Columbus, Ohio (January 4, 2019) — Remember when there were legitimate fears that there would be no MLS team in Columbus beginning in 2019. It’s pretty amazing what’s transpired over the past few months to prevent that from happening.
First came the initial announcement in October of the consortium led by the Haslam and Edwards family willing to purchase the Columbus Crew from Anthony Precourt. A few months later, just a few days before the New Year, that transaction became official. And then there’s Friday’s confirmation that Caleb Porter and Tim Bezbatchenko will take over as head coach and president respectively.
Caleb Porter, Tim Bezbatchenko Have Columbus Crew Poised for Success
It’s a return to their roots of sorts for both. Porter’s first head coaching job of any kind came a relatively short drive up I-71 at the University of Akron. Meanwhile, Bezbatchenko grew up in Westerville which is a suburb of Columbus on the northeast side of town. He also has a law degree from the University of Cincinnati.
“It is a tremendous honor to be joining Columbus Crew SC in this opportunity to lead the first Club in Major League Soccer,” Bezbatchenko said in a team release. “It is a new era in Columbus and with the stewardship of The Edwards Family and The Haslam Family, I am excited to get started as we make our quest for championship titles, deep engagement with the supporters and the community and a commitment to continually give back to the City. My family and I are thrilled for the opportunity to return to Central Ohio and to be a part of this organization and its bright future on the business and soccer side alike.”
The two men boast an enormous track record of success. While at Akron, Porter turned the MAC side into a perennial contender in collegiate soccer. It included winning the 2010 national title with players who are now MLS household names such as Darlington Nagbe, Perry Kitchen, and Darren Mattocks. His legacy as Zips manager lives on in their continued competitiveness. They played for the national title once again in 2018, eventually falling 1-0 to Maryland.
Porter moved on to the Portland Timbers beginning in 2013. During his five seasons, the Timbers won the Western Conference twice and captured their maiden MLS Cup on the Crew’s home turf in 2015. In fact, Porter is one of just four coaches in the league with an MLS Cup to their name. The others are the Seattle Sounders‘ Brian Schmetzer, LAFC‘s Bob Bradley, and Toronto FC‘s Greg Vanney.
Bezbatchenko played a prominent role in the success that Vanney’s Toronto squad achieved. It was under his stewardship as general manager that the club brought in players such as Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Victor Vazquez, and Michael Bradley among others. With a solid core in place, they hosted MLS Cup on two successive occasions against the Sounders, winning it in their second attempt. That 2017 campaign saw TFC finish the regular season with 69 points, which was an MLS record at the time.
Adding to the Positive Vibe Surrounding This Club
It’s that pedigree that should add to the excitement surrounding this club right now. What it demonstrates is that the new ownership isn’t messing around. This isn’t just about keeping the team in town. It’s also about putting a winning product on the field capable of contending for championships.
“We are thrilled to have secured Tim Bezbatchenko and Caleb Porter to lead Columbus Crew SC,” the new ownership group emphasized. “Tim’s track record in building a successful team, including an MLS Cup in 2017, along with his experience on both the league-side and club-side of Major League Soccer make him uniquely qualified to serve as President and provide strong leadership. Caleb has been a proven winner every place he has coached and like Tim won an MLS Cup in 2015. He has a deep understanding of how to build formidable and successful programs and is well respected for his soccer acumen and development of players. With Tim and Caleb sharing some Ohio roots, we feel they are the perfect fit as we move into a new era of Crew soccer.”
That era includes what should become one of MLS’ great rivalries between the Crew and FC Cincinnati. And then there is the eventual transition from the oldest soccer-specific stadium in the United States to a brand spanking new facility in the heart of downtown Columbus. The future is bright indeed.