Caleb Porter is not fit to wear DC United’s tracksuit

So I keep reading stuff that has me thinking that United is about to veer off the traditional get-a-former-DC-guy path and hire a college or even an international coach. That would mean eschewing the conventional wisdom kind of picks like Richie Williams or Curt Onalfo.

Steven Goff, who has been the only guy able to get any bits of info out of this process keeps bringing up Akron Coach Caleb Porter as being high on DC’s list.

I’ll admit, I’d be very worried about United if they went out and got Porter. While I think they’d sell it as “We’re looking for new blood!” and “Schellas Hyndman wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone thought he would be!” I still think it would be an indication that rather than relinquishing some degree of control to a powerful “big name coach,” Technical Director Dave Kasper and GM Kevin Payne would be consolidating their control over matters. And considering how dreadful DC’s talent evaluation has been for the last couple years, United fans should be doubly worried about that.

But maybe I am being too cynical, maybe a Porter signing indicates DC moving towards a slightly more athletic, more up-tempo, more physical style. Recently, United has resembled the world’s least effective and slowest Arsenal impersonators. They collapse with the same aplomb as Arsenal, just at a slower speed. Maybe Porter is sign of better things.

But, looking over Porter’s resume, it does worry me that he has so little pro experience, playing only two years in MLS before a knee injury forced him to retire.

This season, it’s hard to argue too much at first with Porter’s record, leading Akron to an undefeated record and a spot in the NCAA Quarterfinals. That said, he has done that without playing a single power team from the ACC, Big-East or Pac-10 all season and receving an utter joke of a draw from the NCAA. Since arriving in 2006, Porter’s teams have only played ACC or Pac 10 Opposition five times*, going 2-3. All season, I have been saying that Akron is completely counterfeit and that they’ve been that way for a few years now. I think they schedule soft and I think their results in the tournament have shown that.

But I am going to admit something else that worries me about him – something that reveals a more ingrained bias. I am worried about hiring the guy becomes he’s from the Midwest.

It’s not that being Midwestern makes coaches dumber or players worse, it’s just that competition isn’t nearly as high. Look at the USMNT player pool, only nine guys (Beasley, DeMerit, Guzan, Jewsbury, Perkins, Pickens, Rolfe, Simek, and Spector) are from what we might define as the Midwest (no, Texas does not count). Of those nine, only three stand any chance of going to South Africa. More relevantly, look at MLS coaches, only one (Hyndman) is from the midwest. Other than Kreis, an outlier from Louisiana, the rest either grew up on the East Coast, the West Coast, or abroad.

Even more worrying, look at the other Midwestern coaches in MLS:

  • Dave Dir – A four-year stretch with Dallas whose longivity can be attributed more to ownership’s lazyness rather than to any real success on his part.
  • Bob Gansler – Seven years at KC, one title and much, much boredom
  • Perry Van Der Beck – Stepped in after Mondelo was canned in Tampa’s final season. Now in Super-Y Program.

BTW: I was expecting to find out that Greg Andrulis was from the Midwest. Turns out, he’s from Connecticut. Nutmeg state, he’s your fault.

The same thing applies at the college level, for all the success we attribute to programs like SLU, Indiana, and Akron – IU was the last Midwestern team to win a title and that was five years ago. Looking beyond Bloomington, you have to go all the way back to Wisconsin in 1995 to find a Midwestern title-winner.

So yes, part of the reason I am worried is that he is a Midwestern guy and one who even more worryingly has only ever coached in the Midwest and who has barely ventured out to the East or West to test his teams against the best. On top of all of that, Porter’s record is padded by playing in the piss-poor MAC Conference.

Now maybe Akron runs the table and mows through its final three NCAA Tournament opponents to win a national title. In that case, I am completely wrong about Porter and about my theory on Midwestern coaches and will gladly admit so. But if Akron falls in the semifinals against likely opponents North Carolina, then it will only go to prove that Porter’s teams can’t really compete with the best, no matter how many games undefeated they go. That is what I expect will happen and that would worry me to no end if I was a DC fan. Also, maybe the club, still without a stadium and continuing to bleed Will Chang’s cash, wants to spend a bit less. Hiring Porter, who surely isn’t holding Akron ransom with his salary, is one way to do that.

