Caleb Porter pleased with ongoing development of young players in friendly with Norwich City
Midseason friendlies can be a number of things: entertaining fixtures for fans, a chance to see historic clubs from around the globe and hopefully a victory.
For the Portland Timbers, last night’s 1-0 win over English Premier League side Norwich City was all three.
More important than the win, however, was an opportunity for head coach Caleb Porter to further the development of many of the club’s young players. Case in point: promising striker Jose Valencia scored the game-winning goal via a nice ball from Kalif Alhassan.
Following a Norwich giveaway near midfield, Alhassan spied Valencia on his left, laid the ball off to the Colombian who then slotted it past Canaries goalkeeper Carlo Nash.
Though head coach Caleb Porter was quick to point out that the Canaries are still early in their season preparations, the victory was still a notable achievement given that Norwich is a team who beat Manchester United and Arsenal in league play last year.
“They’re still getting their legs underneath them, but I think it says a lot about our club that we’re able to get a result, especially considering we had six regulars that didn’t even dress,” said Porter. “I think it shows our depth and shows our quality.”
“Collectively, we wanted to play well and keep guys sharp and ready,” said Porter.
He added, “A guy like Rauwshan McKenzie, for instance, hasn’t played much at all and he played a full 90. I thought he did a really nice job.”
Perhaps most intriguingly, the game showcased a matchday core that offered a peek into the future of the club. Along with Valencia and Alhassan teaming up for the goal, Homegrown Player Steven Evans, recent signing Alvas Powell, forward Sebastián Rincón, goalkeeper Jake Gleeson as well as emerging regular Andrew Jean-Baptiste all saw lengthy spells on the pitch. With that group’s average age coming in at 20 years, 10 months, the game was a glimpse of the potential that is yet to come.
“We want to be a club that is successful year in and year out so we’re certainly focused on winning games and hopefully trophies this year, but we need to have a succession plan and to make sure that in future years we have depth,” said Porter. “You have to make sure that you’re developing your younger players, bringing them along even though they might not be playing as much.”
The debut of Jamaican international Powell at right back particularly caught the eye of the Timbers coaching staff as a player that could make an impact relatively soon.
“I thought [Powell] showed some really nice signs of a player that could be a key guy for us down the road whether it’s this year or not. He’s got some tools,” said Porter. “He’s athletic and he looked composed for a nineteen year old kid to step into that game.”
Put it all together and the result was a game that presented a very different look than what Timbers fans may be used to seeing based off the name on the back of the jersey, but one that still had an unmistakable feel to the run of play on the field.
“You could still see our style, you could still see our identity,” said Porter. “That’s when you know you’re really getting through to the players with regards to the philosophy, with regards to the system. You can see that the identity is taking shape and it’s not just the starting guys or the guys that play, it’s everybody.”