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Porter speaks

Honestly, it’s like you guys have never seen Caleb Porter respond to questions before.

I’ve watched today’s post-training piece twice. Jamie Goldberg from The Oregonian posted it here if you haven’t seen it yet. If you haven’t, you should.

It’s got a bunch of people all wound up. Words I’ve seen used to describe Porter in that video today include the following:

Dick
Dickhead
Douche
Condescending

I’ve also seen people suggest that his snark (something that’s present on a regular basis) is due to some insecurity, that perhaps he’s finally found himself in the hot seat.

Nope. This is a guy that’s pretty comfortable where he is. This is a guy whose boss is happy with his performance.

I went back and read some of the things I’ve written about Porter since he landed in 2013. This is the one that still strikes a chord:

I feel kind of like he’s been invited over for dinner, a really great dinner, and arrives to find a bowl of Grapenuts and a host who spends the entire evening apologizing for the mess.

If there is a hint of frustration when Porter speaks, I’d guess it’s because he’s still looking at that bowl of Grapenuts and wondering when the Beef Wellington’s going to arrive at the table.

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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Timbers

 

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I remember this feeling.

A loss, another loss. Closed practices. Rumors. Then the reality.

And then the ensuing fire. At the time, is was a feisty Scot striking out at a ridiculous suggestion. I read the accounts and I couldn’t stop smiling.

This time, the fire was less a blaze and more of a slow smolder, a building flame. Steady, but growing. And again, I’m left with this ridiculous grin.

Here. Go watch this.

Take a minute. Think it through. There’s a lot there to chew on.

Then go watch this.

We’re in the middle of a derby week that, to me anyway, hasn’t felt much like a derby week. With the concern over suspensions and injuries and whatever else might come up, I’ve had a hard time mustering the energy to get riled up.

Thankfully, Caleb Porter is on the job. For someone who professes a preference for keeping the highs low and the lows high, he seemed to go a little off-script today. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.

Enough to take swings at MLS, PRO Referees and, tangentially, Jurgen Klinsmann, Clint Dempsey, and all of Seattle.

Bless his heart. I could not be happier. Someone please run an Ancestry.com search on him and tell me how far back the Scots are in his family tree.

Credit to Jamie Goldberg on those links. She does good work.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Timbers

 

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Everyone’s got an opinion.

It’s true. Everyone has an opinion and now you’re going to have mine.

At this point last year, I’d already declared victory. Two years ago, I was in a haze of expectation and blinded by a recently acquired love of an imported Scottish footballer. Three years ago, well, if you think I know nothing about soccer now, you should have seen me then.

So, our boys have two points over the first four matches of the 2014 campaign. This is not the end of the world. They’ve lost two on the road. Remember when they had that WHOLE SEASON wherein they won only one road match? I do. And I’m also quite certain that this particular group of players is not going to let that happen on their watch.

They’re not where they should be. They know that. They’re trying to fix it but, in the meantime, have been hit with a handful of injuries, have been hampered by a not-yet-fully-fit-no-matter-what-Porter-says Diego Valeri, and now have two of their most steadfast players on suspension for controversial red cards.

This is fun, isn’t it?

Let’s add a little bit more fuel to the fire: Darlington Nagbe came off at the half during Saturday’s match with a reported muscle strain. Let’s also add that Paparatto and Kah have repeatedly erred on the side of recklessness and Urruti just is not the forward we’re looking for.

DOOM AND GLOOM. THE SKY IS FALLING.

Seriously, come in off the ledge. It’s not that bad. They’ll fix it. They know they have to. And I know you all hate this by now, but we’re four games in to a 34-game season. If we’re a month down the road and the Timbers still haven’t logged a win, feel free to flip out then. Until then, maybe try some tai chi or something.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Timbers

 

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He’s a nice guy.

I came face to face with Caleb Porter three times over the last year. I came away each time confused, fascinated and slightly scared. 

The first was his introductory press conference. In a room full of people who didn’t yet know what to make of him, he took the reins of a club that had spiraled downward the season before and, in doing so, set the tone for what was to come. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect. What would the dynamic be between Porter and Gavin Wilkinson? Would Porter be as soundbite worthy as Spenny had been? How would he handle the mess he’d gotten himself into?

He handled it with brutal honestly. He said things I wasn’t prepared to hear. He all but turned my beloved (and somewhat moody) Scottish striker loose, much to the noticeable discomfort of GW, and grounded expectations by saying, flat out, he didn’t expect this to be a walk in the park. He put everyone on notice. By the time he stopped talking, I could scarcely breathe. 

