The game of soccer can be cruel sometimes.
Caleb Porter pointed that out after the University of Akron men’s soccer team’s 2012 season came to an end Sunday, concluding his tenure as Zips coach.
UA outshot Creighton, but the teams played to a 1-1 draw and the Bluejays advanced to the NCAA Tournament round of eight via a 5-4 penalty kick advantage.
“Our culture is healthy and our standards are high,” said Porter, who will become coach of the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer on Dec. 15. “Even though I won’t be with the program any longer, I feel very proud of what we built here, very proud that we have gotten the program to the level that it is. Where these guys can lose after having the season they had, after winning the MAC regular season and conference championship, winning 18 games and losing one game all season long, and in that game we played down a man for 60 minutes [due to a red card].”
Ironically, the Zips (18-1-3) finished the season on a 17-match unbeaten streak (15 wins and two draws).
Porter led UA to the 2010 national championship after finishing as runner-up in 2009. He compiled a 123-18-17 overall record in seven seasons and a 74-3-9 mark at home.
This year’s Zips team earned the No. 1 ranking in all five major polls, yet got the fifth seed in the NCAA Tournament and had its season end in the Round of 16 for the second year in a row.
“As far as Caleb, he is obviously a young and rising coach,” Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich said after Sunday’s game. “Coming from Indiana and a great program [as a player and assistant], he learned from Jerry Yeagley, who is a mentor to all of us coaches in the college scene. I know he will have a great career. After the game I know he was crushed and heartbroken about his team not advancing. I wished him good luck and will certainly root for him. As a collegiate coach who will make it into the MLS, it is certainly outstanding.”
Zips senior Chad Barson thanked Porter for his effort.
“He gave me a program and a chance to succeed,” Barson said. “He has pushed me every day. He helped me get better throughout the four years I have been here.
“I know that I can look back and see all the ground I have gained as a player and it is in large part due to Caleb and a large part due to our other coaches. He has been like a father figure to me. He has pushed me. He has yelled at me. We have gotten into arguments. We have smiled together and we have cried together. We have gone through thick and thin together.”
Barson and senior Scott Caldwell both think Jared Embick is an excellent choice to replace Porter, but both will miss Porter mentoring them.
“I have progressed so much from when I started here my freshman year, on the field and off the field and just as a person,” Caldwell said. “A lot of that has to do with Caleb and how he runs the program here, as well as the other coaches.”
Porter said that as he walked off the pitch one final time, a lot of thoughts went through his mind.
“I don’t think it will completely hit me until I have a couple of days to reflect,” Porter said. “I was overcome with emotion because I knew it was the last time I would be on that field as a coach and the last time I would be walking off that field, and the last time that I would be coaching this program and my team in front of those fans.
“It was hard not to get choked up because it has been a great ride, seven years here. There were so many wins, so many championships, so many accomplishments and accolades, but more than that there are so many memories and friendships that have developed.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.