late, struggles against Real Salt Lake and away to Seattle. But the 15 game unbeaten run earlier this season and the current playoff positioning indicate that the Porterball philosophy is working.
We are supposed to be rebuilding, supposed to be struggling. All the lengthy injury layoffs. The playoffs were not supposed to be within reach, nor was the Cascadia Cup. Portland was never supposed to be in this position this year. But because of this young, hungry, winning coach, a supportive owner and a talented, if underrated team, Portland is ready to make moves during the last two months of the season. They are ready to ensure post season play in the Rose City. Coach Porter is the right man to lead this team, he was a brilliant hire by Paulson and he is the future of the both the Portland Timbers as well as soccer in America.