Here is the big question. Is this the kind of coach United wants to hire? The more I look at Porter and the opponents his teams have played, the more I see smoke and mirrors. I am not in favor of MLS teams hiring college coaches in general, but even I can think of at least three other guys who have demonstrably better resumes than Porter. Here are three off the top of my head.

  • Sasho Cirovski, Maryland – Turned Terps into college soccer juggernaut, but unlikely to give up one of the best gigs in American soccer.
  • Bobby Clark, Notre Dame – 70 percent win percentage with Irish plus lots of pro experience with Aberdeen and Scotland.
  • Jorge Salcedo, UCLA – Has never missed out on NCAAs in six years in Westwood, plus lots of MLS experience.

Each of them brings more college success and/or more pro experience than Porter.

There was a time when I figured DC was too smart to be fooled by a resume this thin. Of course, there was a time when I thought DC United would have its own stadium and would have more than two central defenders to be proud of since Ryan Nelsen left. If Caleb Porter is what DC United thinks is good enough than this isn’t the DC United we all thought it was. Until he wins something, anything, on the national level, Porter has no business coaching a club that purports to have the ambitions of winning MLS and CONCACAF titles.

If United management decides otherwise and hires Porter, we should start asking questions about just how serious United is about winning.

* To put that in perspective, in the same time period, IU played nine games against Pac 10 or ACC opponents. My point? Akron’s schedules are soft.


30 thoughts on “Caleb Porter is not fit to wear DC United’s tracksuit

  1. You can only beat the competition in front of you. He has done that comprehensively. Saying that losing to East Coast competition means that he can’t coach doesn’t make sense. It might simply mean that he doesn’t have the players to compete at that level.

    The same thought holds true at a pro level. He’d have a much more skilled (hopefully) set of players at his disposal.

    I don’t see the three other coaches you mention wanting to leave their gigs for DCU, so we go the route of Williams, Onalfo, a lesser-known college coach, or some dark-horse foreign coach.

    There’s a great deal to like about a winner. Success breeds success. I have no idea if Porter would be a good fit at DCU, but I couldn’t dismiss him from consideration solely for the reason you give.

  2. Jesus Christ. Archer is mostly right about your biases against soccer teams from Ohio.

    Your biases are evidenced by this gem of a line which proves you know jack shit about Porter and soccer as it’s played in benighted Akron: “maybe a Porter signing indicates DC moving towards a slightly more athletic, more up-tempo, more physical style.”

    While overall, NCAA soccer is about bigger, faster, stronger, Akron (along with the upper parts of the ACC and IU in good years, and some rare others) plays a much different style. It’s up-tempo, but it’s not overly so, and it’s predicated on the maxim that letting the ball do the work on offense is as good as any defense. Physical? Ha! Akron is usually undersized in comparison to their opposition, often startlingly so. They certainly don’t make crunching tackles a big part of their game. And “athletic” applies insofar as Akron has very good athletes with excellent technical ability across the entire field. But where it’s a question between technique and athleticism, technique is the dominant trait almost every time.

    Is Akron likely to run the table? No. No one is. Everyone has bad games. Will they run the table? I sure hope so. As for Akron being “counterfeit” (whatever that means), they’d love to get out of the MAC, and how the hell do you know whether or not they’ve TRIED to schedule tougher teams in the Amazing Coast Conference only to be told they weren’t good enough, or some other excuse? (I’m not saying they have, just that you don’t know and neither do I)

    I also love your standards for admitting your biases are wrong: if Porter and Akron manage absolute perfection, only then will you begrudgingly concede that he might be OK; if they don’t win 25 straight games, well, it proves that they are Midwestern hayseeds without the proper sophistication to play soccer.

    That all said, I hope against all hope that Porter stays with Akron. He’s a recruiting machine.

    EDIT: note that Akron is currently starting ONE senior. Their keeper and half their starting backs are true freshmen.

  3. Well, we can start with the fact that Gansler is Hungarian (do they have, like, a Hungarian midwest?) and I don’t know where van der Beck was born but he played and coached in Florida mostly.

