Published in the Akron Beacon Journal on June 27, 2010
Ghana eliminates United States from World Cup
World Cup analysis with University of Akron men's soccer coach Caleb Porter on the United States Round of 16 game, a 2-1 loss in overtime Saturday to Ghana that eliminated the Americans from the tournament.
ABJ: What are your thoughts on the game?
CP: ''I think overall it was disappointing. I think the U.S. will feel good about the fact they got out of the group, but they had an opportunity to move further and do something special. The goal was to go further in the tournament, but, unfortunately, it was the same old story — allowing an early goal and having to go into halftime and adjust your shape. At the end of the day, it came back to haunt them. You knew eventually their luck was going to run out. The U.S. came out in the first half and was very flat. Ghana was able to get on the ball and get a goal early and create other chances. This team psychologically had something missing for them to completely lose focus early in games.''
ABJ: U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan scored a goal off a penalty kick in the 62nd minute. It was his third goal of the tournament. What can you say about his overall performance in the World Cup?
CP: ''I thought Landon was tremendous, and he showed why he is being recognized as one of the top players we have ever produced in the U.S. His experience showed and he did some special things. I thought Clint Dempsey had a great tournament as well. Those two guys were the guys that carried us.''
ABJ: How do you think the Americans' performance in this World Cup will affect the sport of soccer in the U.S. in the coming years?
CP: ''I feel good as a country, because I think we are making progress. Our standards are getting higher. I know Coach [Bob] Bradley and the players are not satisfied. I think clearly visibility has been raised, and the excitement and attention surrounding this team is at an all-time high. There will be a lot of positives to come from this World Cup. I think we gained some respect from fans in our country and fans around the world.''
ABJ: What happened on the two goals the Americans allowed to Ghana's Kevin Prince Boateng and Asamoah Gyan?
CP: ''Good teams will punish you if you make mistakes. It was disappointing when Ricardo Clark lost the ball in a dangerous area (near midfield). They turned that into a great play (by Boateng in the fifth minute). In the back, we have to be better individually. We have to put out those fires. I think individually they might have been more athletic than us. That was a bad way to start a game. On the second goal (by Gyan in the 93rd minute), we fell asleep. It was a great play on (Gyan's) part.''
For $100, fans can purchase a pod of four chairs from Memorial Hall, the former home of the Zips which will be demolished later this year.
Also this... With free agency opening in a week, I'm curious as to how fans will respond to the following poll because the Akron fanbase overlaps with Cleveland in some ways, but not completely.
Published in the Akron Beacon Journal on June 24, 2010
U.S. victory thrills Porter
World Cup analysis with University of Akron men's soccer coach Caleb Porter on the United States' 1-0 victory over Algeria that allowed the U.S. to win Group C and advance to the Round of 16.
ABJ: What are your thoughts on the goal scored by Landon Donovan in the 91st minute?
CP: ''I think this is a great example of just how dramatic this sport is and the fine line between winning and losing. Algeria comes down and has a ball served in [by Adlane Guedioura] and [Rafik Saifi] heads it near the post. At that moment, I am thinking this could be the game. [U.S. goalkeeper] Tim Howard collected the ball, and immediately initiated a counter attack. Landon Donovan drove down the field and played a nice ball in to Jozy Altidore. He played it towards the goal and Clint Dempsey slid in front of Algeria's goalkeeper [Rais M'Bohli]. For me, that was huge because he put his body on the line for his team. Donovan was able to come in and drive the ball home. I think it is fitting that Donovan scored the goal. He is probably the greatest soccer player we have ever produced.''
ABJ: Obviously, Donovan will receive much of the attention from fans and media, but what other American players are impressing you the most?
CP: ''Dempsey is a having a good tournament. He continues to be dangerous and he has had some chances that were near misses. Michael Bradley is doing a lot of good things at midfield that have helped the team be successful.''
ABJ: What are your thoughts on the increased level of interest surrounding soccer in the U.S.?
CP: ''That is what makes this sport and the World Cup special. The drama is amazing. Our country is getting more excited about soccer and more people are watching the games on TV and pulling for our team. The last 15 minutes, for me, was an adrenaline rush. When we scored that goal, I'm not sure if I have ever been more excited. Obviously, it is not my team. I am not playing and I am not coaching. I am not on the bench, but to feel that moment and see our country win that game was special.''
ABJ: Your thoughts on how the team regrouped after Dempsey's first-half goal was waved off on a questionable offside call?
