At practice on Saturday, Caleb Porter gave a 20-minute media availability covering a smorgasbord of topics. Porter is usually pretty good in practice media sessions, but was especially so on Saturday.
Below are some excerpts from Porter holding court on Saturday. The full audio is linked at the bottom.
On general impressions from practice…
Very good, especially with the guys returning you know what you get with those guys, which is one of the reasons we wanted to keep that core because they’ve been there, done that. And I think that’ll help us to start the year.
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Today we tried to focus on the technical side. Yesterday was more an entry day. . . . Today we focused more on speed of play.
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We got a little too fast at times, which meant it was sloppy, especially for the new guys. That’s a big transition. When you go to a higher-level game it’s less about the running and more about the thinking. So that was my message at the end of training – which is a good message for our returning guys, too, because last year there were games where we let the game get away from us and we tried to, instead of managing it the right way, we – if you remember Toronto – we unraveled a bit and panicked.
On the coaching experience in 2014…
The biggest thing for me last year was experiencing more lows than I ever have. In terms of reflecting and analyzing and changing – that’s never been an issue for me. I always try to do that if there are things to correct. But I think the biggest thing was just being in more low moments where you ‘gotta pull yourself out of it, pull a team out of it, manage [the media], and all that stuff. Dominate your emotions and stay on track. So for me, you can say you’re good at that, but until you do it, you don’t know if you can manage it. And now I know I can manage that – and we pulled the team out.
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There were some mistakes that maybe I made in trying stuff that now I won’t make again because now I know it doesn’t work or translate. That doesn’t mean I won’t try new things – that’s a part of coaching – but you ‘gotta know this league and what works.
On the enjoyment of seeing new players for the first time...
I compare it to toys. You got a bunch of new toys and it’s always good to have new toys to play with. But I also like my old toys because these guys I know, for me, what I get out of them. And I would say it’s just as exciting to see the guys I’ve worked with the last several years.
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I’ll use the example of a guy like Alvas Powell. It’s a night and day difference seeing him this preseason versus last preseason. That for me is as . . . exciting as seeing a new guy that I didn’t know.
On whether big signings around MLS create a temptation to make a big move…
I think that’s the tendency you always fight in the offseason. You want to make splashes and signings, and you want your fans to be excited about new pieces. But I’ve seen that backfire a lot over the years, and perhaps we’ve made some of those mistakes of making too many changes and thinking the grass is greener with a player when in reality maybe it’s not.
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Historically speaking, when I look at the best teams in this league, it’s pretty simple: It’s continuity and coach, players, strong core year after year. A few changes – always, you have to have a few whether that’s cap-related, whether that’s because you want to spice your group up a little bit – but for the most part the best teams, they keep a core.
On Darlington Nagbe’s 2014…
I think it was a funny year for him a little bit. Whether that was him not scoring or the monkey on his back, so maybe for him it was dealing with that pressure for the first time. You know, maybe that was a part of it. I said this a lot – I don’t think he played any worse. In fact a lot of times I thought he played even better.
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You look at athletes over the course of their professional years and they’re all going to have years that are outliers. So I thought for him that was maybe kind of an outlier year in terms of production and the way the goals fell.
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The other factor is you guys don’t always know what’s going on with these guys’ lives outside of [soccer]. These guys are still human beings and, you know, maybe he had a tough year off the field – with a new baby, and managing that, and figuring out his priorities and focus. Ultimately he’s a pro soccer player so he’s got to figure it out, there’s no excuse. No one cares what my life is – if I’ve had a bad day with my kids or whatever. They want me to perform. But that does play into things sometimes. He looks night-and-day different coming in this year than last year.
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I’m not worried about it at all. For me, the way he looks to me in camp, seeing him already the first couple days, I think it’s not going to be an issue.
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He’s always one of our best players in terms of holding the ball, and possession, and – even though he doesn’t always play final balls or get assists or score – he draws numbers to him. He creates attention. And, who knows, maybe Valeri again doing well had something to do with the fact that Darlington still, every single game, is going to be a guy people are aware of and concerned about. He’s still one of the best players in the league.
On the 40th Anniversary and the upcoming year…
I think we’re going to have a good year. I really do. I don’t know why that is, but in my coaching career down years have always been followed by really successful years. So I think we’re going to have a good year and I think it’s fitting that we’re going to have a good year in the 40th year.