    As for the rest of this, look, I appreciate a good troll attempt as well as the next guy, but this is just sad, man.

  4. Your midwest thing is a real head-scratcher. Isn’t Namoff (our best defender over the last several seasons) from the midwest? Did Troy Perkins come from the midwest?

    As for talent evaluation I seem to recall that we drafted some guy named Pontius and some other guy named Wallace who turned out to be pretty good players.

  5. “only nine guys (Beasley, DeMerit, Guzan, Jewsbury, Perkins, Pickens, Rolfe, Simek, and Spector) are from … the Midwest. Of those nine, only three stand any chance of going to South Africa.”

    Guzan is established #2 keeper.
    Spector is a current starter.
    DeMerit looks to be at least first back-up CB, if not a starter.
    Perkins is fighting Hahnamen for the #3 keeper spot.
    Simek is healthy and starting again, so could get a looksee as a back-up, especially as he can play outside back or in the center.
    Beasely still has an outside chance if he moves in January and gets PT, if nothing else because Bob likes him.

    Or, to put it better, “Of those nine, only three stand NO chance of going to South Africa.”

    What other area of the nation has 2/3 of their players on the “possible 23” list?

  6. [QUOTE=andypalmer;bt44000]”only nine guys (Beasley, DeMerit, Guzan, Jewsbury, Perkins, Pickens, Rolfe, Simek, and Spector) are from … the Midwest. Of those nine, only three stand any chance of going to South Africa.”

    Guzan is established #2 keeper.
    Spector is a current starter.
    DeMerit looks to be at least first back-up CB, if not a starter.
    Perkins is fighting Hahnamen for the #3 keeper spot.
    Simek is healthy and starting again, so could get a looksee as a back-up, especially as he can play outside back or in the center.
    Beasely still has an outside chance if he moves in January and gets PT, if nothing else because Bob likes him.

    Or, to put it better, “Of those nine, only three stand NO chance of going to South Africa.”

    What other area of the nation has 2/3 of their players on the “possible 23” list?[/QUOTE]

    Let’s not get carried away. That’s 2/3 of the players on some random blog list …

  7. You guys could well add some names of moderately decent USMNT contributors of the recent past. names like Friedel and McBride come to mind.

    And I skipped the part above where I was gooing to mock (with great mockery) the notion that Akron is in the “midwest”.

    It most certainly is in Ohio, but it’s a post industrial rust belt rat hole. Farmer Brown’s back 40 it ain’t. It has about as much in common with what Aaron and other bi-coastal snobs mean when they say “midwest (ie. backwards hayseed republican klansmen pentecostal pointyball clods) as Buffalo does.

    Not a cow in sight. Toxic waste dumps and gutted out factories, but no cows.

  8. I’d be more concerned that they’re going after any college coach, as opposed to who the coach is or where that college coach comes from. Why not someone (a current assistant?) who has a better understanding of the league and it’s player-personnel intricacies?

  9. Wow. I really expect better from you, Aaron, this sort of bigotry. “He’s from the midwest.” Really? That’s your big objection.

    The only thing missing from this blog was the phrase “some of my best friends are midwesterners”.

  10. Good point. Akron’s about as Midwest as Fargo is Pacific Northwest.

    That’s the thing about Ohio. The only region it belongs to in total is itself. Maybe you could argue that it’s Great Lakes, but Cincinnati and Dayton are about as far from that as St. Louis, culturally speaking.

    Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown…they’re as much Northeast as they are anything else. Just not “elite” northeast.

  11. ONE NOTE: Kries was originally an Oklahoma product, who moved to LA early. Louisiana has better talent that most admit.

  12. There’s no bigotry here. Not one bit. I just think the college soccer there is not quite at the same level as that on the East and West coasts. I love the Midwest. I’ve said over and over that I’d move back to Ohio in a heartbeat.

    I said nothing in this story saying that there was anything wrong with the Midwest – not one thing. I said that I think Caleb Porter and Akron are overrated and that I’d hesitate to hire a coach from the Midwest if I were DC United. If you want to disagree with my assertion that the Midwest doesn’t seem to produce as many good players and coaches as the two coasts, please by all means. But nowhere here have I said that there is anything wrong with the Midwest nor do I think the possible problem can’t get better.

