With Portland struggling in the league, the Timbers coach got testy with the media after a 4-3 loss at home to a close rival.The 2014 season is taking its toll on Caleb Porter.
By the 14th game of last season, the Portland Timbers were 5-1-8, in the midst of what would turn out to be a 15-game unbeaten run that would catapult them to the top seed in the Western Conference. A year later, his team is 3-4-7, second from last in the West. On Sunday, he watched the club concede two penalties in a 4-3 home loss to conference, Cascadia and playoff rival Vancouver, snuffing out its first winning streak of 2014.
So Porter wasn't thrilled, to say the least. He was upset with the referees, much like his boss. He was also upset with his opposite number, Vancouver Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson, resulting in a spirited exchange of ideas on the field after the final whistle.
"I wished him congratulations," said Porter when asked about the incident. Pressed for an answer other than a lie so obviously untrue as to be mocking the concept of a postgame press conference, he dismissed the inquiry.
"You think I'm a spring chicken? Gonna answer it again on the second question?" he responded, adding sarcastic hand gestures. "Plain and simple. I don't like losing, my team doesn't like losing, I don't think we deserved to lose. Simple."
He also refused to give his opinion on the referee, right up until he gave his opinion on the referee.
"No. I'm not gonna talk about the PK calls," he said. "You guys watch them, you'll see them, plain and simple. For me, it's less about the PK calls, it's about the ones that weren't called. I don't have a problem, refs make calls, but if you're gonna make a call you better do it both ways, plan and simple.
"There were some calls that we didn't get, I thought," he continued. "The Valeri play, you watch it. You're gonna call a PK then call that one. Handball. Blatant handball, hit his arm. You're gonna call a PK, two of them, I'm fine with that, but you better give them the other way too.
"That's where I have a problem. Not the calls that were made but the ones that weren't made."
Porter pushed on, sprinkling the proceedings with an "I don't get the question" challenge, a one-word answer and a defensive "have you not watched this team all year?" for good measure before capping it all off with a rant at a blogger, Chris Rifer of the Timbers Army website, who asked about Vancouver's increased chance creation in the middle of the first half.
"We'll talk Wednesday when you've watched the game again," Porter replied with an eye twitch almost resembling a wink. "If you want to sit down and chat about the game and ... 'cause don't act like you know the game and the flow after you've just watched it live. You haven't watched it again. We'll have a chat on Wednesday, if you want to. Tactical, if you want. We'll sit down and talk."
When asked a question about his tactical shifts late in the match by a different media member, Porter used the opportunity to turn on Rifer again.
"You saw the game, right? So what do you think happened? Look, he'll tell you," said Porter, pointing to Rifer. "He probably knows."
"What happened?" Porter asked, with just a touch of a sneer. "What'd I do? What were the moves, do you know?"
"I would like to hear that from you, being the coach," Rifer responded.
"Go watch the tape," finished Porter before unveiling his piece de resistance, calling Rifer a "clown" as he left the room.
Whether he intended it or not, Porter's outburst does serve his team in some capacity. The conversation - such as this column - shifts to the coach, who doesn't have to focus and play a 90-minute game. It doesn't dwell on the huge issues with the Timbers defense, which has conceded 24 goals in 14 games and kept one clean sheet, against the last-placed team. It doesn't dwell on the underwhelming signing of Norberto Paparatto or the statistical regression of Donovan Ricketts. The conversation doesn't focus on the lowball offer made to Joleon Lescott.
By focusing all the criticism on himself, Porter shields his team and allows his players to focus on a tough game against Real Salt Lake. But the numbers don't lie. Portland is in a bad way right now and needs wins to have a shot at the playoffs. Plain and simple.
Portland — Merritt Paulson isn't happy about Portland's lack of penalties. In a tweet (since deleted), he claimed "Our team and its attackers hasnt received a penalty cause of one reason and one reason only." He didn't elaborate on what that reason was, but it has to be aliens, right?
Coming up: There might not be a better time for the Timbers to face Real Salt Lake away. The Claret-and-Cobalt lost their undefeated streak, are without their three best players, and had a long away trip and a draining game in Ohio in midweek. Saturday, June 7, 7 p.m. PT - MLS Live.
Seattle — Real Salt Lake came into its game against the Seattle Sounders as the last undefeated team in MLS. The Royals left it not only defeated on the scoreboard, but well and truly whipped, conceding four goals with none in reply. Chad Barrett creeps disturbingly closer to "useful striker" status.
Coming up: The Chicago Fire are on a three-game winless skid, have only won twice all year, and played in midweek. Should be ripe for the picking. Saturday, June 7, 5:30 p.m. PT - MLS Live.
Vancouver — A six-game unbeaten streak, three wins in their last four, Pedro Morales in hot form and first place in the Cascadia Cup table with an away win against Portland. It's a good time to be a 'Caps fan, and that's not even taking into account the free healthcare.
Coming up: Vancouver travels to lovely Chester to take on the Philadelphia Union. Philly is coming off a win, but that was against Chivas USA and otherwise, the Union is pretty bad right now. Saturday, June 7, 4 p.m. PT - MLS Live.
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