With three days to digest the possibility, the Timbers landing Caleb Porter no longer seems like a huge coup (that’s the all-news-now internet for you), but there is still a “this is really happening” feeling to Portland luring the University of Akron head coach out of the college ranks. Having previously turned down the D.C. United job, Porter hadn’t been linked with the litany of Major League Soccer jobs that have opened up since he rejected Kevin Payne’s approach. And until earlier this week, he hadn’t been linked with Portland, but when Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson announced the move today, the story finished its Bolt-esque sprint from speculation to honest-to-goodness happening.
Beyond Porter’s cache and his reversal on life in MLS, part of the move’s surprise comes from its timing. Akron has just started their season, and with Timbers’ owner Merritt Paulson having started (at the press conference announcing John Spencer’s dismissal) that the organization was targeting the end of the calendar year to name a new coach, Wednesday’s announcement is curious. Given Porter will start at Akron through the end of the NCAA season, why not just wait until December, giving the Zips’ coach a distraction-free season?
The answer likely dovetails with the news Portland won’t increase season ticket rates for the 2013 season. Paulson seems intent on letting the fans know he gets it. Sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference is not acceptable. Despite a 7,000-person waiting list for season tickets and sellouts for every MLS game, Paulson’s not going to try and make the case that the Timbers should cost more to see. Instead, he’s going to make it clear that problems wil be addresses as soon as possible. Hence the immediate announcement of Porter.
Steve talked about the questions surrounding Porter, questions that seem more like straw-grasping than prohibitive issues. Realistically, this is about as strong a signing as Portland could have made. When Spencer was dismissed, few thought his replacement would have the kind of clout Porter brings, and while that’s no guarantee of success, it’s hard to see how Portland could have done better.
Later today, we’ll dig a little deeper on the Porter hiring, but for now, we’ll leave you with the obligatory quotes from the newlyweds.
From Merritt Paulson:
“Put simply, I believe Caleb Porter is the best young soccer coaching mind in the country. He is the right fit for the Timbers on every level. We went through an exhaustive and thorough search over the last couple months where we spoke with some truly excellent candidates, but Caleb quickly emerged as the consensus target. We look forward to 2013 and beyond with Caleb at our helm.”
“Caleb is ambitious and one of the most respected coaches in the nation,” said Wilkinson. “He has consistently developed and produced talented players who have gone on to excel in MLS. We feel that his mentality, personality, skill set and coaching philosophy are a tremendous fit with the culture of the Timbers organization and we’re excited to bring Caleb on as the Timbers head coach.”
From Caleb Porter:
“I am truly excited and honored to be provided this unique opportunity to coach the Portland Timbers, an organization that in a short-time has established itself as a model franchise in Major League Soccer. I know that Merritt and Gavin are committed to long-term success for the Timbers and come December, I will be completely focused and driven to continue building a professional club in which the Timbers supporters, city and organization will be proud of. In the meantime, out of respect to the Akron program, I will not be commenting further on this matter until after the conclusion of the 2012 college season.”