“It comes down to results,” president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said of decision to move on from Porter after four seasons. “The primary cause of that this year was our inability to close out games.”
Now the Black & Gold will start a search for the club’s next head coach. While Bezbatchenko said it will be a “wide search,” many have wondered if the right man for th ejob is already in the building at the OhioHealth Performance center in Columbus Crew 2’s Laurent Courtois.
In an ideal world, Columbus wants to have a coach in place by December so that person will be ready to go for the start of the preseason come January. Bezbatchenko is looking for someone who fit the values of the club and someone who understands his or her role within the big picture. Bezbatchenko sees the Crew as having a competitive advantage if the club can be “aligned from top to bottom… in style of play.”
Should the Black & Gold hire Courtois after a successful season at Crew 2? Baed on what he said, does Courtois fit what Columbus is looking for?
“Laurent has a lot of attributes that will make him a successful coach,” Bezbatenko said. “Not just in MLS NEXT Pro, but one day in MLS. So, as we start this process I would like to sit down and talk to him and he will be included.”
Unfortunately for Courtois, it seems unlikely that he will be the senior team coach next season. While will get the chance to discuss the job with Bezbatchenko, it’s hard to imagine this being the right fit at the right.
The jump from MLS NEXT Pro to MLS is quite steep. Crew 2 ran rampant in the reserve league, and while Courtois deser credit for that, his team also benefitted from a unique focus on the second team and overall superior talent. Most players on Crew 2’s roster are fighting for a senior roster spot, which makes the team very coachable. Each player wants to improve his game so he can make the next jump.
This is not the case across MLS NEXT Pro.
On senior teams, players can sometimes carry more egos or have settled into their specific play pattern. Not only will the competition level and parity increase with a jump up to MLS but getting a message across and managing players generally comes with more difficulty the higher the level.
Bezbatchenko did mention that Courtois would help lead training for the last few weeks before the postseason officially begins in November. If Courtois is on the candidate list, this could be a huge opportunity to see how players would react to him in training.
A quick glance at the list of MLS head coaches shows that most spent a couple of years as MLS assistants before becoming a head coach. Of the 23 teams with a current head coach, 14 of those coaches wer MLS assistants prior. A few coaches have come from lower division teams, such as Giovanni Savarese, Adrian Heath or Steve Cherundolo. Recently, Pablo Nagamura was elevated from Sporting Kansas City II to head coach of the Houston Dynamo. After 29 games, Nagamura was relieved of his duties.
Courtois’ coaching résumé includes a single season as an assistant player coach at LA Galaxy II, time spent at the Lyon Academy, a couple of seasons in the Crew Academy and a single season as a head coach of Crew 2. The Crew front office believes this team is built to win trophies now and the head coach vacancy is of interest to many, as Bezbatchenko mentioned how the team had already received multiple CVs. Courtois will have stiff competition from more experienced coaches.
Bezbatchenko mentioned that he is hopeful to have a coach in place by December, but when is difficult to say as some of it is determined by when the Black & Gold are allowed to speak to a candidate, such as coaches whose teams are still playing. That could mean assistants or head coaches of current MLS clubs. Also, this could mean coaches at the national team level that are set to take part in the World Cup Finals.
There is a lot riding on this decision and it will be up to Bezbatcehnko and Crew ownership to get the decision right. If through the interview process, Courtois emerges as the man for the job, despite his lack of experience, Black & Gold fans will get to see a young coach prove himself at the top level in the U.S. Soccer system for the first time.