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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Caleb Porter steps down as Portland Timbers coach after first-place finish

Steve Nicol believes a clash with ownership was the driving force behind Caleb Porter's departure from the Portland Timbers.
After Caleb Porter's departure from Portland, Herculez Gomez explains why he wouldn't make sense for the United States.
Houston overcame an early Portland goal to shock the Timbers and progress to the Western Conference Final against Seattle.

Caleb Porter is "moving on" from his position as coach of the Portland Timbers after leading the club to first place in the Western Conference this season, the MLS club confirmed on Friday morning.

Porter was not fired but chose to depart, according to both the club's statement and multiple reports, but the Timbers did not reveal any reason behind the surprise move.

In the club statement, Porter did not reveal his future plans, but said: "I'm emotional thinking about leaving but also look forward to what's ahead in the next chapter of my career and our lives."

Although there is a vacancy for the United States national team job, it is unlikely to be filed until after U.S. Soccer's presidential election in February.

Meanwhile, sources have told ESPN FC that Porter is not a candidate to take over FC Cincinnati. However, it is possible he could be a better fit for other MLS expansion hopefuls.

Porter, 42, has been coach of the Timbers for the past five seasons, compiling a 60-50-52 record and guiding the team to the MLS Cup title in 2015. He was named the MLS Coach of the Year after his first season with the team in 2013. He had signed a long-term contract extension with the team in January 2016.

Timbers owner Merritt Paulson praised Porter's contribution, and said he left a "strong club foundation" with which to replace him. 

"I respect Caleb's decision to seek his next challenge," Paulson said. "He leaves Portland with a lasting legacy valued by everyone associated with the club, and I wish him nothing but success in the future."

Caleb Porter Timbers 160306
Caleb Porter led Portland to the 2015 MLS Cup.

After finishing the 2017 regular season as the top seed in the West, the Timbers lost to the Houston Dynamo in the conference semifinals 2-1 on aggregate. Portland decimated by injuries in the playoffs, including the loss of midfielder Diego Chara, who broke a bone in his foot.

"This is one that hurts for sure. We fell short. We felt we could move on, but we didn't," Porter said after the season-ending loss. "When the dust settles I think we will look back and realize it was a good season, but it's also a season where you think to yourself 'what if? What if we were at full strength?'"

Porter tied the league record for fewest losses through his first 100 games with just 25. This season he coached his 150th game in the league.

The Timbers qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League twice during his time with the team. The Timbers also reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup in 2013, his first season with the team.

"My goal in taking the Timbers job was to lead the club to new heights and to win things that had never been done by the organization," Porter's statement said. "Looking back and reflecting on my time with the Timbers, I am very proud of the results we all achieved and I know that joining the club in 2013 was one of the best decisions of my life."

Porter came to the Timbers from the University of Akron, where he was head coach of the Zips from 2006-12. He went to the NCAA College Cup championship game twice during his tenure, winning the title in 2010.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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