I hate and love. And if you should ask how I can do both, I couldn’t say; but I feel it, and it shivers me.
-Catullus, Poem 85
There was a lot to love in Saturday’s game: Deuce’s hat trick, Oba’s assists, Yedlin and Neagle’s hustle. There was a lot to hate: Anibaba’s defensive lapses, Azira’s turnovers and the Timbers in general. Portland’s whole ethos is pitiable and annoying, but I’m saving that post for later. Today I want to talk about Caleb Porter.
I hate Caleb Porter. Hate him. He’s the evil coach in Mighty Ducks, a cocky, intense bully. When things go well for PTFC he strolls the sidelines, hands in oversized topcoat sneering and fist pumping. He pontificates about macho crap like “brass balls,” but when the Timbers lose he whines and makes excuses.
Porter has been griping about fouls and officiating. Sigi’s upset me in the past for clowning the refs and making excuses, but I’ve never seen him complain about calls two weeks late. Refs make bad calls, teams complain, and everyone moves on. Not Porter. It takes some real narcissistic solipsism to think poor officiating or human error is new and only affects your squad.
Sigi and Porter are polar opposites and make for a fascinating dichotomy in archetypes. It is too easy to fixate on Sigi’s girth and project him as Falstaff or the Ghost of Christmas Present. In truth, he is more like Gandalf: though disarming and pleasant, you immediately respect his experience and breadth of knowledge. Sigi, like Gandalf, can be very fallible, and even silly, at times, but he is singularly powerful and a formidable opponent. Porter is Boba Fett: appearing intense and fearsome at first, but actually a dime a dozen. When in control both Porter and Fett are daunting, but both whine like a child when facing adversity. To finish the nerd-out, I think of the Golden Compass. Every coach has a player/daemon, a totem, familiar or spirit animal. Sigi has often said Brad Evans is “my guy”. Peter Vermes has Aurelien Collin. Porter has Will Johnson. Yes, Will Johnson, arguably the most hated player in the entire league (with Lenhart). Porter projects a gaming, snarking, cheap shot artist to capture the ethos and soul of the Timbers. It says a lot.
In a weird way, Porter matches the shallowest of Seattle stereotypes. He is slick and corporate, and could be at home in the city of Starbucks and Amazon. Portland prides itself on being the current capitol of funky cool, calling Seattle just another faceless big city. Too bad their soccer team has a faceless corporate-clone coach.
We struggled against the Timbers last year. At times they looked absolutely stellar, and Porter appeared the coach Portland dreamed of, innovative and clutch. But whispers of Porter’s failures simmered in the background. Though heavily favored, his team crashed out of U-23 Olympic Qualifying in 2012. Is 2014, the year he crashes out of MLS? Maybe his Argentine love affair is getting the best of him. Maybe he’s too obsessed with his system, and not the flow of the game. Maybe he is a Nick Saban or Bobby Petrino, only successful at a lower level.
The Cascadia rivalry is better when the teams do battle. But if Porter is revealed to be a loser and the Timbers go into a death spiral, I’d love it. So let’s step on their whiny throats next time. We weathered the storm. Now build a bonfire.