The Madness of King Caleb Porter

Poor Caleb Porter. The Portland Timbers coach is slowly going mad, one delusional postgame interview at a time. The Seattle Sounders destroyed the Timbers Sunday to the tune of 4-2 despite Portland having everything to play for. With a win, Portland would’ve moved into a playoff position for the first time all year, avenged two straight losses to their hated rivals and earned three precious points in their star-crossed season. But they came out flatter than Kansas (even a pyromaniac Dorothy on the tifo couldn’t help them), and the Sounders were an offensive cyclone.

To any Sounders fan, Porter’s growing loss of perspective has been becoming more clear with each Cascadia clash. After Sunday, a national audience is now privy to the madness of King Caleb. After the rout, Porter said:

“It’s hard to believe that at halftime we were down 2-0 with the way we played,” Porter said. “I thought we came out well. … It seemed like every chance they got today was in the back of the net, and somehow we couldn’t find the frame, so it was a bit of a strange game.”

Hard to believe?! Were we watching the same game? I admit I am no soccer genius, but God gave me eyes in my head and a (semi) rational mind. The Sounders were all up in your base Porter, killing your dudez. Even worse was the report from the ESPN sideline reporter (how crazy was it that sideline reporters were employed during this game?!) at halftime that Porter allegedly said the Timbers had “dominated” the first half. It is one thing, though ambitious and brazen, to try and bend the narrative and claim the game was closer than 2-0 would suggest, but to claim dominance?! Porter has really donned the mad cap this time.

Don’t believe the score line, the game wasn’t as close as it suggests. Seattle was in complete control of the game, allowing Portland to possess to their heart’s content before pouncing on the slightest slip and countering with reckless abandon. The Sounders’ offensive juggernaut had been sputtering in recent matches, but still employs Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Marco Pappa. These three have toyed with better teams than Porter’s Timbers all season. And there’s the rub.

Porter coaches with serious hubris. I understand the notion of sticking to your guns and playing to your strengths (and other synonymous sports clichés meaning “don’t worry about the opponent, but yourself”), but stranding an embattled back four to the countering strength of Dempsey, Martins, Pappa and even Brad Evans? I get you want to possess and attack, but… That’s like sticking your finger in a light socket. Don’t be shocked when you get burnt. Evans was the least frightening of our attacking quartet, at least on paper, but he was continuously igniting the counter. He found joy on the right time and time again as Porter’s boys, especially the insufferable Maxi Urruti, forgot their defensive responsibilities. And sure, those mental errors, and the seeming absence of the usually solid Diego Chara and Will Johnson, aren’t exactly Porter’s fault. But a coach must take responsibility for his team’s performance. Professional sports is a cold, cold meritocracy, and only W’s matter.

Thus even the Stumptown Footy faithful are getting a little irked at Porter’s postgame sugar coating:

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In any other sport, Porter would be laughed out of the job. He repeatedly, after losses, even ones that aren’t close, not only rationalizes away the poor performance but claims the Timbers should’ve won. It was curious at first, but now it is bordering on mad. If Porter was doing this in Cleveland or Buffalo, or football or baseball, the local and national media would skewer him. This alone, sadly, captures the irrelevance of soccer, and MLS, in the American consciousness (and Portland’s decidedly minor-league standing as a sports city), no pundits are calling him out for his postgame shenanigans.

Oh Caleb Porter, thank you for being so entertaining. You are a fabulous addition to this great rivalry. But please, maybe consider toning down the delusions of grandeur, at least enough to convince Merritt Paulson and Gavin Wilkinson about your sanity and competence. As long as you stay employed, you keep Portland a doormat.

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