Getting to know Caleb Porter: Developing young talent

With the international break this weekend I thought this would be a good time to take a closer look at the Portland Timbers' new coach, Caleb Porter. Before we knew for certain Caleb Porter was going to be the Portland Timbers' new head coach Gavin Wilkinson talked about the new coach. Here is the quote:

Just an up and coming coach that has the potential to be one of the best in the league. I think that once you start looking at what we were looking for in a head coach, somebody that was cerebral, somebody that would process a game, somebody that would also develop the younger players, I think that this coach gives us everything we need.

Obviously GW and Merritt Paulson are going to say a lot of good positive things about Caleb but the first thing that jumped out to me was the part about developing younger players. Since taking over at Akron in 2006 Porter has done nothing but work with and develop younger players. Of course most of you will point out working with college players is nothing like working with professionals.

So let's take a closer look at his credentials concerning the development of young players.

When you talk about a college soccer coach developing young players you have to keep in mind the coach has a lot of restrictions placed on him by the NCAA. For instance the NCAA does has this by law 17.1.5.1.2 which reads:

A student-athlete's participation in countable athletically related activities (see Bylaw 17.02.1) shall be limited to a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week. (Adopted: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/91)

Which makes any development he has had a hand in all the more amazing considering he has 4 months with only 20 hours a week to do it in. In the off season it is even worse with only 8* hours of voluntary work allowed and only on an individual basis and only at the request of the individual player. With all these time constraints you can see why college players drafted into MLS teams have such a tough time transitioning to being a professional athletes.

*NCAA football has their own set of rules concerning off season workouts.

With that as background let's take a look at all of the players Caleb Porter has had drafted from his Akron Zips' teams.

Here is a table of all the players drafted from Akron since 2006 (The year after Porter took over the Akron program).

2007 3 7 33 Siniša Ubiparipović Midfielder New York Red Bulls
2009 1 1 1 Steve Zakuani Midfielder Seattle Sounders FC
2010 1 4 4 Teal Bunbury Forward Sporting Kansas City
2010 1 10 10 Blair Gavin Midfielder Chivas USA
2010 3 16 47 Ben Zemanski Midfielder Chivas USA
2011 1 2 2 Darlington Nagbe Midfielder Portland Timbers
2011 1 3 3 Perry Kitchen Midfielder DC United
2011 1 4 4 Zarek Valentin Defender Chivas USA
2011 1 7 7 Kofi Sarkodie Defender Houston Dynamo
2011 1 8 8 Michael Nanchoff Midfielder Vancouver Whitecaps FC
2011 2 13 31 Chris Korb Defender DC United
2011 2 15 33 Anthony Ampaipitakwong Midfielder San Jose Earthquakes
2012 1 2 2 Darren Mattocks Forward Vancouver Whitecaps FC

First and foremost you can take out Siniša Ubiparipović as being completely developed by Caleb Porter as he was only there for the one season under Porter and it was his senior season. The first player to be solely a Caleb Porter player was Steve Zakuani and despite the fact he plays for our rivals up north he has to be considered one of the best young players in the league.

Just by looking at all of those players drafted from Akron University you can come to two different conclusions. Either Porter is an amazing recruiter and recruits the best players in the nation or he is a great recruiter and also develops these players into better players. The easiest way I could think of to find out which one is true is to look at the players' first season in MLS and see how much they played. Of course just doing that has it's drawbacks because each team has a different situation but the cream will rise to the top as the saying goes.

Here is the table with each players first year, minus Siniša Ubiparipović (for previously discussed reasons) and Anthony Ampaipitakwong (No longer in MLS and I can't find his first year stats):

Year Club GP GS G MIN A
Zakuani 2009 Seattle Sounders FC 29 24 4 1993 4
Bunbury 2010 Kansas City Wizards 26 13 5 1441 2
Gavin 2010 Chivas USA 16 16 3 1369 1
Zamanski 2010 Chivas USA 22 17 0 1543 1
Nagbe 2011 Portland Timbers 28 21 2 1651 3
Kitchen 2011 D.C. United 31 30 1 2726 0
Valetin 2011 Chivas USA 25 24 0 2114 0
Kofi 2011 Houston Dynamo 7 7 0 582 0
Nanchoff 2011 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 5 1 0 137 0
Korb 2011 D.C. United 12 12 0 1020 2
Mattocks 2012 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 16 12 7 1045 1
Average 19.72727 16.09091 2 1420.091 1.272727

The goals and assist categories should not be looked at too closely because of the varying positions each of these players play. Judging by the averages if you are a player coming from Akron coaches feel you are ready to play and start in MLS in your first season. If the players are ready for the next level you could also say this shows Porter's ability to develop them to be ready for the next level.

If you take out Kofi Sarkodie and Michael Nanchoff the numbers become even more impressive. For 9 players in their first season they played on average 1655 minutes during their rookie campaigns. This is during a period in MLS history when the talent is arguably the highest it has ever been and teams are bringing in more foreign talent. The numbers point to Porter being someone who can develop young talent.

The flip side of these numbers is that a lot of these players did go to teams with holes to fill and this could be a major reason they have played as much as they have during their first season.

Verdict

Just looking at the numbers for Akron players in their first season of MLS play you have to say it seems plausible that Porter can develop young talent. The biggest question mark revolve around the fact that he will no longer be a big fish and get to pick and choose from the cream of the crop. If you put a gun to my head I would say yes Porter can develop young talent and get the most out of them.

You can't help but feel impressed by the fact that Porter had 10 players drafted in a 4 year span. With 2011 being the banner year with 7 players drafted and 5 of those drafted in the top 8 draft picks.

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