Caleb Porter finally unveiled as Portland Timbers head coach

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PORTLAND, Ore. — It took five months for him to finally touchdown in the Rose City, but once he did new head coach Caleb Porter laid out an unambiguous vision for the Portland Timbers’ future. Sitting next to a general manager (Gavin Wilkinson) who described his club as having “very, very high expectations and lofty ambitions,” Porter was unflinching while playing into the hope his new hiring’s created.

He addressed the skepticism born of the U-23 failing. He talked about his reputation for playing attractive soccer. He talked about why he chose Portland and the futures of high-profile players Kris Boyd and Darlington Nagbe.

Here are some of the big takeaways:

Portland was the right fit at the right time.

“In some ways, I was uncomforatble being comfortable at Akron,” Porter said, a unique way of saying it was time for him to go.

The move was the culmination of a 13-year journey he knew would end in Major League Soccer.

“As I started my coaching career 13 years ago, in the back of my mind I had the goal of getting back here to be a professional coach in Major League Soccer. I didn’t know if it would happen. I didn’t know when it would happen or how it would happen. But that was always a goal that I had in mind.”

But as D.C. United found out three years ago, Porter wasn’t going to leave Akron for just any opportunity. Portland, however, was the complete package for the Porter family.

“I certainly had a few other opportunities, but this was the one that was the best situation for me and my family, to come and join this wonderful community. For a lot of reasons, this was the right fit.

“We have the most passionate supporters in Major League Soccer. That was very attractive to me. We have a owner/president and a general manager who have a long term vision for success. Their philosophy, their vision was in line with my philosophy and vision. That’s very important to have that right marriage.”

What problems from 2012 need to be addressed first?

Porter tried not to speak of the past, but in talking about the changes he planned to bring to the team, comparing goals to failures was unavoidable.

“We need a little bit more experienced — not a little bit, a lot more experienced — locker room,” Porter said after initially explaining a reluctance to dwell on 2012. “Where you have guys who have been through this very unique league and season, where there’s a lot of travel, different climates, altitude. It’s not easy.”

Bringing in Will Johnson? Michael Harrington? Ryan Johnson? It addresses that need.

“These are guys that have been six, seven year pros in Major League Soccer. You know what you get out of them.”

source:  How will Portland play?

Make no mistake about it – Porter is bringing his much-discussed philosophy with him to Portland. While he said he’s not going to be “naive” about making hasty changes, Porter made it clear that a possession game intent on “dominant” play is the goal.

“We’re going to approach every game from the standpoint of what do we need to do in this game to win.”

But the Timbers will work toward playing the Porter way.

“Any good coach should have a philsosophy of how they approach the game, of how they approach training, and that’s a big part of the blue print, every single day.”

“Blue print” came up a lot on Tuesday, as did formulas and identities.

“If you look in Major League Soccer, the most successful teams have continuity. They have a formula they follow. They have a clear identity, and we will have a clear identiy here. We will have a formula we will be following, and you will see continuity. You’ll see consistency and ultimately, every decision we make will be based on that way we are going to be playing.”

“If we’re going to be a team that’s consistenly winning games, we need to move in a direction where we are the dominant team. … if you control major portions of the game, you increase your chances of winning consistently, and that’s the only reason I believe in the philosophy that I have.”

Does that mean the Zips’ formation will come with him from Akron?

What formation?

As Porter pointed out in the press conference, he adjusted formations as his personnel fit. For five years, he played a 4-4-2. For two others, he played a 4-3-3, a formation that’s erroneously been linked to his style of play.

Looking at the moves Portland’s made this offseason, the Timbers are setting up as a 4-4-2/4-3-1-2 (midfield diamond) team. But Porter made it clear he’d like to develop multiple options.

As Darlington Nagbe described it early last season (before Porter was announced as head coach of the Timbers), Porter’s is a philosophy that adapts the formation to the available players. When Nagbe was at Akron, he played a playmaker’s role that took advantage of the talents of Steve Zakuani and Darron Mattocks.

It’s not difficult to see a similar provider’s role crafted behind Ryan Johnson and Bright Dike, a role that could leave the Timbers looking like Will Johnson’s former Real Salt Lake team.

What does that mean for Darlington Nagbe?

Clearly the most talented player on the Timbers, Nagbe was a big part of Tuesday’s conversation. Is Caleb Porter the man that can bring the young star to his full potential?

Porter never said those words, but he did say he feels he has “buttons” he can push to get Nagbe to where he can be. And while the new coach was mostly complimentary of what Nagbe’s accomplished in over two MLS seasons, his former Akron coach is going to expect more out of him in 2013.

“In some ways, the youth of this team put more pressure on him to produce and perform, and he maybe hasn’t handled that as well as he should have, in terms of carrying the team. But he’s also a young player. There needs to be a little bit of patience for that, as well.”

