The Columbus Crew announced on Monday that the team has parted ways with head coach Caleb Porter. This brings to an end a four-year run for Porter with the club and begins a search for the team’s next head coach.
This decision comes after the Crew missed the MLS Cup playoffs in 2022. Following Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Orlando City SC, the Black & Gold finished in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, two points below the MLS Cup playoff line. This was the second straight season Columbus missed the postseason, falling one point shy in 2021, and the third time in his four years in charge of the Crew.
Porter was hired by the Black & Gold prior to the 2019 season. This was the first head coaching hire by the Haslam and Edwards families, who took over the Columbus franchise following the Save The Crew movement, keeping the team in Central Ohio.
“This is not a decision we took lightly, and I need to first and foremost thank Caleb for his tireless efforts for the Crew during his four seasons with the Club,” president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement announcing Porter’s dismissal. “He joined the club ahead of 2019 and provided steady leadership at a critical moment of historic transition for the Crew. Caleb will forever be a part of Black & Gold history as the second star above our crest from 2020 is a testament to his contributions and what we were able to bring home during a special year.”
The release also notes that assistant coaches Pablo Moreira, Tim Hanley, Eric Quill and Blair Gavin will not return in 2023.
Promising at his opening press conference that he would add to the Crew’s trophy case, Porter delivered, winning the 2020 MLS Cup, just the second in the team’s history, and the Campeones Cup in 2021. Outside of those two, however, Porter’s teams underachieved.
In 2019, the Black & Gold finished in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, seven points back of the final MLS Cup playoff spot. That year’s team struggled offensively, scoring just 39 goals, the third fewest in the league.
Heading into the 2020 season, Porter got a major attacking upgrade in the form of playmaker Lucas Zelarayan. Porter helped navigate Columbus through a difficult season, as the team and the league dealt with the stoppage in play due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an abbreviated schedule upon return. With Zelarayan leading the way, the Crew finished third in the East and hosted the MLS Cup Final, defeating the Seattle Sounders 3-0 at Historic Crew Stadium.
Coming into the 2021 season, Porter’s team was considered heavy favorites to repeat as MLS Cup champions. However, the Black & Gold dealt with a rash of injuries and one of the worst runs throughout the summer in the history of the team, winning three games in a 17-match span. A four-game winning streak to end 2021 was not enough to get Columbus back in the playoffs.
This past season saw the Crew struggle to score goals over the first half of the year, winning just two of the team’s first eight matches. After trading star forward Gyasi Zardes to the Colorado Rapids, the Black & Gold signed Designated Player Cucho Hernandez, believing the former English Premier League forward would help push the team back to success.
While Hernandez did give Columbus a boost offensively, scoring nine goals in 16 matches, the Crew won just five matches after the Colombian made his debut in early July. The Black & Gold finished the year with a club-record 16 draws, including multiple blown leads throughout the course of the year.
“We assessed the 2022 season as a whole and it’s clear that we fell short in our collective goals,” Bezbatchenko continued. “Namely, our goal is to consistently contend for championships. This starts with making the playoffs and then securing a home match as a top-four team in the conference. We all share in the responsibility of the results and unmet objectives this season, including myself. As part of our evaluation, we believe that we have a talented core of our roster in place and felt we needed to make a change this offseason as we position ourselves for success in 2023 and beyond.”
Porter departs Columbus with a 45-43-37 record over the last four years. He was able to bring a championship to the Crew, something many coaches in the club’s history have failed to do, and helped attract some of the best talent to ever play for the team, but ultimately was not able to win at a consistent enough basis with the Black & Gold.
“We would like to thank Caleb for his commitment and his leadership of our team. He holds a special place in our club’s history,” Crew investor-operators Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Dr. Pete Edwards said in the release. “We will forever be grateful for his hard work and guidance in perhaps the most unique circumstances while capturing the 2020 MLS Cup. We wish Caleb and his family only the best moving forward.”