Earlier this month, the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) held their inaugural College Draft for the new league in Indianapolis. After a weighted draw determined the draft order, Portland Thorns FC selected University of Florida defender Kathryn Williamson with the eighth overall pick. (Read this feature on how she was engaged only a week before the draft. A busy January for her to be sure.)
While in Indianapolis for the 2013 MLS SuperDraft and the NWSL College Draft, I also had the opportunity to attend the Women's Soccer breakfast at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention (NSCAA). The NSCAA is a massive gathering of, yes, coaches, but also soccer gear manufacturers, leaders, players, and more. There's workshops, panels, speeches and gatherings. Basically, it's everything that is anything that is happening in U.S. Soccer at the moment. The Original Winger has a great photo essay and blog post about the NSCAA and its scope in their Portrait of A Sport.
The Women's Soccer breakfast is a celebration of excellence over the past year in the women's game and while there, I just happened to be seated next to Becky Burleigh, head women's soccer coach at the University of Florida and most recently, she coached Williamson for all of the defender's four years in Gainesville. Burleigh started the women's soccer program at Florida in 1994, won an NCAA national championship in 1998, and helped mentor U.S. national team stars Abby Wambach (Western New York Flash) and Heather Mitts (Boston Breakers) as well as Canada's Melanie Booth (Sky Blue FC).
Following the breakfast, I chatted with Becky for a short while about what type of player Kathryn Williamson is, what she thinks she'll bring to the Thorns, and how the NWSL presents a great challenge and opportunity for recent collegiate players.
The Backcut Podcast sits at the intersection of Timbers, Thorns, soccer & culture to explore the unique elements of the beautiful game. You can subscribe to The Backcut on iTunes in the same feed as the Talk Timbers podcast.
“She’s a nightmare for defenses. Her size was never an issue in college because she’s so fast and so fit. … How do you replace that engine? Who’s going to be as willing to work as hard as Nicolette did?”
Those are the words of University of Central Florida head coach Amanda Cromwell. A former U.S. Women’s National Team member alongside Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone, Cromwell recommended Nicolette Radovcic to Portland prior to the National Women’s Soccer League College Draft nearly two weeks ago.
Parlow Cone, formerly an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina, already had a bit of familiarity with Radovcic before the draft. The energetic attacker played 86 minutes in UCF’s 5-4 penalty kick win against UNC on Nov. 20, 2011, helping the Knights reach the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament.
Sports writer Jane Havsy of Radovcic’s hometown newspaper the Daily Record (Morris County, N.J.) caught up with Thorns FC’s second round pick, Parlow Cone and Cromwell for a good story.
“It’s a dream come true,” Radovcic said. “You play soccer, you go through college, and you’re like, ‘I really want to play after college,’ but only a few people are fortunate enough to be able to play after college. So to be selected in the draft, to that team, I am just so speechless and so grateful.”
Those are the words of Thorns FC forward/midfielder Nicolette Radovcic who just a few months ago was a marketing intern with the New York Red Bulls helping out at Red Bull Arena's Interactive Zone. The Rockaway, NJ native had 30 goals and 16 assists in four seasons at the University of Central Florida before being drafted by Portland 16th overall.
NewYorkRedBulls.com's Frank Della Femina has a nice profile of the new Thorns pick and how she's excited to jump from the Red Bulls to the new NWSL.
The Oregonian's Geoffrey Arnold chatted with Thorns FC's first-round draft pick Kathryn Williamson to get the story on how she found out she was drafted. She apparently had some pretty excited friends.
"They were on computers and I was on Twitter on my phone. I guess their computer was faster than my phone, because they started screaming and said I got drafted," Williamson said. "I thought they were joking, because it hadn't come up on my phone yet. I'm like, 'That is a really mean joke.'"
But of course, it was not a joke at all. Williamson was the club's inaugural first-ever NWSL Draft selection on Friday--an honor that she quickly warmed to.
So thankful and excited to start a new chapter of my life with the Portland thorns @thornsfc!
— Kat Williamson (@KatWilliamson7) January 18, 2013
Williamson's new teammates were also excited to have more players on the Thorns squad:
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) January 18, 2013
— Karina LeBlanc (@karinaleblanc) January 18, 2013
Check out Thorns FC head coach Cindy Parlow Cone's take on the new crop:
Clearly, the day had plenty of fun and promise.
MLS's Armchair Analyst, Matthew Doyle, knows this 2013 MLS SuperDraft backwards and forwards. A veritable genius on tactical analysis, Doyle spent the whole of the past week at the MLS Combine looking and thinking about who should go where and why.
