PORTLAND, Ore. – It may not be the first thing Caleb Porter wakes up worrying about, but when it comes to soccer, the Portland Timbers head coach always makes time.
So when he left the team training facility Wednesday night as his team prepares for Friday’s game against the Colorado Rapids (11 pm ET; NBCSN, stream on NBCSports.com), Porter turned his attention to the group of MLS All-Stars that he’ll coach Aug. 6 in the AT&T MLS All-Star Game (9 pm ET; ESPN2, UniMas in the US; TSN/RDS in Canada) and wrote out his final list of 20 players.
“I’m most excited about this next game tomorrow, that’s where my bread is buttered,” Porter said after Friday’s training session at Providence Park. “But again, that’s something I have to also compartmentalize because [the All-Star Game] is coming up. I put together my list and sent that off last night, had a chat this morning with [MLS executive vice president of competition and player relations] Todd Durbin about the list and the direction we’re going to go.”
The top vote getters from the Fans’ XI were announced at halftime of Wednesday’s Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls game. And Porter, who receives coaching honors that come along with Portland hosting the game, was tasked with selecting the final 23 players who will suit up against German powerhouse Bayern Munich from a pool of the Fan XI, the Commissioner's picks and players who have received at least two votes from their fellow players. That roster will be revealed on Saturday, Porter said.
“It’s not hard for me to think more about soccer,” Porter said. “So having an extra thing to think about in the downtime is relaxing for me. Once I’ve got this team set and I head home, then I can start thinking about, ‘OK, how am I going to play this All-Star Game, what are the tactics going to be, who’s going to play where and how do I manage that?’” It gives me an extra thing to think about, which relaxes me really.”
The players at Porter’s disposal who were named to the Fans' XI form an impressive list. World Cup veterans such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry show just how daunting of a challenge Porter has in selecting his squad.
“There are a lot of players that are having really good seasons, especially attacking players,” Porter said. “And it’s going to be impossible to get everybody on there that should be on there. There are going to be some guys not on there that are deserving. But ultimately you’ve got to put together a team with balance and for me you have to reward guys that have earned it.”
Facing an attacking juggernaut such as Bayern also presents a challenge, considering the number of offensive players in MLS in prime form.
“If you were to reward everybody who earned it, you would be playing probably five strikers and be playing like a 2-2-6,” Porter said with a laugh. “That’s where it becomes a challenge because the irony of it is playing Bayern you probably need to play eight defenders to have a chance.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.