Caleb Porter wins MLS Coach of the Year after masterminding Portland’s incredible revival

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This season in MLS one man stood above the rest, take a bow Caleb Porter.

During his first year in Major League Soccer, the former Akron University coach won the MLS Coach of the Year award as his side went 14-5-15 in the Western Conference and lifted the regular season Conference title.

Porter pipped Mike Petke, a fellow rookie head coach, to the award after both won 30.61 of the club vote. However Porter won the media vote with 58.44 percent and also came top of the tree with the players to make him the clear winner after a stellar campaign in 2013.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s staff choices for MLS Coach of the Year)

Porter, 38, has overseen a tremendous overhaul and rejuvenation as the Portland Timbers went from despair in 2012 to one game shy of making their first ever MLS Cup appearance in 2013. Timbers owner Merritt Paulsson was greeted with a mixed reception last season when he announced Porter would take the reigns for the 2013 campaign, but he performed a masterful transformation in the Rose City as Portland took home the regular season Western Conference title and dazzled with their fluid attacking play.

His task of winning MLS Coach of the Year was made even harder after the likes of the New York Red Bulls’ rookie head coach Petke, Jason Kreis of MLS Cup finalists Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids manager Oscar Pareja also orchestrated fabulous upturns for their respective clubs.

But it was Porter who deservedly took home the gong, as the Timbers Army have a leader they worship and Portland have arguably the best young coach in North American soccer leading them into a bright future.

Courtesy of MLSsoccer.com, below is the list of illustrious coaches Porter joins after landing the prestigious accolade.

MLS Coach of the Year Winners:
2013: Caleb Porter – Portland Timbers
2012: Frank Yallop – San Jose Earthquakes
2011: Bruce Arena – LA Galaxy
2010: Schellas Hyndman – FC Dallas
2009: Bruce Arena – Los Angeles Galaxy
2008: Sigi Schmid – Columbus Crew
2007: Preki – Chivas USA
2006: Bob Bradley – Chivas USA
2005: Dominic Kinnear – San Jose Earthquakes
2004: Greg Andrulis – Columbus Crew
2003: Dave Sarachan – Chicago Fire
2002: Steve Nicol – New England Revolution
2001: Frank Yallop – San Jose Earthquakes
2000: Bob Gansler – Kansas City Wizards
1999: Sigi Schmid – Los Angeles Galaxy
1998: Bob Bradley – Chicago Fire
1997: Bruce Arena – D.C. United
1996: Thomas Rongen – Tampa Bay Mutiny

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.