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The Portland Timbers Unzipped

Akron’s roots ran deep under Caleb Porter

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Timbers coach Caleb Porter struck an optimistic chord following the season-ending loss to Houston when he said, “I think when you look at this team – and this is very encouraging moving forward.” Porter began. “We have the pieces to again next year put together an extremely positive season and make steps even further to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

Two weeks later, Porter was no longer with the Timbers and over the next few weeks, the four Akron players on the Timbers roster had dwindled to one: defender Zarek Valentin.

Without Porter, the once Akron-heavy Timbers roster was, whether intentionally or not, coming unzipped.

One of the first Akron players Porter brought in, Ben Zemanski, is out of contract with the Timbers making him eligible for free agency.

Coming to Portland from last-place Chivas USA, Zemanski was with the Timbers when they finished in first place in the Western Conference in 2013. The Timbers chose to protect Zemanski in the 2014 expansion draft, but injuries would hamper his time in Portland, including missing the entire 2015 cup winning season.

Things were cranked to twelfth gear when the Timbers announced the team had exercised the 2018 contract options on Darren Mattocks only to send out a corrected record two hours later stating Portland had, in fact, not exercised his option.

A reclamation project for Porter, Mattocks was struggling for playing time before Portland was able to acquire him from Vancouver. Coming with Mattocks was a large contract paying him twice that of starting midfielder David Guzman.

With Mattocks citing his Gold Cup performance as justification for a pay raise--and Porter out of the picture--it took only an international player slot to convince Portland to let D.C. United negotiate a new deal with the striker.

The departures of Mattocks and Zemanski paled in comparison to the next, and biggest move: the trade of Darlington Nagbe. With only Jake Gleeson having a longer run in Portland, if Porter’s departure turned heads, the Nagbe trade dislocated necks. The Timbers haul was impressive, giving the team financial flexibility even if Nagbe’s performance in Atlanta does not trigger the dubious incentives worth up to an additional $600,000 in TAM.

Was Nagbe’s desire to leave spurred by Porter’s departure? “Yeah, I would say so," Nagbe said in his first public remarks following the blockbuster trade.

"Obviously [Porter is] a great coach,” Nagbe continues. “So when someone like that decides to leave and someone I’ve had a relationship with since college, definitely it affected my decision.”

Nagbe and Porter are two very large pieces, and their departures clearly mark the ending of an era. However, they leave the cupboard far from bare and, like Porter five years ago, incoming coach Giovanni Savarese will have considerable resources as he begins to make the roster in his own image.