By Eric Schulte
After a Portland Timbers consolatory and dramatic Cascadia Cup win, the 2012 campaign has drawn to a sudden, much needed end. The 2012 season was pock-marked with some critical injuries, including new goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts; but the most palpable stir-up came with the midseason firing of Head coach John Spencer. Unfortunately, this move would preempt the long troublesome second half of the 2012 campaign. Now, the hopes of Timbers faithful are only looking up with the introduction of new Head Coach Caleb Porter, with hopefully a brighter vision.
The Timbers most glaring deficiency has got to be the lack of offensive clout. Even the casual observer can’t help but notice the definite one-sidedness to Timbers games this season, particularly during the season’s middle. The Timber’s last three-goal performance came on July 14, in a 5-3 home loss to the L.A. Galaxy. Two goals per game is an unsustainable pace for the playoff expectations of the Timbers’ support. More specifically, the offensive work-rate must increase when losing during the latter, most defining minutes of matches. The Timbers demonstrated some of this play during the last two games, producing a win and tie.
“I can’t put my finger on it, but we get up for the big games. We always have to prepare for the games next year,” said defender David Horst. “We have a young team and we have to find ways to be ready for what’s to come next year. Hopefully we learn from this season.”
This is where Porter comes into the equation: helping young players discover exploitative weaknesses in opponents. Luckily, this may be Mr. Porter’s specialty, considering his powerful 119-18-17 coaching record with Akron. During his seven year tenure with the squad, the Zips lost four games in a season only twice, in 2008 and 2011. The other five seasons all concluded with two losses or fewer. Porter also led his team to the NCAA championship match in 2009. Most recently, Porter managed the U.S. men’s under-23 team during their 2012 CONCACAF Olympic qualification.
Timbers Owner and President Merritt Paulson couldn’t be more excited. “Put simply, I believe Caleb Porter is the best young soccer coaching mind in the country,” he said earlier this year. “He is the right fit for the Timbers on every level.”
Coach Porter will be joined by another new face this upcoming season, assistant coach Cameron Knowles. Knowles, a native New Zealander, also hails from Akron University; as a goalkeeper he played on the squad until 2004, two years before the arrival of Porter. The 2013 season will be Knowles’ first ever coaching position.
As mentioned earlier, the Timbers ranked second-to-last in goals scored on the season with 34, ahead of only Chivas USA. Portland will need to address its lack of scoring during the offseason. Either new strikers or better coaching is essential.
The Portland Timbers kick into gear again on January 21, with the beginning of preseason training in Tucson, AZ. Timbers preseason friendly opponents include rival Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City. The Timbers first friendly comes on January 29 at Tucson’s Kino Sports Complex, against the Colorado Rapids.