“Going into his third year, [there are] going to be high expectations of him. I certainly expect him to perform.”

“I do know his talent. I do know what he’s capable of. There’s a trust there.”

source:  And where does Kris Boyd fit in all of this?

He’s the club’s most expensive player ever, but Kris Boyd has no role in Porter’s system. That Porter even addressed the touchy subject — let alone showed some brutal honestly while doing so — as a signal to Boyd, his representation, and the league. Kris Boyd won’t fit in Portland.

“After watching him play quite a bit, and I have watched this team play quite a bit, Kris Boyd is a player that I think will have a hard time playing the way we want to play,” Porter confessed. “With what I want out of my strikers, it’s going to be very difficult for him to offer what I’m looking for in that position.”

It’s no surprise. Nobody is going to mistake Boyd’s style for Zakuani’s or Mattocks’.

Though Porter didn’t close the door (later saying Boyd can prove him wrong), he might as well have. It was a shockingly frank confession within the context of an introductory press conference.

Yes, coach, but what about Nashville?

It was one of the first topics that came up once the press conference was open for questions, the one blemish on Caleb Porter’s otherwise stellar coaching record: Why didn’t the U.S. U-23s make it out of their first Olympic qualifying group, let alone challenge for a spot in the Summer Olympics?

It was one of his longest answers of the day, but one Porter was honest about, forthright, and prepared to give:

“There as a lot I took away from it. It was a five-month process. I knew it was going to be a high-profile, high-pressure job. I knew it was a tricky qualifying format. But again, I don’t avoid challenges. For me, it was an opportunity. I look at not what could go wrong, but what could go right.

“And in the end, it didn’t go right. I take responsibility for that. We failed. We didn’t qualify, and in my role as the coach, I take responsibility for that.

“But there was a lot of the process that went well. Overall, our record was 6-1-2, believe it or not. A lot of people wouldn’t remember that, nor would I want them to. Obviously, they’re going to remember the end. Including friendlies and everything, we were 6-1-2.

“In the qualify format, which is very tricky to be able to navigate, three games in five days, we were 1-1-1. That meant we got four points and that meant we didn’t go through.

“And that made it very difficult because the process was comfortable. It did go very well. Those are things that no one will know other than the players. But again, I think if you ask the players they’d say it went very well. They were prepared thoroughly. They were on boeard 100 percent.

“The Mexico game – the game we won 2-0, even though it was a friendly – they were the eventually Olympic champions, and not only did we win 2-0 but we controlled a majority of the match. For me, that was reinforcement of all the positive things that were going on.

“There were certainly things that I would do differently. Like any good coach, you’re continually eventuating yourself, your team, things that you can do better. There always needs to be a reflection, and there was a reflection on this process. I put together an extensive technical report that I presented to US Soccer with all those details.

“There were a lot of things that yes I would do differently. A lot of things I learned in the process. But there were a lot of things that went very well, too, a lot of things I would do the same. Overall, it was a great experience, one that will certainly helped me make this move.

PL roundup: Liverpool runs rampant; Brighton, Huddersfield victorious

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Get caught up on all seven of Saturday’s Premier League fixtures…

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham — FULL RECAP

When Philippe Coutinho departed for Barcelona there was a question as to how Liverpool would perform without the Brazilian. Now, it’s safe to say the Reds are going to be just fine without him. Another dominating effort at home on Saturday has pulled the Reds up to second place in the PL, courtesy of goals from Emre Can, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Jurgen Klopp‘s side has now totaled 65 league goals in 28 matches.

Leicester City 1-1 Stoke City — FULL RECAP

Xherdan Shaqiri‘s brilliant finish before halftime looked like it would be enough to give the Potters a much-needed three points, however, Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland cost his side dearly with a howler in the second stanza. A powerful cross from Marc Albrighton, coupled by a darting run from Jamie Vardy, gave the keeper troubles, before he spilled the ball into his own net.

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Huddersfield Town  — FULL RECAP

Second-half finishes from Rajiv Van la Parra and Steve Mounie helped go three points clear of the bottom three on the day, while West Brom looks very much buried in the relegation race. The Baggies pulled a goal back through Craig Dawson‘s finish, however, it was too late to provide a comeback for the last-place side.

Burnley 1-1 Southampton FULL RECAP

The Clarets sit seventh in England’s top flight, however, Sean Dyche and Co. have not won a PL match since early December. Southampton’s form hasn’t been much better though, with the Saints winless in their last 15 matches. Manolo Gabbiadini‘s finish was vital for Southampton, who are one of 10 teams separated by a mere six points.

Bournemouth 2-2 Newcastle — FULL RECAP

A victory would have been massive for the Magpies, who are muddled in the heap of relegation sides, but a strong second-half effort from Bournemouth helped secure a point for the hosts.

