photo by Tony Quinn/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The Caleb Porter era is underway.
A day after being named head coach of the U.S. U-23 men's national team, Porter held a telephone conference to discuss his new role, plans to qualify for the upcoming Olympics and what he wants to achieve.
"My goal, my priority is to win. You have to win," said Porter. "I want this group to qualify and then I want to have a good performance in the Olympics. But at the same time, even though results are important, it's also equally as important that we move U.S. Soccer forward by developing players and coming up with a uniform philosophy within the organization."
Porter repeatedly stressed that he is already fully invested in his new job despite him also being in charge of Akron University's team.
He also opened up about the style of play that he's planning on implementing with the U-23 team, and it will resemble what Jurgen Klinsmann is doing with the senior national team.
"Philosophically, we're all on the same page. That's one of the great things," said Porter. "I've had several conversations already with Jurgen, in person, on the phone, through email. He's a guy that's going be open to communicate with all these national teams. He wants his vision to trickle down. I think it's very important to have it that way."
That means that we can expect Porter's squad to be a possession-oriented team that doesn't wait to react.
"We're not naive. We don't feel like we're going to throw the ball out tomorrow and play like Spain, but we do want to play a proactive approach," said Porter. "We want to, if we can, possess the ball and I think there has to be an emphasis on the attack, but we also don't want to lose the things that make the U.S. special. Our fight, our spirit, our defending, and all the things that have been a trademark in this country."
Chief Executive of U.S. Soccer Dan Flynn was also on the call, and he discussed the process to hire Porter and U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos. Flynn said interviews were conducted by he, Klinsmann, (U.S. Youth Technical Director) Claudio Reyna and (USSF President) Sunil Gulati. Candidates for the two positions were both domestic and international, though Flynn wouldn't name who the others were.
Flynn was asked about the timing of the decision to hire Porter, and if it makes it more difficult for the 36-year-old coach, seeing as how Olympic qualifying begins in little over four months.
"With the change in the men's national team, that probably forced us to slow the process down a little bit, make sure that we wanted to start from the top down and have our U-20s and U-23s and the men's national team connected," said Flynn. "So while it may seem like a short window, we're pretty comfortable and Caleb understands the pool of players. I know he looks at a lot of tape and follows (MLS) quite heavily.
"Our former U-20 coach Thomas Rongen did a lot of identifying of players around Europe, so it isn't like we weren't building for this. In fact, a lot has been done and allows us to go very quickly."
Porter will have to get things done quickly in order to get a team prepared for Olympic qualifying in March, especially considering that he won't be with the U-23 team for its first camp in Germany next month due to Akron still being in season.
Making that task tougher for Porter is that he likely will not get a complete pool of players to choose from. Klinsmann already relies on youngsters such as Jozy Altidore and Brek Shea, and that could continue to be the case. It just all depends on if Klinsmann wants to keep the Olympic-eligible players on the senior side or if he wants them contributing to the U-23 team.
"He is completely supportive of me and the job I need to do, he wants to help me. Yet I don't expect to get guys that are with him," said Porter, "guys like Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo and Brek Shea and other guys that are performing well with him, I don't expect to get them at every camp, and probably won't get them until the summer.
"But that will be his decision. I just know that I need to prepare the rest of the pool in case I don't get some of the guys, in case they aren't available, and so my task right now is to look at the guys that I don't know about, first and foremost, to get a look at some new guys and see what they can do with the group and see if they are guys that can help us moving forward."