Porter formally takes the reins in Portland
For months, Caleb Porter has been torn by his loyalty to the Akron Zips while waiting to take over as coach of the Portland Timbers.
''I wanted to get going,'' Porter said Tuesday when he was formally - and finally - introduced by the Timbers. ''I can't wait for that first meeting, the first training session.''
Porter was hired as the Major League Soccer team's coach in late August, but he wrapped up his seventh season with Akron before fully making the move. He guided the Zips to an 18-1-3 record, the Mid-America Conference championship and into the third round of the NCAA tournament. It was the sixth straight season Akron had made it to the tournament; the Zips won the national championship in 2010.
He finished with a 123-18-17 overall record at Akron and the highest winning percentage (.832) among current Division I coaches.
The Timbers, meanwhile, fired coach John Spencer last July and replaced him in the interim with general manager Gavin Wilkinson. Portland finished up the season 8-16-10, ranked second-to-last in Major League Soccer's Western Conference and falling far short of the team's goal to reach the playoffs.
Porter, who was captain for three years during his college career at Indiana, went on to play two MLS seasons for San Jose and Tampa Bay. Knee injuries cut short his career. His goal, he said Monday, was to eventually return to MLS.
''In some ways I was uncomfortable being comfortable in Akron,'' he said. ''I was antsy.''
Porter, 37, finally moved his family to Portland on Dec. 17.
Honest and to-the-point, Porter did not waste any time in putting his own stamp on the team. Asked about Scottish striker Kris Boyd, who made $1.5 million last season with the Timbers but scored just seven goals, the new coach was blunt.
''Kris Boyd is a player that I think will have a hard time playing in the way that we want to play,'' Porter said. ''And that's no knock on Kris. He would fit in a lot of different systems but, with what I want out of my strikers, it's going to be difficult for him to offer what I'm looking for in that position.''
In what he needs from a striker, Porter said: ''I like to score goals. Simple.''
Porter is already familiar with Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who played at Akron and won the MAC Hermann Trophy before he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by the Timbers.
Nagbe scored just two goals his first season with the Timbers, but one of those was named the MLS goal of the year. Last season he had six, second on the team to Boyd.
Porter won't be giving the rising star a pass.
''He's a special talent,'' Porter said. ''He still has a lot to learn, I hope to bring that out in him.''
While Porter is known somewhat for using the 4-3-3 formation, he said he only used it for two seasons at Akron, and he favored a 4-4-2. The Timbers' talent will dictate what system he'll use at the MLS level.
He said part of Portland's problem has been a lack of a clear identity, which he hopes to bring to the team. He prefers an attack-oriented style with an emphasis on possession.
''I'm excited about the challenges ahead,'' he said.
The Timbers on Tuesday also signed Portland native Steven Evans as the team's second homegrown player. The 21-year-old midfielder had a career-best 14 goals in 19 matches as a junior at the University of Portland last season. He has been with the Timbers' development team since 2009.
Wilkinson also hinted about ''additions that will be happening this week.''
The Timbers open training camp on Jan. 21 and they open the season on March 3 against the New York Red Bulls at Jeld-Wen Field.