Brighton 4-1 Swansea City — FULL RECAP

The promotion side has opened up a four-point cushion in the relegation race after a brilliant home showing on Saturday. A brace from Glenn Murray, combined with Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia goals, helped the Seagulls move into 11th place, while Swansea’s offensive woes continue to prove critical in their attempt to stay afloat in the PL. The Swans have score a league-l0w 21 goals in 28 matches, nearly 0.75 goals per game.

Watford 1-0 Everton — FULL RECAP

Troy Deeney‘s strike with 10 minutes to play was the difference for the Hornets, closing the gap between the two sides to just one point. Everton struggled mightily on the day to muster up any quality chances, although to be fair, both clubs didn’t look like they were in the finest of form up front. The Toffees have been dreadful away from home this campaign, with just one victory away from Goodison Park.

Bundesliga wrap: USMNTs Johannsson the hero for Bremen, Bayern draws

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Goals were not abundant as the Bundesliga staged five Saturday matches without a single squad finding the back of the net on multiple occasions.

[ MORE: Projecting PL relegation ]

And there’s a shake-up at the bottom of the table after American striker Aron Johannsson’s substitute heroics moved Werder Bremen 14th.

Werder Bremen 1-0 Hamburg

USMNT strikers Johansson and Bobby Wood started on the bench for the hosts and visitors, respectively, as Werder Bremen and Hamburg dueled for critical points in the race to avoid relegation to 2.Bundesliga.

Wood entered the game in the 77th minute, but was upstaged when Johannsson again played super sub for Werder Bremen. The Icelandic-Alabamian’s shot pushed through the keeper and onto the doorstep for Johannes Eggestein to slide over the line.

It looked offside, but withstood all protests and reviews. Werder is now 3-1 in its last four matches, all featuring significant contributions from the previously rarely used Johannsson.

Hoffenheim 1-1 Freiburg

Andrej Kramaric scored for the fifth time in four matches to give the hosts a lead just after halftime, but Freiburg star Nils Petersen scored in the 66th minute to give the visitors a point and him 12 league goals on the season.

Hannover 96 0-1 Borussia Monchengladbach

Defensive midfielder Christoph Kramer scored his second goal of the season to give the visitors a 72nd minute lead, a 90-minute win, and positioning to potentially negotiate European qualification with a strong finish to the season.

Elsewhere
Mainz 1-1 Wolfsburg — Friday
Bayern Munich 0-0 Hertha Berlin
Stuttgart 1-0 Eintracht Frankfurt
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Schalke — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
RB Leipzig vs. Koln — Noon ET Sunday
Borussia Dortmund vs. Augsburg — 2:30 p.m. ET Monday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 24 19 3 2 55 18 37 10-2-0 9-1-2 60
 Borussia Dortmund 23 11 7 5 48 29 19 5-3-3 6-4-2 40
 Eintracht Frankfurt 24 11 6 7 32 27 5 5-3-4 6-3-3 39
 Bayer Leverkusen 23 10 8 5 43 30 13 5-4-2 5-4-3 38
 RB Leipzig 23 11 5 7 36 31 5 7-3-1 4-2-6 38
 FC Schalke 04 23 10 7 6 36 30 6 6-4-2 4-3-4 37
 Mönchengladbach 24 10 4 10 31 35 -4 6-2-4 4-2-6 34
 1899 Hoffenheim 24 8 8 8 38 38 0 6-4-2 2-4-6 32
 Hannover 96 24 8 8 8 32 34 -2 6-3-3 2-5-5 32
 FC Augsburg 23 8 7 8 32 29 3 5-4-3 3-3-5 31
 Hertha BSC Berlin 24 7 10 7 30 30 0 4-4-4 3-6-3 31
 VfB Stuttgart 24 9 3 12 20 27 -7 8-1-3 1-2-9 30
 SC Freiburg 24 6 11 7 25 38 -13 5-6-1 1-5-6 29
 Werder Bremen 24 6 8 10 22 28 -6 4-4-4 2-4-6 26
 VfL Wolfsburg 24 4 13 7 27 31 -4 2-7-3 2-6-4 25
 FSV Mainz 05 24 6 6 12 29 42 -13 5-2-5 1-4-7 24
 Hamburger SV 24 4 5 15 18 35 -17 3-3-6 1-2-9 17
 1. FC Köln 23 3 5 15 20 42 -22 2-3-7 1-2-8 14

Watford 1-0 Everton: Deeney, Okaka get it done

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  • Deeney’s 80th minute goal was 3rd shot on target for either team
  • Yes, we’re serious
  • Everton just 1W-5D-8L away from Goodison Park

Troy Deeney‘s late goal moved Watford to within a point of woeful and ninth place Everton in a 1-0 win at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

The win avenged a 3-2 loss at Goodison Park earlier this season, and Everton is 2W-2D-4L since Dec. 30.

