Overlap Magazine chronicles the MLS rise of Caleb Porter

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Caleb Porter probably doesn’t see himself as defining Portland’s 2013 campaign, though if he does, he certainly won’t sell us. The first-year Timbers boss has preached a narrow-minded focus that’s consistently kept his team’s eyes on the next game. For him to pull back and look at what he’s done for the entire Portland organization would be an act of hypocrisy.

For all the qualities you can ascribe to Porter, inconsistency is not one of them. The confidence he’s radiated from the day of his unveiling has translated onto the pitch. Once there, the Timbers tied a record for fewest losses in a 34-game season (five), playing with a commitment to progressive soccer that’s way that’s helped build Porter’s mounting reputation. Ball on the ground and players in motion, the Timbers quickly made their Army forget their misgivings about John Spencer’s dismissal.

Writing for Overlap Magazine, Ives Galarcep seems to have been there the whole way. From his piece in the magazine’s latest edition:

IT’S HALFTIME OF THE FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON and of Caleb Porter’s professional coaching debut. A barrage of early goals has put the New York Red Bulls ahead, 3–1. The sellout crowd at Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field is just a little less loud than usual. As Porter walks down the tunnel and into the locker room, he’s formulating his half-time talk.

“I’m a student of psychology and I knew how important that speech was, and how important it was to send the right message in the first game,” Porter will tell me later. “It isn’t always about just screaming at players. You have to get them to believe and buy into what you want them to do.”

There would be plenty of time for screaming at his players. Today, he’s trying to build their trust.

“I’m not a betting man,” he tells his dispirited team during that talk, “but if I were, I would bet everything on you coming back in this game.”

The Timbers did come back, drawing the eventual Supporters’ Shield winners, 3-3.

Fast forward seven months, and Porter’s celebrating a high point – his first win over Cascadia rivals Seattle:

On a perfect night in October, Porter exits Jeld-Wen field through a door on the east side of the stadium and begins walking. Usually, after a game, he drives straight home. But tonight his Timbers have beaten their arch-rival, the Seattle Sounders, in what will probably stand as the sweetest victory enjoyed by Timbers fans since joining MLS. Porter is going to meet some friends for a celebratory beer near the stadium.

The three-block stroll to Kell’s Irish Pub takes a while. Porter is met by grateful fans who thank him. They’re happy about the win, yes. But they’re grateful for something bigger: Porter has imbued their team with heart, with toughness, and they want to let their coach know how much they appreciate him. Porter lets them know that the feeling is mutual.

“I really want to bring a winner for them,” Porter had told me back in March, referring to Portland’s famously devoted fans. “Every single game, they give everything, so I want to make them happy.”

There’s much more in Galarcep’s piece, one that tracks Porter from MLS player to college coach, from his failure to qualify the U.S. for the 2014 Summer Olympics to a possible Coach of the Year season in Portland.

The piece is available right now at NBCSports.com. You can also subscribe to the magazine through iTunes.

Zlatan, Blessing tally braces in cathartic ‘El Trafico’ draw (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  “El Trafico” lives up to all of its hype, whether it’d be in Carson or in the heart of Los Angeles. Loaded with goals, subplots, heated fan bases, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela, it’s tough to find another rivalry in MLS as fierce and as provocative as Los Angeles’. Because just when one thought spectators uncovered the climax of the story, a plot twist from nearby Hollywood’s archives is screened. Whether it’d be Ibrahimovic’s fastest goal in derby history, Latif Blessing’s unexpected brace, or Vela’s goal and subsequent benching, it’s evident that there was no shortage of storylines. Both side’s 3-3 draw, as well, had no shortage of goals. It was a spectacle on Sunday.

Three moments that mattered

2′ – 15′ — Zlatan records brace in 13 minutes — Zlatan’s record-setting goal, followed by a routine finish to record his second of the night.

45′ — Blessing’s vital, first-half goal for LAFC    — Along with Zlatan, Latif Blessing was the night’s other bright spot.

89′ — Vela scores his 27th goal — Vela to the rescue…

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Man of the match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Goalscorers: Ibrahimovic (2′), Blessing (12′) Ibrahimovic (15′), Pavon (16′),  Blessing (45′), Vela (53′)

Serie A: Milan stunned; Roma draw in six-goal thriller (video)

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight.

Roma 3-3 Genoa

There were plenty of promising talking points in Roma’s season opening six-goal thriller against Genoa, but their draw certainly overwrote almost everything with red ink.