CP: ''They have showed a lot of resiliency. They never quit and they keep fighting. As Donovan said on the postgame TV interview with ESPN, those are the qualities that embody Americans. I got goose bumps because we won the game and we won the group. This is my livelihood and the livelihood for many others. I am very happy to see that our sport is growing in our country.''
ABJ: Did the match play out the way you thought it would?
CP: ''It was a very open game. We knew it would be that way because both teams had to win. We did a pretty good job in the back half, shutting them down on the counters and putting out fires. I would like to see us finish our chances a little sooner. In the upcoming games, we will have to finish more of these chances.''
"One of the more explosive JUCO wideouts in the country" signed with Akron, according to Scout.com.
Marquelo Suel, a 6-foot-3 receiver from Arizona, caught 56 passes for 800 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He will have three years to play two.
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James made a dramatic appearance Saturday afternoon at InfoCision Stadium on the campus of the University of Akron.
James walked through a side entrance into a nearly empty stadium and made his way down to the playing field after thousands of fans were already gone or leaving the "LeBron Appreciation Day" event that was sponsored by several area businesses.
Several hundred fans who were still near the stadium quickly re-entered and watched James get presented with a "Hometown Hero" crystal ball trophy, which had been placed back inside a box before his surprise appearance.
"First of all, I want to thank the city of Akron and [the University of] Akron," James said to the crowd. "Akron is my home and life. Everything I do is for this city. I want to thank you for coming out. I love everyone of you. Akron is home."
James stayed for about 10 minutes before departing. He also received plaques and did not address his free agent status.
The event, which had around 4,000 fans, started at 10 a.m. and was scheduled to run until 1 p.m. It ended about 15 to 20 minutes early. A Fan Fest took place with games and other activities for children. James highlights appeared on the Jumbotron scoreboard with music playing and fans cheering. Several people spoke during the rally and skydivers flew down from the sky with basketballs.
James, 25-years-old, graduated from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in 2003 and recenly finished his seventh season in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has led the Cavaliers to one NBA Finals appearance, won two NBA MVP's and earned a gold medal and a silver medal for the United States in two Olympics.
Published in the Akron Beacon Journal on June 19, 2010
United States 2, Slovenia 2
Americans overcome second deficit, earn second draw
World Cup Analysis with University of Akron men’s soccer coach Caleb Porter:
ABJ: What did you see that you liked?
CP: “We showed a lot of mental toughness and a will to win. We showed characteristics we have as Americans. We have been down in each game, but we have comeback. We are still in the mix and we are in a good position to move on out of the group if we can get a [winning] result against Algeria. We are creating chances, which I think is a positive, but we have to do a better job of finishing our chances.”
ABJ: What did you see that you did not like?
CP: “It was kind of a similar type of start to the England game. We were playing from behind, and in this game we go down by two goals. It is becoming a pattern with this team. It has been a pattern the last several years. It is disappointing. Against England, you understand because they are a quality team. With Slovenia, we were the favored team. I think in some ways we underestimated what they are capable of. We were exposed defensively. We have not been tight defensively. Those two goals [by Valter Birsa and Zlatan Ljubijankic], they were avoidable if we had better shape in the back. We have to tighten things up defensively if we want to have a chance to advance in this World Cup. We can’t continue to give up goals early in the game.”
ABJ: What are your thoughts on the goals scored by Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley?
CP: “The first goal was critical. Down 2-0, that first goal brings you back into the game. Ideally, you want it to come early in the second half to tie the score and it did. Landon received a great ball over the top [from Steve Cherundolo] and drove very aggressively to the near post. It was a difficult angle, but he hit it with a ton of pace. With Michael’s goal, it was a play that showed a lot of hunger. Landon played it forward, Jozy [Altidore] headed it and Michael finished. Michael is a gritty player. His role is not to get into the final third much. He is more of a linking player, an engine that does the dirty work. He showed a lot of determination and hunger to kick the ball into the net.”
ABJ: What are your thoughts on the goal that Maurice Edu scored that was then disallowed by referee Koman Coulibaly?