Watford now has 34 points, while Everton has 35.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

An early free kick from Gylfi Sigurdsson was sent to the back post, but did not find a receiver.

The better part of the first half hour was physical if haphazard, and an Idrissa Gana Gueye slide from behind gave Watford a free kick from 25 yards.

Gerard Deulofeu hit that into the wall.

Tom Davies was the next to just miss on a chance, unable to reach a searching back post ball for Everton in the 53rd minute.

Watford raced to the other end, and Troy Deeney’s looping header didn’t have enough gusto to beat Jordan Pickford at the back post.

Stefano Okaka’s introduction threatened the lively up the game, but it took some time as much as the Vicarage Road crowd tried to inject life into a sloppy affair.

Kiko Femenia saw a late chance provided and denied by Pickford, who then collected a low effort from Daryl Janmaat.

Deeney then found Watford’s moment, lashing a shot past Pickford when found by Okaka in the 80th minute.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Who will be relegated? Projecting the crazy situation

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With 10 games of the 2017-18 season to go, 11 of the Premier League’s 20 teams are in real danger of being relegated.

Eleven.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League table ]  

A busy Saturday saw three “relegation six pointers” take place and we expected the relegation situation to become a little clear. Wrong. So, so wrong.

The only team who legitmately look dead and buried is West Brom, who sit bottom of the table and seven points from safety. Bye, bye, Baggies.

But if you look at the table below, just five points separates Brighton in 11th place and Stoke City in 19th place. Bournemouth sit in 10th in the table and they have 32 points to their name.



The all important thing at this time of the season is momentum and teams like Huddersfield Town and Brighton have it with back-to-back wins in the PL, plus all of a sudden Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Ham are sweating.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Another important factor for the final months of the season is the schedule.

With that in mind, below is a look at the schedule for the 11 teams in the mire and a projected points tally for each.

Wow. This is going to be incredibly tight…


Bournemouth
Remaining games: Leicester (A), Tottenham (H), West Brom (H), Watford (A), Crystal Palace (H), Liverpool (A), Man United (H), Southampton (A), Swansea (H), Burnley (A)
Projected final points tally: 41 points

Watford
Remaining games: West Brom (H), Arsenal (A), Liverpool (A), Bournemouth (H), Burnley (H), Huddersfield (A), Crystal Palace (H), Tottenham (A), Newcastle (H), Man United (A)
Projected final points tally: 40 points

Brighton
Remaining games: Arsenal (H), Everton (A), Man City (A), Leicester (H), Huddersfield (H), Crystal Palace (A), Tottenham (H), Burnley (A), Man United (H), Liverpool (A)
Projected final points tally: 38 points

Swansea City
Remaining games: West Ham (H), Huddersfield (A), Southampton (H), Man United (A), West Brom (A), Everton (H), Man City (A), Chelsea (H), Bournemouth (A), Stoke (H)
Projected final points tally: 38 points

Southampton
Remaining games: Stoke (H), Newcastle (A), Swansea (A), West Ham (A), Arsenal (A), Chelsea (H), Leicester (A), Bournemouth (H), Everton (A), Man City (H)
Projected final points tally: 38 points

Crystal Palace (11 games left)
Remaining games: Tottenham (H), Man United (H), Chelsea (A), Huddersfield (A), Liverpool (H), Bournemouth (A), Brighton (H), Watford (A), Leicester (H), Stoke (A), West Brom (H)
Projected final points tally: 37 points

Huddersfield
Remaining games: Tottenham (A), Swansea (H), Crystal Palace (H), Newcastle (A), Brighton (A), Watford (H), Chelsea (A), Everton (H), Man City (A), Arsenal (H)
Projected final points tally: 36 points

West Ham
Remaining games: Swansea (A), Burnley (H), Man United (H), Southampton (H), Chelsea (A), Stoke (H), Arsenal (A), Man City (H), Leicester (A), Everton (H)
Projected final points tally: 36 points

Newcastle
Remaining games: Liverpool (A), Southampton (H), Tottenham (A), Huddersfield (H), Leicester (A), Arsenal (H), Everton (A), West Brom (H), Watford (A), Chelsea (H)
Projected final points tally: 35 points

Stoke City
Remaining games: Southampton (A), Manchester City (H), Everton (H), Arsenal (A), Tottenham (H), West Ham (A), Burnley (H), Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H), Swansea (A)
Projected final points tally: 33 points

West Brom
Remaining games: Watford (A), Leicester (H), Bournemouth (A), Burnley (H), Swansea (H), Man United (A), Liverpool (H), Newcastle (A), Tottenham (H), Crystal Palace (A)
Projected final points tally: 27 points