Edin Dzeko was one of the few highlights that remained in the clear. The 33-year-old – five seasons into his Roma spell -scored and assisted for I Giallorossi. Recent arrival, Davide Zappacosta, made his debut in the 78th minute.

Genoa, not necessarily impressive throughout the match, figured out a way to crack Roma’s defense. When they conceded, they’d respond. Stadio Olimpico saw six lead changes, with Christian Kouame’s diving header in the 70th minute splitting the points.

For a Roma that missed out on qualifying for the Champions League last season, the result is a low-blow right off the bat. For Genoa, who remained in Serie A by a miraculous goal, a six-goal thriller in Roma is music to their ears.

Udinese 1-0 AC Milan

Another Italian giant had a slow, first day at the office.

AC Milan, boasting a plethora of firepower, were outclassed by a well-prepared and structured Udinese.

Rodrigo Becão’s debut goal was the only difference between both sides. Milan, who are already three points behind favorites such as Juventus and Napoli, have plenty of questions to answer. The reported possible arrival of Angel Correa may certainly help on the attacking side of things, but Marco Giampaolo still has plenty of work laid out in front of him.

Banned from Europa League for overspending by Financial Play Fair Rules, Milan are expected to fully focus on the Serie A campaign, which they have yet to win since the 2010/11 campaign.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sampdoria 0-3 Lazio 

Cagliari 0-1 Brescia

Verona 1-1 Bologna 

SPAL 2-3 Atalanta 

Torino 2-1 Sassuolo 

WATCH: Zlatan scores fastest-ever ‘El Trafico’ goal

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If someone was going to set a record in “El Trafico,” it was going to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic has become the scorer of the fastest goal in the rivalry’s history, after scoring the opener against LAFC two minutes into Sunday’s bout at Banc of California Stadium.

The 37-year-old’s strike inside the box came two minutes faster than Carlos Vela’s goal from the penalty spot earlier this season. The Swede has scored eight goals against LAFC in six matches, making him the leading goalscorer of the young rivalry.

Mexicans abroad: Weekend roundup

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Scoring goals left and right, Raul Jimenez continues to bring smiles to Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters. Against Burnley,  the forward played hero with his last-second goal, earning Wolves a third straight draw.

In Spain, Diego Lainez registered his first minutes of the season, while Hector Herrera has yet to make his debut.

Diego Reyes is no longer a Fenerbahçe, as a move to Tigres nears. Lozano, now with Italian giants Napoli, awaits for his highly-anticipated Serie A debut.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Late into stoppage time, Jimenez converted from the penalty spot, and earned Wolves a valuable point at home against Burnley. It’s the 28-year-old’s first Premier League goal this season.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, West Ham — Chicharito was inactive this weekend due to a reported knee injury. On Saturday, West Ham edged Watford 3-1.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — For a second consecutive week, Herrera was an unused substitute for Diego Simeone’s side, who won 1-0 against Leganes.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis — Los Verdiblancos’ captain started and played 61 minutes in Betis’ 5-2 loss against Barcelona.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old recorded his first minutes of the season, playing the final 15 minutes in Betis’ loss to Barcelona.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and played all 90 minutes in Celta’s 1-0 victory over Valencia.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — Recently integrated, Lozano didn’t suit up for Napoli’s entertaining 4-3 win against Fiorentina on Saturday.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — PSV are inactive this week.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Ajax are inactive this weekend.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Despite overlapping when attacking, Porto’s manager, Sergio Conceicao, continues to deploy Tecatito as a right back. The 26-year-old showed no problems throughout 90 minutes in Porto’s 2-0 statement victory over Benfica, though.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Logging in minutes won’t be a problem for Govea at the Belgium club, at least that’s been the case thus far. On Saturday, the midfielder started – for a fourth consecutive game – and registered 66 minutes.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   The Qatari league is underway, and Moreno has made his debut. The center back started and played all 90 minutes in Al Gharafa’s 3-0 win over Shahania on Thursday.

Diego Reyes, Free Agent  Fenerbahçe released Reyes on Sunday. He is set to make a Liga MX return with Tigres after leaving for Europe back in 2013.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — On Friday, the 21-year-old fullback started and played 66 minutes in Roda’s 2-1 loss against NEC Nijmegen.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – The 25-year-old is slowly but surely finding himself in San Jose. On Saturday, Fierro logged nine minutes in the Quakes’ impressive 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Carlos Vela, LAFC – LAFC take on rivals LA Galaxy on Sunday.

Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy – LA Galaxy take on rivals LAFC on Sunday.