After months of telephone and email leadership, new Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter arrived in the Rose City and met the press. Previous coach John Spencer was sacked in July and the search for his replacement began in August according to General Manager Gavin Wilkinson speaking before Porter.
You can see video of Porter’s first encounter with local media here. (start at 21.24)
Wilkinson joined Porter on the stage and introduced him.
Wilkinson first talked of Porter’s history of producing stars and playing good football. He mentioned Porter’s “hunger” twice.
Porter started to speak at about 24.00 in the video and thanked Wilkinson and owner Merritt Paulson for the opportunity.
He talked about his 13 year learning process as a coach. He added he felt ready to come back and Portland felt like the right fit. He said he had other opportunities. He observed the traditional sucking up to the fans calling them ‘the most passionate supporters in MLS’.
He has already spoken with the majority of the players.
The press then asked questions and Porter made some of the following observations:
He talked of his obligation to the players at Akron. He rightly deflected a question of how long it would take to bring success. He has been preparing for this move for the last 3-4 years. He has coached 17 players who went on to play in MLS. He acknowledged a transition from coaching college players.
He took responsibility for the non qualification of his US team in a previous cup, but noted a 6-1-2 record overall.
He said it was ‘kind of annoying’ waiting to arrive but the Portland players respected his commitment to Akron. Players appreciated his loyalty and it started his relationship with Portland players ‘in a positive way’.
He praised questioners frequently calling one question ‘good’ and another two ‘great’. He talked about working ‘hand in hand’ with GM Wilkinson. Fan support was a big factor in making Portland attractive to him. He called them ‘the best in North America’. Portland isn’t a tough sell to arriving players for that reason.
He was ‘uncomfortable being comfortable’ in Akron and was antsy for a new challenge. Having Darlington Nagbe in Portland was a ‘nice bonus’, calling him a ‘special talent’.
Gavin Wilkinson said he wants the club to be known for a style of football that is ‘attack minded’ and ‘scores goals’. That made Porter an attractive choice for Head Coach.
Porter said he was ‘realistic and not naive’ about what this meant. He talked of his ‘aesthetically pleasing style’ but maintained it’s more about winning. He said people will start to see ‘a clear identity at the Portland Timbers over time.’
He talked of what he has learned at clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona but added in humour Portland will ‘never be Barcelona’.
He isn’t ‘married to a 4-3-3 formation’. He comes up with formations to fit the players he has available but the philosophy and style of play should remain consistent.
At 43.30 in the video, someone finally asks him about Kris Boyd. Porter sighed and dryly stated his pre-pared quote:
“Kris Boyd is eh … (long pause) obviously contracted to be at the Portland Timbers.”
Another three second pause was followed by the revelation that Porter is to say the least not enthusiastic about the Scottish striker:
“But what I will say is, after watching him play quite a bit – and I have watched this team play quite as bit – Kris Boyd is a player that I think will have a hard time playing in the way that we want to play.
And that’s no knock on Kris. He would fit in a lot of different systems but, with what I want out of my strikers, it’s going to be difficult for him to offer what I’m looking for in that position.
At the same time, if he comes back and he proves that he can offer those things then certainly he’ll be given the chance to play like anybody else.
But based on what I’ve seen. based on certainly what he’s shown as a player, it’s going to be difficult for him to fit in.”
Following that bombshell, Wilkinson declined to answer a question about trading the Scottish striker.
Porter addressed a question about Portland’s turbulent 2012.
“I’m aware of last year. I’m aware of what went right and what went wrong.”
He isn’t going to dwell on it though. He won’t talk to players about what they’ve done wrong. He needs a more experienced locker room, adding the importance of getting guys who have ‘been in winning locker rooms.’ He cited Michael Harrington, Will Johnson and Ryan Johnson.
Porter was saved from a question about refereeing standards by an interjecting Wilkinson who concluded “We commented enough on referees last season and we won’t have any issues moving forward.”
Porter however added that is was a good question bringing the score to Good Questions 2, Great Questions 2 before reterming it a great question to give Great a 3-2 lead.
The Q&A returned to what Porter wanted from his strikers.
“It’s more than to score goals. He has to fit in to the team. He needs to be the first line of pressure when we’re defending .. a guy that can be a linking player; helping our connection with the midfielders, our combination play. … First and foremost, a guy that’s threatening to the back line. I prefer a bit more pacy, athletic, powerful presence in a striker.”
A follow up question (a great one in fact) asked if that was the reason Bright Dike saw more playing time after Spencer left.
Porter revealed that was partly but not solely his doing:
“That wasn’t just me. Gavin felt very strongly about Bright Dike. I knew nothing about Bright Dike until I started seeing him in the field performing well. He’s a handful. I like that. If you look in MLS, it’s the teams who have had strikers who are pacy, who physically can be imposing and look to get behind back fours that are successful. He’s another one that has some things to work on tactically, technically, but he has things you can’t teach”
Just is probably ‘le mot juste’ there. Can anybody conclude that the Kris Boyd v Bright Dike thing was a bone of contention between Spencer and Wilkinson, perhaps THE bone?
Porter finally lavished the expected praise on his new owner Merritt Paulson adding that “Merritt is very passionate about growing the sport“, which to be fair is hard to disagree with.
Porter’s new regime began with the addition of Steve Evans at the club’s second homegrown player.
Evans, 21, played four seasons with the Timbers’ development team from 2009-12, helping guide the Timbers U-23s to the 2010 Premier Development League championship and three playoff appearances. He recently finished his junior season at the University of Portland, where he was a three-time All-West Coast Conference (WCC) selection.