I didn’t find myself that close to him again until October in Vancouver. 

We’d survived the summer, the Timbers had advanced through several rounds of USOC, and were on the verge of earning a playoff spot. But a last ditch effort to stay in the Cascadia Cup race had fallen short with the Timbers loss to the Caps just moments before.

I’d tagged along with one of the Vancouver-based ProstAmerika writers to hear what Martin Rennie had to say before joining a small group who had gathered around Porter outside the Portland locker room. 

He looked up when I joined the group and for a moment, we locked eyes. He has a spark, an intensity, a ferocity that I know that I’ve never seen in anyone else anywhere ever. Experiencing it up close is something akin to walking into a sliding glass door: it stuns you for a minute until you figure out what just happened. 

Standing on the sidewalk outside BC Place an hour later, I tried to recall anything he’d said and I couldn’t. None of it. I remembered every word Rennie had said, and most of what Will Johnson and Donovan Ricketts had told us in the locker room after, but not a single word Porter had said stayed with me. He’d scared them all away. 

The third time was just before the holidays, in a bar in NW Portland. He and members of the team’s coaching staff were there for a going away party and some friends and I were there for, well, beer. We kept our distance, for the most part, until he stopped us on the way out.

“Which one of you is the one who’s scared of me?” he asked my group as we were leaving. I raised my hand.

“You don’t have to be scared of me. I’m a nice guy.” 

 

I explained to him how I came to be scared of him – his intensity in Vancouver at the top of the list – and he shook his head. “No. I’m not scary. I just hate to lose.”

Good.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Timbers

 

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The streak is over: remembering.

A year ago, we lost a stupid game at Rio Tinto. A hat trick from Alvaro Saborio and a Diego Chara red card sealed our fate and, as we would know less than 48 hours later, the fate of wee John Spencer. In light of that, I’m thinking the Columbus loss doesn’t seem so bad.

A year ago, I wrote this thing. I was just starting to realize the doom and gloom that being a Timbers supporter could sometimes bring. Two days after that, we were without a coach, without a plan, and without any of the hope and expectation with which we’d begun the season.

A year ago, we had a week to gear up for a home match against the Galaxy, same as we do now. And I’m going to go ahead and call it: the result will be much, much different than last year’s result.

Let me insert here a short note for any Timbers who may read this: under no circumstances do I want to see any Robbie Keane cartwheel goal celebrations in the North End. Shut that shit down. I have no patience for it.

We’ll be without Kah this time around, as we were without Chara last year, due to the red card. And we’ll be without a national team player or two. But, unlike last year, I’m not concerned. If we’ve learned anything about this team, it’s that they will fill the spaces that need to be filled. They play with heart, something sorely lacking in last year’s squad.

Our unbeaten streak ended in Columbus at nineteen games. Meh. Remember: Salt Lake began last summer’s winless streak. From that point forward, we didn’t win a match until the end of August: nine games without a win. I can’t imagine this current team going into a tailspin like that. It won’t happen. Will Johnson will strangle someone with his bare hands before he would let that happen. And if he didn’t? Caleb Porter would step in and give the “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” dad speech and it would be TERRIFYING.

More and more, I get the feeling that these guys know they play, above all else, for us. Win or lose, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in Timbers 2013

 

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The Anti-Merritt

Heads up: this is a crosspost with SlideRulePass purely for my own archives. No need to read it here if you’ve already read it there.

Yes, I got into the press conference. No, I don’t know if they’ll ever let me in again. No, I’m not terribly worried about it. No, I won’t stop whining about not having an actual press credential. No, there was no spiced IPA.

Okay, here’s the nitty-gritty.

You can get quotes elsewhere. Try Stumptown Footy. The entire thing is posted on the net. Watch for yourself if you’ve got a spare 45 minutes. My notes are terrible. From me, you get something else.

You get me wanting desperately to fall in love with Caleb Porter. And you get me faltering.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked his honesty. I like his slow, careful speech pattern. I liked a lot of the things he had to say.

But a spark plug he ain’t. I don’t think we’ll be getting a clever Alaska Airlines commercial or any snarky soundbites out of him anytime soon.

I’ll trade that for a team that wins games. While Porter hit all the appropriate buzzwords (consistency and continuity and a half dozen others in the same vein), he also offered a starkly realistic view of where the Timbers are headed. And I didn’t like that view. I don’t like realism.

I’ve gotten so used to the rah-rah that Merritt gives us that I don’t really know how to react to Porter’s much more grounded approach to the coming season. It made me…sad. It made me feel lonely and grey and left me wishing for something other than what he’d given us. But he was right about everything. Everything.

