Once a Cascadian – I told Will Johnson “You are perfect for the Timbers and they are perfect for you”
by Ian Joy
It’s been a while since you last heard from me. For that I do apologize however my new role in life as an analyst at beIN sport has taken up my whole concentration and time. I made sure when I accepted the position that I would work very hard to get myself in the know of every single league, team and player possible and, as you all know, things change season by season.
Regardless of covering only the European leagues on our network I have been following very closely the teams that are close to my heart so I’m never too far away from a television when the Timbers are playing.
What a difference a year makes!
I look at the incredible fans that Portland has and it makes me burn inside with a desire that those fans get exactly what they deserve; a quality and passionate team of players, coaches who do not just play the game for themselves or their family, and most of all team that will represent the badge to the best of their abilities on and off the field.
To make that happen you need to have the correct leaders in place on and off the field who will grab this incredible club and take it to the top where it deserves to be.
Sometimes you have to make mistakes to improve but most importantly those mistakes must be eradicated as quickly as possible to take the appropriate steps forward. Full credit therefore goes to Merritt Paulson and Gavin Wilkinson for not wasting too much time in making those changes on and off the field at the end of last season.
Merritt and Gavin clearly have found something very special in Caleb Porter.
I played the game for 14 years and came across maybe 10 different coaches.
Not one of them were the same and each coach had their own plan on how the games should be played, how they thought was the best way to win.
Some of them were very very good and some of them were terrible, nasty human beings who I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire.
You can get carried away with the results that Caleb Porter has produced in an unbelievable short space of time and trust me it’s very hard not to think that way, however it is not just the results that have impressed me about Caleb.
You can tell that he is a born winner on and off the field. I don’t know him personally at all but I can imagine that every competition that involves him, he would only have one thought in mind and that’s to win. Few people have that and for most, it is something you are born with.
He looks to have the full support of his team, both the players that take to the field and the players who are on the bench. He installs a confidence into his players that has them believing in themselves. He has the players playing for the club and everything that it represents.
A good friend of mine who knows Caleb recently told me that he is a cocky man. (I won’t mention any names.)
Now I don’t like someone who walks around as if the world owes them something. However I do like someone who believes in themselves. Being slightly arrogant in knowing that you are very good at what you do is a positive thing to have, providing your head doesn’t burst and is controlled.
It’s another part of being a winner; knowing that you will win, often acting like you have already won.
One of the best pieces of business that I think you will all agree with me is the acquisition of Will Johnson.
I’m sure most of you know that I played with Will at Real Salt Lake and I have to admit that he epitomizes the word “Winner”.
From the first minute I saw Will train I thought and still think he can play at the very highest level of the game, simply down to his mentality. His ability will always follow suit.
I was absolutely stunned and shocked that Jason Kreis let Will leave the RioT.
Will called me during his negotiations with RSL and I’m sure he won’t be too happy with me sharing this with you all but he had the opportunity to go to any MLS team of his choice and before the words even left my mouth he said “Portland is where I want to be!”
My natural response as a former captain of the club was “you are perfect for the Timbers as much as the Timbers are perfect for you”.
I am not surprised how well he has played this season but I am surprised as to how many goals he has scored already this season only because he has gone from being one of 6-7 leaders at RSL to being “The” leader at PTFC and that adjustment normally takes time.
Obviously not for Will.
When I see him lead the team out it makes me very proud.
I never got to lead the Timbers out in an MLS match but for the one season that I was the skipper I always did my best to make sure that every player knew it was a complete privilege to play for the club and with that came a responsibility to give everything you had. The day was always going to come that I would hand the captaincy over.
I didn’t think it would happen as quickly as it did but that’s life and when I see the armband being worn by Will, I know that the club, its fans are being treated in the way they deserve.
He is a credit to his wife Caroline and family who have made him the person he is.
Onto the football side of things it’s very hard to know how far the Timbers can go this season.
Making the play-offs is a must and they will. How far they go in the knockout stages is anybody’s guess but it’s not out of the reach of PTFC even this season to go all the way to the final. The Timbers are a very very difficult team to beat now and if they have that same defensive form and unbeatable mentality the sky really is the limit.
I really hope for us all that they are successful and that Caleb can lead this team to the top.
I will leave you with a more personal story.
When I left the Timbers one of the reasons I retired was because I knew that the only way was down from here.
The Timbers Army gave me so much confidence that it was always going to be so difficult to go and play the game anywhere else.
I have never kicked a ball since my last game for the Timbers, not even a 5 a side game however I was recently selected to play in a German Legends game and accepted.
On September 8th I will lace up my Nike boots one more time for the SV Hamburg/St Pauli Legends vs German legends.
In front of a sell out crowd for charity at St Pauli’s Millerntor stadium, it’s surely going to be an emotional time for me. I feel the competitor inside again and it feels incredible.
Confirmed for the game are some real greats Lothar Mattheus, Matthias Sammer, Uwe Seeler, Karl-Heinz Riedle to name a few and another legend, this one not from football but Formula 1, Michael Schumacher who will also take part in the event.
One thing I can promise you all when I play my role in the match for the first ever time I will be playing to win.
Until the next time…
Follow on Twitter @JOYPAULIAN and let me know what your thoughts are about the Timbers season so far or even what you think about Caleb Porter.
All Columnists (including Nigel Reo-Coker and Gary Smith)