When D.C. United embarked on a search for a new head coach prior to the 2011 season, the team had a narrow list of candidates - some with MLS experience, like Richie Williams and Curt Onalfo, and some without MLS experience, like Lucien Favre and Caleb Porter. The team ultimately settled on Onalfo, but its no secret that he wasn't their top choice.
Porter was our top choice. And he turned us down.
So when Porter, the darling and perhaps future of American soccer, accepted an offer to coach the Portland Timbers this week, I was a bit miffed. Lots of United fans were, I'm sure. But then I got to thinking, and Porter accepting the Timbers job now vs. the United job in 2010 is understandable. And furthermore, I don't care.
- The timing just wasn't right in 2010. Porter felt that he had unfinished business in the college ranks, and that he wasn't quite ready to take the next step in his career. Coaching a professional team is much different from coaching a college team. That's true in every sport. We always knew that Porter was eventually going to take that step, but if he didn't feel ready, then we wouldn't have wanted him.
- We have tradition. They don't. Its entirely reasonable that Porter would want to coach a team where he has the opportunity to start from scratch, rather than attempting to duplicate what had been done before. It can't be easy to follow in the footsteps of Bruce Arena and Peter Nowak. Nor can it be easy to try to impress a fan base that's used to experiencing success and expects to experience it again.
- Things might be different now. Or at least they might be different in, like, two years from now. There were lots of unattractive things about United in 2010: a lack of funds for player acquisition and a completely unsettled stadium situation. Well, the first of those issues has now been resolved, and we're anticipating resolution on the second fairly shortly. If we had cash-heavy investors and a shiny new stadium ready to open its doors at the time that we were seeking a head coach, would Porter's answer have been different?
- He'll have more control in Portland. Had Porter taken the job in D.C., he would have been forced to work with and get along with Dave Kasper and Kevin Payne. They have far more experience than Merritt Paulson or anyone else within the Portland organization, and those guys weren't going anywhere. In Portland, Porter will have the freedom to build his roster however he sees fit. In D.C., he only would have been able to go as far as Payne let him.
- It all worked out in the end. Right? I mean we're all pretty happy with the job that Ben Olsen is doing as head coach of D.C. United this season. Its a job that he deserves and that he was ready for. Olsen was always destined to be in charge of this team. Now he is. And we should have no regrets on that.