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Clive Charles, 1951-2003
August 27th, 2003 2:27PM

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Clive Charles, the London-born defender who came to America during the NASL's golden years and remained in the United States as perhaps its most beloved coach, succumbed following a three-year battle with prostate cancer.

Charles, who built the University of Portland's men's and women's programs into national powers while working with numerous U.S. national teams, died Tuesday at the his northwest Portland home. He was 51.

His family will hold private services, and a public gathering is planned for Sept. 8 on the UP campus.

Charles was considered one of the finest people in American soccer, loved by his players, revered by his peers, and respected for his gentle demeanor and intense passion for the sport. He brought national recognition to the University of Portland, a small (2,800 enrollment) Catholic university in Oregon's largest city, and developed dozens of athletes who played professionally and for varied national teams.

A coach who prized development over victory -- yet was one of college soccer's winningest coaches -- Charles' pupils included Tiffeny Milbrett and Shannon MacMillan, who were selected Tuesday for the U.S. roster for the Sept. 20-Oct. 12 Women's World Cup, and men's national-teamers Kasey Keller, goalkeeper with English Premier League club Tottenham, and Steve Cherundolo, who plays with Hannover in the German Bundesliga.

Charles posted a 439-144-44 combined record in 17 seasons as coach of Portland's men's team and 14 seasons with its women's team, and guided the women last fall to the NCAA championship -- the university's only NCAA title in any sport -- the Pilots' first triumph in seven final four appearances.

The 2-1 overtime victory in the final over West Coast Conference rival Santa Clara was the final match of Charles' career.

Portland's men's team reached the final four twice under Charles, and in all the Pilot men and women won 13 conference titles and reached the NCAA tournament 20 times.

Charles also spent eight years as a U.S. Soccer staff coach, serving as Steve Sampson's assistant with the men's national team at the 1998 World Cup and guiding the U.S. under-23 men's team to a stunning fourth-place finish at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He also coached the U.S. under-20 women's team from 1993 to 1996.

Charles, who played professionally for 17 years, learned he had cancer just before departing for the Sydney Games. A private man, Charles did not disclose his illness until spring 2002. He underwent hormonal therapy, radiation treatments and chemotherapy to battle the cancer, and he was strong enough to coach both Portland teams last fall.

The youngest of nine children, Charles learned soccer on the streets of East London. He played for West Ham United and Cardiff City in the English League, with a short stint in 1971-72 with the NASL's Montreal Olympique mixed in, before signing with the Portland Timbers before the 1978 season. He was one of the league's finest defenders in his four years with the Timbers -- a three-time All-NASL player whom Pele selected to his all-time NASL team -- and retired following a short stint in the Major Indoor Soccer League.

He remained in Portland following his time with the Timbers, creating FC Portland youth soccer club -- which Milbrett and MLS veteran Chris Brown played for-- and coaching the boys team at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore. He also served as director of player development for the Oregon Youth Soccer Association.

Charles received a lifetime achievement award from the WUSA last year, and he was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in mid-August. His No. 3 jersey is to be retired on Friday by the Portland Timbers, now a club in the A-League.

Longtime Charles assistants Bill Irwin, with the men, and Garrett Smith, with the women, will be in charge of the UP teams. Both will retain their titles as ''assistant'' coaches. The university has not determined whether the programs will continue to have one head coach or a different coach for each team.

In addition to Milbrett, MacMillan, Keller, Brown and Cherundolo, other professional players who competed at Portland under Charles include men's pros Yari Allnutt, Scott Benedetti, Conor Casey, Kelly Gray, Nate Jacqua, Ian McLean, Darren Sawatzky, Curtis Spiteri, Davide Xausa and Wade Webber; and current or former WUSA players Betsy Barr, Justi Baumgardt, Erin Fahey, Michelle French, Tara Koleski, Wynne McIntosh, Erin Misaki, Brooke O'Hanley and Lauren Orlandos.

Charles is survived by his wife, Clarena; son, Michael; daughter, Sarah, a defender at Portland in the mid-1990s; four brothers and two sisters.



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