Okay, one quote.

I’m realistic. I’m not naive. I don’t believe that we’re just going to throw the ball out and play beautiful soccer and automatically pass the ball around and beat the New York Red Bulls on March 3rd.

I know what he’s saying. I get where he’s coming from. I feel for him. I feel kind of like he’s been invited over for dinner, a really great dinner, and arrives to find a bowl of Grapenuts and a host who spends the entire evening apologizing for the mess.

I keep returning to the build up to last season. So much potential, so much expectation, so much anticipation. I didn’t get any of those same butterflies sitting in that room today.

That comes later, right? When Dike starts breaking people in the preseason, maybe? I don’t know.

I still remain semi-hopeful about the coming season, but without the excitement I’ve felt about the last two seasons. If all else fails (and after such a dreary introduction, I fully expect a fair few hashmarks in the fail column), I know that in a few weeks I’ll be back at JWF with my Timbers family and I won’t have to suffer alone.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Timbers

 

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Unprepared

I am unprepared to write about Boyd today. Today was meant to be a Caleb Porter-centric day but whoever that blonde woman who sat in front of me at the presser was, well, she shot that all to hell, didn’t she?

Oof.

Of course, unprepared is how I first started writing about Boyd, isn’t it? Yes. Well.

So, here’s the thing: I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m not in nearly as dire a state as you might think I would be after essentially being told face-to-face that my beloved Scottish striker is on his way out the door.

Mostly because I’m still not entirely sure he is.

Gavin. Oh, dear god, Gavin.

It pains me to say it, but Gavin and I have a disturbingly similar way of hiding our feelings: we just don’t. We react. We turn red (though he turns redder than I do thanks to his natural gingerosity). We blurt things out without thinking them through.

But that might be where the similarities end.

See, I’m still madly, deeply, inexplicably in love with my Timbers. Gavin? Watching him today, he seemed, at best, disillusioned.

Enough about him.

Is Boyd out?

Million and a half dollar Boyd? I doubt it.

We can go over this again if you’d like. Shut up. We’re going over this again.

As an extra-special, she’s-really-gone-off-a-cliff bonus, I shall present a concise history of The Cooper Effect in haiku:

Kenny Cooper signed.
No midfield to support him.
Kenny Cooper gone.

Kris Boyd, savior Scot.
They told us it was diff’rent.
Alas, wrong again.

Cooper with New York
Oh, Kenny with eighteen goals.
Service made it so.

Twenty Thirteen dawns.
Will Boyd be the next to go?
Wilkinson hates Scots.

Two years in a row
Timbers Golden Boot winner
is packing his bags.

I may or may not have completely lost my mind. I may be crazy, but I’m pretty sure I’m right when I say that no one in the room was surprised at Porter’s answer to the Boyd Conundrum with the possible exception of Gavin.

I’ve been preparing for Boyd’s inevitable departure since July. I was stunned, absolutely stunned when he was still here at the end of August. I was cautiously optimistic when he turned up at Rangers in the midst of our offseason, vowing to be in shape and ready to impress his new manager when January training camp starts up on the 21st. But still, even taking that cautious optimism into account, I do not expect to see him in the eleven by the time March 3 rolls around unless something absolutely bat-shit crazy happens.

I am still haunted by his goal in the reserves match in September. Is that his last goal as a Timber? maybe? Possibly? Probably?

When the question was posed at the presser, I was not surprised by the way Porter answered, but that he answered at all. And after days of reading and rereading and analyzing his previous quotes about not really being married to a particular style of play but, rather, tailoring his strategy to match the talents of his players, this was an abrupt about-face. I read it as “I’m willing to work with what we’ve got – except for that one guy.”

And yes, for this I am blaming Gavin. When Porter answered the question, it looked as though he’d strayed far from the script that had been written for him. And when Gavin was asked and declined to answer whether or not he was shopping Boyd, what he didn’t say said more than any statement he could have made.

He’s shopping Boyd. He has been for six months. But, as has been widely discussed, Boyd’s salary is a deterrent to any club that might be interested.

What doesn’t make sense here is the addition of Johnson and Harrington, there’s the possibility that we finally have the service that both Kenny and Kris needed to be successful here. I look forward to the day when what we do here makes any sort of sense.

So, there it is. Even as I’ve steeled myself to losing my Scottish striker, I’m still not willing to let go of the possibility that this chapter is not yet closed. Tread softly around me the next couple weeks. I will, undoubtedly, be a complete mess.

I’m looking at you, David and Tom. Shhhh.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Timbers

 

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