Caleb Porter is close to being named the next head coach of Columbus Crew SC. Paul Tenorio of The Athletic was the first to report the news that a deal between the Black & Gold’s potential new ownership group and Porter was nearly done.
Sources close to the new ownership group confirmed to Massive Report that the deal to hire Porter to replace Gregg Berhalter is nearly done and should be completed once Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Dr. Pete Edwards officially purchase the team from Anthony Precourt. Berhalter recently departed the Black & Gold when he was named the new manager of the United States National Team after five season with the Columbus club. Porter did not return Massive Report’s request for comment and the potential new ownership group gave a “no comment.”
As reported previously by Massive Report, one of the other top candidates for the job was Josh Wolff who was an assistant under Berhalter for five seasons. It’s unclear if Wolff will remain with the club. Massive Report was also told that former Crew SC legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto was on the shortlist of coaching candidates.
Porter is a name familiar to many Crew SC and Ohio-based soccer fans. He began his coaching career at the university of Akron in 2006. In 2010, Porter led the Zips to the NCAA Men’s Division I Championship, defeating Louisville in the final game.
While still coaching at Akron, Porter was named the U.S. Under-23 National Team manager. Porter was unable to guide the Americans to the 2012 Olympic Games.
After rumors of Porter leaving the college game for Major League Soccer circle the head coach for some time, the Washington native finally made the move in August of 2012, when it was announced he would take over the Portland Timbers at the conclusion of the season. In his first year in charge, Porter guided the Timbers to a 14-5-15 record and a first place finish in the Western Conference. The 57 points achieved remains a club record and Porter was named the MLS Coach of the Year.
While Portland did not make the MLS Cup playoffs in 2014, the Timbers bounced back in 2015, finishing third in the West and reaching the MLS Cup Final. In the championship game, the club faced off against Berhalter and Crew SC in Columbus, defeating the Black & Gold 2-1 to win their first league title.
Fresh off the MLS Cup win, Porter signed a contract extension with Portland in January of 2016. That season, the team struggled and missed the playoffs by two points for just the second time under Porter. Despite regular season success in 2017 — the Timbers finished first in the Western Conference — Portland was knocked out of the playoffs by the Houston Dynamo 2-1 on aggregate in the Western Conference semifinals. On Nov. 16, 2017, Porter and the Timbers agreed to mutually part ways.
In total, Porter complied a 68-50-52 record while in Portland and led the club to the one MLS Cup title in the same stadium he will now call home. His 25 career losses in his first 100 MLS career games as a head coach ranks tied for the fewest with San Jose’s Dominic Kinnear among all who have coached at least 100 league games.
Since leaving Portland, Porter has been largely out of the soccer limelight while traveling, watching soccer and living. He confirmed to Paul Tenorio of The Athletic that he met with Orlando City SC and was offered their head coaching job but declined it.
“This next job, the right one, it may not be what people think is the right one, but for me it’s about going to a club and doing something that’s never been done and building a winning club or bringing it back to being a winning club,” Porter told Tenorio. “There is zero motivation for me to take over a club that isn’t going to do it the right way, that is not going to want a long-term vision.… There is going to be a right club, I’m not sure which one it is, but I’ll know when it’s the right club.”
The Crew was “the right one” as Porter put it, as he reportedly turned down an offer from the LA Galaxy for the same role. Now Porter will have the challenge of not only maintaining the consistent playoff-caliber team that Berhalter built over his five seasons in Columbus but raising the level of the Black & Gold and bringing a championship to Crew SC.
Good thing he has experience lifting trophies at MAPFRE Stadium.