Columbus Crew SC seems to be on the verge of securing new leadership after the departure of Gregg Berhalter and the purchase of new investor-operator rights rights to a new ownership group. According to MLSSoccer.com Sam Stejskal, Tim Bezbatchenko is leaving the role of general manager of Toronto FC and making a move to Central Ohio to become the Black & Gold’s new president. The Columbus Dispatch’s Michael Arace was the first to report the possibility.
Sources: Tim Bezbatchenko is leaving Toronto FC to become president of Columbus Crew SC. TFC are in advanced discussions with former New York Red Bulls sporting director Ali Curtis to replace Bezbatchenko as GM. @MichaelArace1 was first on Bez to Columbus.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) January 2, 2019
According to Stejskal, Bezbatchenko would not only be the main executive of soccer for the Black & Gold overseeing the technical staff, in a similar role to the one he developed in Toronto, but also be the head of the franchise in the business side.
Columbus is looking to restructure its soccer operations since Berhalter left to take over the U.S. Men’s National Team in December as Berhalter was not only the head coach but also the sporting director for the franchise. The club’s new investor operators — a group led by former team doctor Pete Edwards and Cleveland Browns owner Dee and Jimmy Haslam — wanted to split his roles in two distinct jobs and hire a general manager.
That would be part of Bezbatchenko’s role with the club. Over the last months, some other names, including former U.S. National Team’s head coaches Bruce Arena and Dave Sarachan have been linked with the general manager position. Arena was even interviewed in December, but apparently the new ownership wants a different profile for the position.
Caleb Porter seems to be the choice to be the next coach for the Crew as Massive Report and other outlets have reported, but no official announcement has been made by he club at this point.
Bezbatchenko, 37, is an Ohio native, born in Westerville. He played soccer professionally as a midfielder for the United Soccer League’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds between 2004 and 2005 but retired to pursue a management career in the sport.
He first worked for Major League Soccer offices in New York as the Senior Director of Player Relations and Competition. In September 2013, he took over as the general manager of Toronto FC and his journey with the Canadian club has had several ups and downs.
Toronto struggled during the first years with Bezbatchenko at the helm and the unfruitful signings of English forward Jermain Defoe and Brazilian striker Gilberto reflected that. The team failed to qualify to the playoffs in 2014.
As the ownership raised the investment level, Bezbatchenko strengthened the roster with names like Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez and built the team that is considered by many as the best ever in Major League Soccer, the one that won MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and the Canadian Championship in 2017 and reached the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2018.