CP: “It was a clear goal. Initially, I thought they were calling Bradley offside. The foul call is terrible. Their player basically wrapped his arms around Bradley. If there was a foul on the play it was on the Slovenian player. It was a very shocking call. There was a play earlier in the game when the ref called Robbie Findley for a handball when it clearly hit his face. That was the ref’s first World Cup game and he seemed nervous. He made some very strange calls. It was great play, great service [by Donovan] and a great finish [by Edu]. When they scored that goal, I never thought it was not going to be a goal. I was jumping up and down and happy we scored. Then, I noticed that it got waved off and I am thinking, what, you have to be kidding me. The U.S. should have had three points on the day. If they get three points against Algeria, they are in [the Round of 16].”
Note: Replays showed Altidore and American Carlos Bocanegra were also being held [and tackled] in addition to Bradley on the Edu play.
Published in the Akron Beacon Journal on June 13, 2010
United States 1, England 1
Early goal doesn't break Americans
World Cup Analysis with University of Akron men’s soccer coach Caleb Porter:
ABJ: What did you see that you liked?
CP: “I really liked the way we came out with a very aggressive and confident mentality. I give credit to [U.S. coach Bob] Bradley and respect the fact that we came out with a very attack oriented lineup and shape. I thought overall, even after we gave up the goal [to England’s Steven Gerrard], we kept playing, kept fighting and kept pushing numbers forward and attacking. [U.S. goalkeeper] Tim Howard was tremendous on the day and came up big several times to preserve the draw. I think getting the tie was a very positive result going into the next two games with Slovenia and Algeria. We are in control of our own destiny in terms of advancing to the knockout stage.”
ABJ: What did you see that you did not like?
CP: “Initially, I thought we played too high of a line. We came out and pushed our lines a little too high and opened up too much. That goal was disappointing. That was a not a good start, obviously. We showed a lot of resiliency and character to come back and get a draw.”
ABJ: What were your thoughts on the goal scored by American Clint Dempsey?
CP: “When England gave up the soft goal, it kind of rattled of them. They seemed tentative. It looked like they froze up and were not very comfortable. It was a routine play where [England goal keeper Robert Green] took his eye off the ball, and the ball trickled past him and into the goal. That was the turning point of the game. They made a costly mistake and we capitalized on it.
Jodi Kest was nearly run off the road by an angry driver on Sunday, the coach self-reported on Twitter.
Here is her account of the event...
Is it possible that Akron's closest rival will be sanctioned for poor fan support?
Kent State is making a marketing push to get 90,000 fans into the Dix Stadium this year. (The logo below and an accompanying Web site were leaked to me by a KSU staff member.) Ninety-thousand represents the total needed to meet the NCAA's requirement of averaging 15,000 fans per home game (paid or actual attendance). If you believe the announced attendance (and I don't), KSU barely scraped that figure last year at 93,432.
You would think that, because Akron-Kent is at Dix Stadium this year, 90,000 should be attainable. But when you look at the rest of the schedule, it's not a slam-dunk. Akron vs. Kent usually attracts about 20,000. That means Kent's other five games have to average about 14,000 each. Four of the other home games are scheduled for Oct. 30 or later. The fifth home game is against Murray State. No team other than Akron (and maybe Ohio) is likely to bring any of its own fans.
Akron's attendance last season was 104,294. Unlike in previous years when attendance was embarrassingly inflated, I actually think that number is legit. Don't take a sigh of relief, though. It was the opening season for InfoCision Stadium. Akron-Kent was a home game. The Zips welcomed their first Big Ten visitor (Indiana). Also, aside from the Eastern Michigan game, the weather was pretty good each week.
Akron's outlook in 2010 will depend on how the team is doing at the end of the season. If the Zips are contending for the MAC East, they will have two winnable games against Miami and Buffalo to finish the schedule, and fans are likely to take interest. If the Zips have a conference record of 1-5 or 2-4 heading into those games, nobody is going to show up to watch meaningless football in the chilly late November. This is the reason we hired Tom Wistrcill.
What happens if you drop below the 15,000 average for two straight seasons? No one knows for sure because the NCAA has not had to enforce it. Generally, a university buys up the tickets necessary to reach compliance before it gets to that point. The NCAA has threatened to take away FBS status if the problem persists long enough.
With the economy in Northeast Ohio not permitting a whole lot of discretionary spending, the attendance issue is something to watch for both Akron and Kent fans this fall.
Tom Gaffney wrote a moving obituary about Dave Barnes, who became Akron's only All-American golfer in 1976.
Barnes led Akron to the NCAA Division II Championship in all four years he was on the team. Before succumbing to pancreatic cancer at age 55, he was general manager at Good Park.