    It wasn’t trolling and it wasn’t bigotry. If you disagree with me, tell me why. If you think the Midwest produces just as many talented soccer players as the coasts, tell me how. I am not a statistician, I might be wrong. If you think Caleb Porter is qualified enough to take over an MLS team, tell me why that is. Don’t just sit there and call me bigoted or a troll.

  13. Well, you failed miserably at assessing Porter’s style by misattributing DC’s alleged pursuit of him to desiring several characteristics that his Akron teams don’t really possess. I told you why you failed miserably. Your assessment that Akron is overrated is thus quite suspect, because it’s clear you projected your preconceived notions onto your evaluation of them. To some, that’s nicer way of saying “you’re biased” or “you’re bigoted”.

    And of course, you continue to make the mistake that Akron is in the Midwest.

  14. Okay, fair enough. With regards to the geographical question, I tend to view the portion of the country from Ohio in the East to a Western “border” of Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri as the Midwest with the bits West of that as the “Great Plains.”

    That’s my assessment. It’s of course totally subjective and one not based on any dislike or anything.

  15. You might want to look at where Michael Bradley played his youth soccer, well, at the Sockers, with a few other guys that you’ll have to actually find yourself since you’ve done such extensive research before looking like a complete idiot.

  16. What college did Mikey go to again?

    You’ve found the one league where that isn’t true. Akron can choose to put UCLA and Maryland on the schedule, if they can persuade those schools to play them.

    Btw, Aaron, you made a classic rhetorical mistake–you admitted a bias, which gave everyone offended by it ammunition to strike at you. If you’d just said “the Midwest doesn’t have as much competition as, say, California or the Eastern Seaboard, and Akron seldom ventures beyond it” no one really could have argued that point, any more than they could have about Hyndman’s SMU in his day.

    If I’m not missing something from the latest national rankings here:
    and the Zips’ schedule here:…34&SPSID=47177

    Then Akron has zero wins against the Top 10, their best being No. 11 Tulsa.

  17. “Top 10″ is a bit subjective, are we talking about the NCAA’s?, Soccer Times?, College Soccer News? Soccer America”, the RPI?
    The first four all use college coaches to vote; the RPI has a different tale to tell from all of these, and is the major basis for seeding the teams in the NCAA Tournament – whereas none of the polls are used de jure to seed any teams.
    The #1 RPI team isn’t necessarily the #1 seed, but I guarantee they’re in the Top 8, if not the Top 4.
    People love to point to the NCAA rankings as some kind of benchmark, the fact is that they are just used as a guide by the selection committees at the end of the regular season; and RPI has a far larger role to play; in fact, the polls are never mentioned in any criteria by the NCAA to select teams for the tournament.

  18. Are you serious? You are discounting a person because they are coaching in Ohio? I am totally embarrassed for the author of this article. You really don’t wont your name associated with type of drivel in any capacity. I will chalk this up to the fact that the author went to a midwest school (ohio state) that was completely anhilated by Akron this season. I believe that Akron continously crushes your school and eliminated them from the ncaa tournament last year as well. Please try to come up with something better than “he is from the midwest”.

  19. And just to be perfectly crystal clear – Akron had played and beaten 5 teams (6, if we count Stanford – they beat them 2-0 last Sunday) in the last top 20 RPI we saw before the tournament (there is another RPI that is not released used by the selection committee, and another final RPI released to the public after the tournament).
    So as far as them playing a soft schedule; delusion at best, bullshit at worst.

    Hey, I don’t want him at DC either, I want you guys to get Denis Hamlett; now we’re talking first class dolt; he loves using the “Look” a la Bob Bradley to start every sentence; which means, loosely translated, “you have no idea what I’m about to say, and you don’t like me anyway, because you think I’m idiot, and I don’t like you either”.

