The U.S. national team coach made it clear he still sees big things ahead for the USA U23 and University of Akron head coach.Caleb Porter's coaching stock may have taken a hit when he failed to guide the U.S. out of its Olympic qualifying group stage, but he still has at least one very important backer.
"We believe that Caleb is a very talented coach, and we chose him for a reason, because he has a huge future ahead of him,” U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said on a media teleconference Wednesday.
Porter built his reputation as one of American soccer's top coaching prospects with his overwhelming success at the NCAA level with the University of Akron.
The 37 year-old has turned the Zips into one of college soccer's finest programs, winning a national title in 2010 and sending a conveyor belt of players to the next level. After turning down D.C. United's head coach position in 2010, Porter made his first foray into coaching professional players when he took over the U.S. U23 team in 2011.
Suffice it to say, it didn't go exactly as he and U.S. Soccer planned.
The U.S. team crashed and burned in Nashville, Tenn. last month, finishing third in a group with Cuba, Canada, and El Salvador.
“Obviously it's a huge disappointment for all of us not having our Olympic team going to London this summer,” Klinsmann said.
That disappointment was on the agenda when Porter met with Klinsmann and other top U.S. Soccer officials in Chicago on Tuesday. Following the meeting, Klinsmann was firm in his assessment that Porter would have a future with the U.S. program, though his specific role is yet to be determined.
"The goal is to keep Caleb connected to us, because we really think that he has a lot of upside,” the U.S. coach affirmed.
He continued: "That could be being part of our camps with the senior team. That could be being part of our workshops that we have on a regular basis with all the coaches involved in all age levels. That could be being part of the different youth teams or their coaching staffs. It could be sending him to Europe to learn at European clubs, their models, their way of doing it, talking to coaches overseas.”
Porter's role with as the U23 head coach is unlikely to continue, but the U23s essentially serve as a de facto Olympic team, meaning this particular age level won't have any meaningful games for nearly four years. Even if the USA had qualified for the Olympics, Porter's position was set to end following the London Games.
“We hope that we find ways now going forward even if it's not with the Olympic team, that we find roles for him to improve, to grow, to mature in his coaching career,” Klinsmann said about Porter.
When Porter was named head coach of the U23 team in October 2011, critics questioning the hire did so on the grounds that Porter's only coaching gig up to that point was at the college level.
Despite the Olympic side's failure, Klinsmann made sure to quash the notion that it had anything to do with Porter's resume prior to his appointment as the team's head coach.
“Caleb was very well prepared for that qualifying process . . . It was absolutely the right decision to make him Olympic team coach.
“Based on the results and the outcome of it, now you can argue that maybe a professional coach would have worked out better. The reasons why it didn't work out is not because he was a college coach and not a professional coach. That is definitely not the case."
Though Klinsmann wouldn't blame the U23 team's failure on Porter's lack of professional experience, he also made it clear that he expected the Akron coach wouldn't remain at the amateur level forever.
“Sooner than later he will jump into the professional field and become a pro coach,” Klinsmann said.
When that happens, Porter will have his next big chance to prove himself. If he does that successfully, then another opportunity with the USA program could await.
Clearly, he still has a few important friends in the organization.
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