Columbus Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko addressed the media via a Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon. In addition to discussing what the Black & Gold will look for in a new head coach this offseason, Bezbatchenko explained why the club opted to move on from head coach Caleb Porter.
Porter, who spent four seasons in charge in Columbus, was relieved of his duties on Monday after the club failed to qualify for the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs for the second consecutive year with a 2-1 loss to Orlando City on Major League Soccer’s Decision Day.
When asked about when the decision to move on from Porter was made, Bezbatchenko acknowledged it didn’t take long to come to a conclusion.
“The decision was made after the game at Orlando City,” Bezbatchenko responded. “That said, as you saw us drop in the standings and fall below the line, I think everyone knew, including Caleb and the coaches, that it was critical that we made the playoffs.
“Our goals this year were not only to make the playoffs but to be consistent contenders and in order to do that, it’s helpful to have a home game, which means you have to finish in the top four. So, that was going to be a stretch. When going into the last match it clearly was, but we felt like if we didn’t make the playoffs, it was going to be necessary to make a change. It was a decision that became a possibility over the last couple of weeks.”
Those last couple of weeks turned out to be a rough period for both Porter and the team, as the Crew failed to close out a number of games when the Black & Gold had the lead. This led to dropped points and ultimately another postseason-less campaign.
The defensive struggles were such a large factor in the team's inability to achieve its goals this season and while most want to blame Porter for the issue, Bezbatchenko thinks it’s a much larger problem:
“Sports are interesting,” he said. “We enjoy them because they’re unpredictable. This year was probably more unpredictable certainly than we would’ve liked and certainly more than most years. To drop 21 points in the last 15 minutes of matches and 11 points in stoppage time is extremely bizarre. It is strange and because it is unusual, we need to reflect upon why that happened and while we had to make a coaching change, it’s not just a coach that bears responsibility for that.
Bezbatchenko continued: “We need to talk to the players, myself included, about what can we do to make sure that we have the right people on the field that can see out games. When I reflect upon it, if we just had half of those points from stoppage time, we would be in either fourth or fifth place. If we had even half of those points that we gave up in the last 15 minutes of matches, we’d be in third place.
“So, we need to reflect obviously on the season and that will be a major part of it and we need to determine how much of it was just unfortunate circumstances and is it repeatable. What would happen next year if we brought a large majority of those players back? Will they be ready to overcome those challenges at the end of the game through character and focus and execution?”
It will be a busy offseason for Bezbatchenko and Columbus’ front office, as they look to reset the leadership and culture of the team from the top down. The club has already begun “a wide search” for a new head coach, while decisions on player contract options will be due by Nov. 14.
The offseason will officially begin on Nov. 7 with a 24-hour trade window beginning at 12 p.m. ET before the expansion draft for St. Louis CITY SC gets underway on Nov. 11.