New Columbus Crew team president, Tim Bezbatchenko talks to the media after today’s press conference.Posted by Massive Report on Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Gregg Berhalter’s departure to take over the U.S. Men’s National Team left Columbus Crew SC with not one but two major holes to fill on its staff heading into the 2019 Major League Soccer season. While the coaching position, which was awarded to Caleb Porter, was obviously an important one, the Black & Gold had an even more challenging task when looking for new leadership off the field, especially considering the transition moment the franchise was going through.
And they arguably got one of the best in the business in Tim Bezbatchenko.
A Westerville, Ohio native, the 37-year-old Bezbatchenko was hired after serving as Toronto FC’s Senior Vice President of Soccer Operations & General Manager from 2013 to 2018. During his tenure, the Canadian team had its best ever season, becoming the first Major League Soccer history team to capture the domestic treble by winning MLS Cup, the MLS Supporters’ Shield and the Canadian Championship in 2017.
“It is a tremendous honor and responsibility working for a club like the Columbus Crew, with its rich history and tradition. Personally, it is an incredible opportunity to come back to my home city and club that I followed for 23 years.” - President Tim Bezbatchenko // #Crew96 pic.twitter.com/GZ33ELqacZ— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) January 9, 2019
Bezbatchenko’s role in Columbus, however, will be larger than the one he had in Toronto as he’s taken over as Crew SC’s president, meaning he’ll oversee not only soccer operations, as he did in Canada, but also the business side of the organization. That includes two major steps in the club’s future, the construction of both the new stadium in the Arena District and the new training center where MAPFRE Stadium is currently located.
While he’s still in his first days on the job, the executive is willing to keep the collaboration spirit that led to the Crew being saved high and he anticipates lots of meeting and learning during his first weeks back in Central Ohio.
“Working at the league office, you’re in a (lot) of things, including board meetings with owners across the league, so you get a sense on where this league is going and where individual teams are going on both the business and soccer operations sides,” he explained after he was introduced in his new position at a team event on Wednesday. “That coupled with my legal background, it’s something I always felt it was a natural step for me. The first thing I want to do is just listening. I want to sit and listen to our fans and to our business partners because they know a lot more. It’s been 20 years since I lived in this city and things have changed.”
The fact is that Bezbatchenko has earned a lot of trust from the club’s new ownership even before he got started in the job. His track record working for the league and his successful stint in Toronto both reinforced the confidence that he was the right person to lead the Crew as the club enters a new era.
To Pete Edwards, one of the new owners of the Black & Gold, the franchise couldn’t have gotten a better option to be in charge of its daily operations.
“There are very few executives in MLS that are more respected than Tim, so to be able to lure him back here from a major market environment to Columbus was a huge coop for us,” he said. “We’re beyond thrilled that he’s agreed to join our team. He turned things around in Toronto and he’s the guy we wanted. We were lucky to be able to present Columbus as home. I don’t think he’d have left Toronto for any other situation than coming home to build a team, a new stadium a new training facility.”
“I couldn't be more excited or honored to be here today. A day I always thought was possible but wasn’t sure it would happen.” -Bezbatchenko #Crew96— Patrick Murphy (@_Pat_Murphy) January 9, 2019
Bezbatchenko’s former boss, MLS’s commissioner Don Garber, also had nothing but nice words about the executive, who worked under him as the league’s Senior Director of Player Relations and Competition from 2010 to 2013, a role in which he oversaw all MLS rosters, the MLS player pool and team salary budgets.
“Tim is a protégée of all of us. We knew him when he was a kid coming out of college,” Garber stated. “He was working very closely with Mark Abbott and Todd Durbin and we’ve been grooming him for a long time. He was the youngest general manager in the league moving up to Toronto and he’s a wonderful young man.”
Tim’s job in Columbus will be executed to a great extent in a partnership with Porter. Together, the two are tasked with building a roster that will hopefully keep the Crew as one of the most competitive teams in the league.
To Porter, who has known Bezbatchenko since his days in the MLS office, when the two had a direct relationship, the new president’s knowledge about the very detailed and sometimes confusing MLS roster rules can turn into an invaluable asset to the Black & Gold.
“I’ve known Tim a long time, since he was at the league office,” the head coach said. “It’s great to have him, who I think is the best guy in terms of understanding the league, the rules, the little nuances and the cap and maximizing what we do from a roster standpoint. I mean, why wouldn’t anybody want a guy that help kind of write the rules? He knows the rules inside and out and he’s showed he can take that knowledge into an organization and execute it and win an MLS Cup. He’s also a great guy and we already have a lot of trust of each other.”