HOUSTON – Caleb Porter has come under fire for plenty of reasons following the U.S. Under-23 national team’s briefer than expected Olympic experience, including his in-game tactics and man management.
But the current University of Akron coach has his fair share of supporters, too – especially the players who know him best.
“Caleb’s always had the same type of attacking football philosophy,” US U-23 defender and Akron alum Kofi Sarkodie told MLSsoccer.com by phone last week. “Those are the same qualities he implemented with the national team and, as a coach, he believes the same things he preaches.”
The coach’s approach to Olympic qualifying was no surprise to Sarkodie – one of four US U-23s who played under Porter at Akron. The Houston Dynamo defender said before the tournament that he expected Porter to install a possession and high-pressure attacking system.
And while the end result didn’t go their way, the team’s recent performances show that Porter’s attacking style – which is based on the 4-3-3 formation – can have success on the international level.
“If you look at the results … it’s hard to say the style doesn’t work when there’s only one loss in that span of games,” said Sarkodie, referencing the 2-0 defeat to Canada. “It just happened to be very costly. It was disappointing and an unfortunate end, but that’s soccer. It was tough for everyone in the locker room, it was just unfortunate.”
Now Sarkodie and his U.S. teammates have returned to their clubs, where their focus will transition back to their individual situations while pundits continue to debate Porter’s ability to win on the international level. Having seen it first hand at the college and now the international level, Sarkodie is confident that his college coach has the skill to be successful with any group, professional or college alike.
“Every guy had a great deal of respect for Caleb and wanted to play in and liked his philosophy,” Sarkodie said. “From what I know, the guys liked him and everyone bought into the style. We played for him and we played as a team.
“Coach Porter put together a great team. It’s unfortunate how things ended, but it’s one of those things where we have to move on and hopefully guys get opportunities again down the line.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached for comment at Darrell.A.Lovell@gmail.com.