New Columbus Crew Head Coach, Caleb Porter fields questions following today’s press conference.Posted by Massive Report on Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Caleb Porter didn’t have to join Columbus Crew SC. The former Portland Timbers head coach, who left the club following the 2017 season, spent a year away from the game, enjoying his life and recharging his battery. While the itch to coach again was there, Porter needed the right situation to come about before he got back to work.
“I think for me, picking the right club was the most important thing,” Porter said. “And it’s got to be bigger than just the wins and losses; it’s got to be bigger than that for me because I’ve won games. Wins are empty if you don’t have something to win for.”
Porter had other suitors. There were even reports that he was set to become the next head coach of the LA Galaxy. But for one reason or another, other jobs didn’t work out. On Jan. 4, the Crew officially announced Porter as the replacement for Gregg Berhalter. On Wednesday, the club debuted Porter, alongside the new ownership group and new president Tim Bezbatchenko.
What made Columbus and the Black & Gold the right fit for Porter to make his return to coaching? For one, he has ties to Ohio.
“Coming back to Ohio and bringing my family specifically to Columbus felt like home and we’re truly proud to live in this community,” Porter said.
Porter played soccer at Indiana from 1994 to 1997, just as Major League Soccer and the Crew were beginning.
“The Columbus Crew was the club that I followed,” he said. “It was the club that I supported, it was the club that I watched.”
After a short MLS playing career with the San Jose Clash and Tampa Bay Mutiny, he returned to the Hoosiers as an assistant before taking the head coaching job at Akron where he went on to win a national championship. During his time with Zips, Porter frequently made the two hour drive south to check in on the Black & Gold.
Throughout his career, Porter has been to games at MAPFRE Stadium. He came to watch Columbus play while in college and has memories of attending U.S. Men’s National Team matches as well.
Now Porter will call MAPFRE Stadium home.
But the Porter’s ties to Ohio, while a perk to be certain, were not the only reasons he accepted the job to be the eighth head coach in Crew history.
“Having the year off to evaluate my options for the next club was something I did not take lightly,” Porter explained. “When you look at my track record of clubs, I do not like to go to a club and leave shortly. I like to stay. At Akron I was there seven years, at Portland five years and it was a massive decision. I was looking for three things in that next club.”
The first of Porter’s three things were the people in the club, “talented, passionate people.” With the Crew, he will be working under a new and invested ownership group, including former team doctor Pete Edwards and Cleveland Browns owner Dee Haslam. He will work alongside Bezbatchenko, someone respected throughout MLS.
“When I met with the Haslam and Edwards family and they shared with me their vision, it really resonated,” Porter said.
Next on Porter’s list was a club with “a long-term vision.” The new ownership group, along with the city of Columbus, has plans to open a new, state of the art, downtown stadium that will be a benchmark for the rest of MLS. They also plan to turn the current MAPFRE Stadium site into the Crew’s new training facility, as well as parks for recreational use and meeting spaces. There is commitment engrained in these plans, and Porter saw that.
“I believe in a clear way of working, I believe in a process and I have a philosophy that I bring to every club. And clearly that was valued in this club,” Porter said.
The third thing Porter looked for was a club where “there would be resources to create a structure.” The Edwards and Haslams have already made a financial investment in purchasing the operating rights to the Black & Gold and setting aside the resources to make the stadium and practice facility plans real. Both families are committed to winning and putting forth the money necessary to do that, so they checked another box for Porter.
“I couldn’t have found a better fit to get those three things than the Columbus Crew,” Porter said.
While those items were initially on Porter’s list, something else pulled him to Columbus. He watched from afar as it was announced that former club investor-operator Anthony Precourt had intentions to move the Crew to Austin, Texas. He saw a fanbase that banned together, getting the city behind it to not let that happen.
That, maybe more than anything else, was what brought Porter to the Black & Gold.
“When I saw all of you in this community and the Nordecke and the supporters and everyone rally behind this club, that’s the type of club that I want to manage,” he said. “A club that’s relevant. A club that the people are proud of. A club where they’re going to fight, roll up their sleeves and save it. And I felt compelled to come back and to jump on board with that movement to Save the Crew.”
Porter has success everywhere he goes. He won the national title with small-town Akron. He brought the Timbers to MAPFRE Stadium and left with an MLS Cup. It was obvious why the Crew wanted Porter to be the team’s next head coach. Why he wanted the Crew, especially with more glamorous offers reportedly out there, was previously a mystery.
In his introductory press conference, Porter answered those questions, satisfying Black & Gold fans and setting the stage for the new era of Crew soccer in Columbus.
“I’m excited. My family’s excited,” he said. “Listen, as a coach, we need to be motivated too. And I was extremely motivated and felt compelled to come back to Ohio and ignite this community and energize it and save it but elevate. Let’s not just save. Let’s continue to elevate this club and put a trophy in the trophy case.”