Commentary

09 December 9:43 am

It is not every day that your local paper does a Sunday editorial about the local college soccer team. Sure, you might hear about the local football team heading to the conference title, or how the baseball team won a championship.

It is also not every day that that editorial celebrates the style of play that said local college soccer established and how that innovation can impact an entire city.

But that is just what Akron Beacon Journal editorial page editor Michael Douglas did today. While watching the NCAA College Cup, even though one of his own alma maters made the final, Douglas laments the absence of Caleb Porter's Akron Zips and the creative way that they play. Going on to discuss the tremendous impact Porter had in not only creating a unique style but then explaining what that meant to Akron as a community, Douglas is proud of Porter's accomplishments in establishing an overall desire for innovation across industries in the city, admiring of his decision to take on new challenges with the Portland Timbers, and certain that the legacy of "Porterball" will remain in Akron.

What leaves the strongest impression is the style of play. Akron long won respect for its soccer program, from Stu Parry to Ken Lolla. Porter elevated things dramatically, with his possession game, elegant and attacking, college soccer with a new element of purpose and plain fun to watch.

Watch the Zips play, and the echoes are apparent, of the “total football” of Johann Cruyff, the brilliant Dutch star, now in his 60s. The more current comparison is Barcelona, where the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi break down the opposition with their relentless short and exact passes.

The achievement of Porter resides in his innovation, applying these principles, building on the strengths already here and producing something new. Possess the ball, and the other side chases, as you play offense and defense at the same time. Porter has talked about the Zips wanting the role of the “deciding” side, dictating the flow and the opportunities.

. . . . .

The word “revolution” may be too much. But we have been watching a remaking of the game.

“This is Akron” is the cry. It points to what is distinctive, the soccer here what you cannot get elsewhere.

And it carries a wider lesson. What must Akron and other aging industrial cities do to prosper? They must build on their core strengths. They must keep and attract talent, Porter reaching across the country, from Washington state to Texas, from Massachusetts to Colorado.

In addition, they must be organized for innovation and distinction.

It is an essential read into learning just how much Porter meant to the Akron community but also a testament to what his soccer vision could mean to his new home in Portland.

Read it.