PORTLAND — The Portland Timbers have hired University of Akron coach Caleb Porter as their head coach for the 2013 season.
Porter has spent the past seven years at Akron and led the team to the national championship in 2010. He will stay with the Zips through this season.
“I will be completely focused and driven to continue building a professional club in which the Timbers supporters, city and organization will be proud of,” Porter said Wednesday. He said he would not comment further on his new job until he formally takes over in December out of respect for his Akron players and their season.
The Timbers, who are in last place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference, fired coach John Spencer on July 9 and general manager Gavin Wilkinson took over for the rest of the season.
Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said Porter was among eight initial candidates for the job. Among those considered was a coach with English Premier League experience.
Paulson said he admires Porter’s “Intellectual curiosity about his craft.”
“This has been an ongoing discussion and a detailed discussion,” Paulson said. “He had to know it was the right fit for him and he had to know it was the right fit for us.”
Porter, 37, has been the Zips head coach since 2006, compiling a 106-17-14 record for the highest winning percentage (.825) among NCAA Division I coaches. He has led Akron to four consecutive appearances in the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament, and back-to-back berths in the College Cup in 2009 and 2010.
Among the players that he’s coached is current Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, the 2010 Hermann Trophy winner as the nation’s top college player.
“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve had ... but most of all he’s a great guy,” Nagbe said.
Porter also served recently of the as the head coach of the U.S. U-23 national team, which was eliminated from qualifying for the London Olympics in March.
The U.S. team lost 2-0 to Canada and then finished in a 3-3 draw with El Salvador.
Wilkinson said he was impressed with how Porter responded to that disappointment.
“He analyzed it from every aspect possible. In his words, he failed,” Wilkinson said. “In my opinion, he didn’t really fail, because he could identify where things went wrong.”
The Timbers, playing in their second MLS season, are coming off a 2-1 victory over the Pacific Northwest rival Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. That snapped an eight-match winless streak that has some fans calling for the dismissal of Wilkinson. There were several “GW OUT” signs in the crowd at the match against the Whitecaps.
The team’s 6-13-6 record hasn’t diminished fervor for the team in Portland, however. The match against the Whitecaps was the team’s 30th regular-season sellout. The team, which recently announced it would not raise season ticket prices next season, has 7,500 fans on the season ticket waiting list.
Portland (6-13-6) hosts the Colorado Rapids at Jeld-Wen Field on Friday night.