He did a recent winners and losers take on the recent draft and had this to say on the Timbers second round pick-up of defender Dylan Tucker-Gangnes:
"First of all, I . . . could argue that he’s the most MLS-ready of the center backs on offer, so just on a nuts-and-bolts level, it was the right pick. As important, though, is that Portland took a kid who is Seattle born-and-bred, and University of Washington star, one pick before the Sounders were up. Seattle fans flipped their collective bean in the live chat, on Twitter and elsewhere."
Surrounded by family, friends, former players, current players, university staff, and fans, Caleb Porter had an emotional farewell to his University of Akron community last night in a special goodbye ceremony on campus. The Akron Beacon Journal's Maria Ridenour was on hand to write about it:
University of Akron President Luis Proenza began coughing midway through his tribute to departing men’s soccer coach Caleb Porter on Wednesday night at InfoCision Stadium, prompting a member of the catering staff to deliver water to the podium.
“It’s not my throat, it’s my emotion,” Proenza said.
Those feelings eventually overcame Proenza. While recalling the celebration after UA captured the school’s first team national championship in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2010, Proenza said Porter gathered his players and delivered “one of the most impassioned, emotional communications of teamwork and family that I’ve heard.”
Recalling the scene and Porter’s words, Proenza broke down and cried.
“I don’t know why, it’s been two years,” Proenza said as Porter came onto the riser to hug him.
Even after the two-hour event ended, Proenza couldn’t explain what had happened, barely able to choke out a few words about the special bond he felt with Porter.
Watch the powerful moment in question at the 4:50 mark:
With Darlington Nagbe scheduled to get married on Saturday in Cleveland, he came to the event along with numerous MLS players including Seattle's Steve Zakuani, Houston's Kofi Sarkodie, and more. Calling all of his current, former, and any past Zip players up with him to the podium, Porter was gracious and emotional.
"This program has a long tradition of excellence," he said. "It’s bigger than any coach, any player."
It is clear that Porter had a tremendous impact on numerous individuals both on and off the field and established a dedicated spirit of energy and success while in Akron.
That spirit is one that his successor, Jared Embick, will now takeover having been elevated from assistant coach to head coach. The New York Times Goal blog delves into that challenge and Akron's hope of continued success.
But as Porter and Akron turn the page on his time there, Portland remains ever eager on his Rose City arrival.
It is not every day that your local paper does a Sunday editorial about the local college soccer team. Sure, you might hear about the local football team heading to the conference title, or how the baseball team won a championship.
It is also not every day that that editorial celebrates the style of play that said local college soccer established and how that innovation can impact an entire city.
But that is just what Akron Beacon Journal editorial page editor Michael Douglas did today. While watching the NCAA College Cup, even though one of his own alma maters made the final, Douglas laments the absence of Caleb Porter's Akron Zips and the creative way that they play. Going on to discuss the tremendous impact Porter had in not only creating a unique style but then explaining what that meant to Akron as a community, Douglas is proud of Porter's accomplishments in establishing an overall desire for innovation across industries in the city, admiring of his decision to take on new challenges with the Portland Timbers, and certain that the legacy of "Porterball" will remain in Akron.
What leaves the strongest impression is the style of play. Akron long won respect for its soccer program, from Stu Parry to Ken Lolla. Porter elevated things dramatically, with his possession game, elegant and attacking, college soccer with a new element of purpose and plain fun to watch.
Watch the Zips play, and the echoes are apparent, of the “total football” of Johann Cruyff, the brilliant Dutch star, now in his 60s. The more current comparison is Barcelona, where the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi break down the opposition with their relentless short and exact passes.
The achievement of Porter resides in his innovation, applying these principles, building on the strengths already here and producing something new. Possess the ball, and the other side chases, as you play offense and defense at the same time. Porter has talked about the Zips wanting the role of the “deciding” side, dictating the flow and the opportunities.
. . . . .
The word “revolution” may be too much. But we have been watching a remaking of the game.
“This is Akron” is the cry. It points to what is distinctive, the soccer here what you cannot get elsewhere.
And it carries a wider lesson. What must Akron and other aging industrial cities do to prosper? They must build on their core strengths. They must keep and attract talent, Porter reaching across the country, from Washington state to Texas, from Massachusetts to Colorado.
In addition, they must be organized for innovation and distinction.
It is an essential read into learning just how much Porter meant to the Akron community but also a testament to what his soccer vision could mean to his new home in Portland.
Now that Caleb Porter's time at the University of Akron is drawing to a close, Marla Ridenour, a sports columnist with the Akron Beacon Journal, sat down with soon-to-be new Portland Timbers head coach to ask him about his time with the Zips, his plans for Portland, and why he made the big move west.
In short, he was looking for a new rush.
The turning point came when he coached the US U-23s national team last spring.
