Last night, the previously winless Portland Timbers posted a 3-1 victory over then-undefeated FC Dallas, though the highlight of the match came after the final whistle thanks to a brief confrontation between Timbers coach, the ever-jovial Caleb Porter, and his Dallas counterpart, Oscar “Youth Whisperer” Pareja.
In these sideline spats, there’s usually one coach that stands out as the star. José Mourinho will be so dismissive that you question why he hasn’t been open palm-slapped on live television, or Diego Simeone may stare down another coach in a way that makes you wonder if his adversary’s family is safe. Last night in Portland, however, both coaches moved with a synchronicity, delivering a performance for the ages.
Let’s break it down…
It all started out so well. Caleb Porter wore a wide grin as he thought about room-temperature beer he was going to allow himself in celebration. This man was ready for an Easter egg hunt in the morning.
But then it happened. Based on the smirk angle if his face, you can see something made Porter transition from the “
damn darn, do I love solid dry wall work” version of himself to the one that’s famously gotten him into mini-beefs with Bruce Arena as well as Pep Guardiola and the Bayern Munich staff.
As he approached Pareja and his crew, Porter appeared to say “Look at the scoreboard” and tossed in a few extra jabs for good measure. He was on home turf, feeling himself.
What we couldn’t see was that Pareja, who has been around way too long to worry about decorum, offered Porter a tissue, presumably because Captain Akron had spent the past 90 minutes crying to officials. The beauty of this lies in its pettiness. Pareja’s undefeated team just lost 3-1, and context be damned, he had a point to make.
Porter responded with the most gracefully smug tissue toss you may ever see. The angle at which he flailed his right arm as he flung the tissue had all the petulance of a French aristocrat. The execution was flawless. Trainers and staff would have to hold Pareja back from charging after him.
After the game, Porter recapped the incident:
“I walked over to shake his hand and he had a tissue that he put over his nose and tried to hand me a tissue, so I thought it was very poor sportsmanship out of [Pareja]. I never said one word to him the whole game and he obviously wasn’t happy with the loss. But I’ve never had a coach come up and disrespect me like that. So that’s what happened.”
Why do other coaches so often have an issue with Caleb Porter? That’s obvious. It’s his face. His face makes him look like he jogs while listening to recordings of his own halftime speeches. His face looks like it frequently starts conversations with “Let me tell you what your problem is …”.
Does Porter ever really do anything to make people root against him? No, at least not publicly. He just has the dark green aura of someone you want to punch. It’s not (entirely) his fault. It’s just a natural biochemical reaction people have to seeing him.
Admit that you’ve also wanted to hit him, and don’t feel bad about it. Pareja has been in the game for decades, and even he couldn’t escape the urge to lose a bit of grace in Porter’s presence. It happens to the best of us.