  20. Don’t oversell past results in your attempt to register outrage. The poorly-written article stands on its own without ginning up fictions like “continuously crushes”. Last year, OSU, despite not being as skillful of a team as Akron, took them to an absolutely awesome 4-3 result in the regular season (Akron went down twice in the 2nd half alone) and were within about 5 seconds of PKs in the playoffs. That’s not a crushing. In 2007, they tied in Akron. In 2006, OSU won. You’ll have to go back to 2005 in Akron for the last “crushing”, when Akron was #4.

  21. The article does a great job of being poor on its own. The Akron-OSU game last year was exciting(with the good guys eventually getting the win), but the overall series is where I see a domination. Akron holds a 24-6-2 advantage over the school from Columbus.

  22. I would imagine that you could get a tape from someone at Akron if you would like to watch and make a more informed opinion, or better yet, watch their NCAA Tournament game online on Saturday.

    Here are the facts…

    1. You have a guy who has taken a well supported program from a mid major conference to the best team in college soccer and has done it with top american players (This only took 4 years).

    2. That above mentioned team plays the best soccer that I have watched a team play in a long time.

    Here are a few quotes from what the other coaches post game have been in the NCAA Tournament.

    George Kiefer South Florida- “Obviously Akron is a very good team. I thought they played very well tonight and I give them credit for a good win.”

    Bret Simon Stanford- “First I’d like to congratulate Akron. What a beautiful team, Coach Porter has assembled a great group of players and they’re playing the way all of us would like to play. I think it’s a beautiful style, they’re attractive on offense, they work very hard on defense and today they scored two goals on restarts. So I think they played a complete game and it’s the best team I’ve seen in years. Congratulations to them. Briefly touching on my team, we have come back from a very difficult season last year where we lost more games than we won, and to go to the third round of the NCAA tournament is a great step in the right direction for our program. I’m very proud of them and I think today they gave everything that they had against a team that was as good a college soccer team that we’ve ever seen.”

    Last time I checked Stanford finished 2nd in the PAC-10.

    3. None of this means Caleb Porter would be a good fit for DC United but its ridiculous to think that Akron isn’t a great team and hasn’t been the best team in the NCAA this year regardless of whether they win the title or not. Now, if they win the title, I would say that they have to go down as one of the top teams in NCAA history.

    4. As far as DC United is concerned, what makes Caleb not a good candidate? The fact that he isn’t a coach in the league right now? I forgot that there were so many good coaches in that league that have all had great coaching experiences.

    I think it would be a very interesting hire on their part, as would a guy like Jay Vidovich at Wake. It would be nice to see some more guys that teach and play the game the right way showcased in MLS.

  23. The guys who run Chivas USA and Red Bull should probably drink around the NSCAA Convention more. Kevin Payne should maybe drink around the NSCAA Convention a bit less.

  24. I take from your comment they didn’t play a top 10 RPI either? I would think you’d have stated it if they did.

    When it comes to translating to the pros, the proper response to beating 11-20s is “whoop-de-f*(&ing-do.”

  25. You can think whatever you wish; the info is public knowledge.
    To be exact, two in the top 10 RPI, ; and your unbelievable lack of understanding of college soccer is a bit less then I expected, given the genius linguist that you are; evidently that Noam Chomsky part of you doesn’t translate well when it comes to the fact of the matter.
    The proper response to your idiotic comment is, actually, to ignore you.

  26. Let’s look at the whole record, shall we?

    Forget the gamble on Franco Niell and the two Gonzalos. They also stole Veron away from Argentina, when Argentines thought he was done. Now, he’s the continental player of the year. Gallardo’s done pretty well upon his return, too. They plucked Emilio when no one outside of Central America knew him, and he led the league in scoring. Draft picks? Arguez — now in Germany. Needham and Troy Perkins in Norway. Robles in Germany. Pontius and Wallace on the all-rookie team. Arguez went to the U20 World Cup. Perkins and Robles have played with the national team, but they certainly were never on the national team radar when DCU picked them. Now, people speculate about Pontius and Wallace as future prospects. Have all the signings and draft picks been brilliant? Nope, but they’ve got a pretty good track record.

  27. Sasho Cirovski, Maryland
    Come out to the midwest so we can kick you square in your nuts !!

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