“It gave me a taste of that rush and it’s unlike anything else,” Porter said Wednesday during a half-hour interview in his UA office. “There’s more pressure, but there’s more reward, too. I like that. I like a challenge. I’m not afraid of pressure.
“Even the rush of having to finesse the players, the management. I need that. I need to wake up every day feeling nervous, almost like I’ve got to be at my best, otherwise I get bored. It was very different the way I was feeling; it was like when I came here seven years ago.”
It's an excellent read to learn more into the insight of the new Timbers coach and what makes him tick as well as what his hopes for the future are.
“I try to be the best I can be. I try not to give a day away. I try not to slip,” he said. “In some ways it’s a madness, but that’s the way that I live. I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and think, ‘I wasn’t good today.’ I try to instill that in my players.
“I’m very uncomfortable being comfortable. I want to grow, I want to get better, I want to push myself, I want to be challenged, I want to feel pressure, I want to wake up every day knowing I have to be at my best. That’s what makes me tick.”
Go read the whole thing at Ohio.com and check out the photo album of Porter in his UA of Akron office as well.
“Well, there’s a lot of pain in that locker room over there, a lot of emotion. I feel the same. I don’t think this is anything we saw coming.”
Those were the words of an emotional University of Akron head coach Caleb Porter following his Zips' suprise 5-4 loss on penalties to Creighton in the 2012 NCAA College Cup third round match at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
Tied 1-1 after 90 minutes via an Akron 12th minute goal from 2012 Zips breakout star Reinaldo Brenes and a Creighton 83rd minute equalizer from Timo Pitter, neither team was able to find another goal after the two overtime periods. Despite outshooting the Bluejays 31-11 for the match and 11-2 in the extra periods, the Zips could not pull out the win. Their best chance came in the first overtime period when Akron was given a penalty after a Creighton handball in the box. Zips captain Scott Caldwell struck the ball well only to be foiled by a strong save from Creighton's keeper.
It was a surprising and abrupt end not only to the Zips’ incredible season but also to Porter’s seven years in Akron.
Though the match meant the end of this phase of Porter’s career and he will be met by an eager Timbers fan base excited for his time to begin in Portland, it was a loss that was definitely felt hard.
To put Porter’s accomplishments at UA in perspective, here’s some numbers to consider:
-He finished his Akron career with a seven-year record of 123-18-17
-During his watch, Akron posted the highest winning percentage among all Division I schools
-Porter led the Zips to the school's first team national championship in any sport in 2010 and became one of the fastest coaches in NCAA history to reach 100 career wins in 2011
-The Zips' 18 wins in 2012 included 16 shutouts
-Akron allowed just eight goals in 22 matches this year
Needless to say, Porter leaves behind a formidable legacy. The Akron Beacon Journal has a nice recap of the match as well as a photo gallery of the difficult night in Akron.
But Porter wasn’t the only Timbers connection in the match. The 12th seeded Creighton side that beat the Zips featured two Timbers U-23s players in senior co-captain Andrew Ribeiro—who assisted on the game-tying goal and converted his penalty kick in the shootout—as well US U-20s defender Eric Miller. The Bluejays now move on to face 4th seeded UConn.
That duo, along with Louisville’s Brock Granger, are the only remaining Timbers U-23s left in the tournament. The Cardinals eliminated Northwestern 2-1 on Sunday and next take on 2nd seeded Maryland in the Elite Eight.
For a full bracket of the tournament, visit NCAA.com.
Caleb Porter and the Akron Zips began their quest for the 2012 NCAA Championship with a 2-1 victory over the Univ. of Michigan Sunday afternoon in front of 3,264 fans at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
Led by goals from Eric Stevenson (right) and Thomas Schmitt, the victory kept UA undefeated at home this season (10-0-1) as well as a perfect 6-0-0 against Big Ten schools. They have not lost at home in five years.
Porter spoke postgame about what it meant to win this game:
Senior Zips goalkeeper David Meves made four saves on the day and with a full 90 minutes on the pitch, he became the NCAA's all-time minutes leader with 8,498 over his four-year career. Meves already holds the NCAA the record for all-time shutouts.
The Akron Beacon Journal’s Marla Ridenour has a great profile on Meves. In her observations of the game, she wrote about a diving stop Meves made early in the match on a shot destined for the upper corner, “If keepers could fly, Meves had wings. ‘Yeah, I got up there a little bit,’ Meves admitted.”
Next up, on Nov. 25 Porter and the Zips host 12th seeded Creighton who defeated the University of Washington 4-2 yesterday in Omaha. Timbers U-23s Eric Miller (also a US U-20 national team member) and Andrew Ribeiro featured for the Jays in that match as did goalkeeper Spencer Richey who started for UW.