Caleb Porter believes in the so-called new coach bump, when teams are energized because of a coaching change and positive results suddenly follow.
Porter said he already saw an improvement from the Five Stripes in a 1-1 draw at FC Cincinnati in the midweek, their first match since Gabriel Heinze was let go as head coach, despite the result extending a winless streak to nine matches.
“I always say it's more dangerous to play a team that hasn’t won and eventually is going to win. In this league you don’t see teams just go 10 games, 11 games – we’re hoping it goes 10 and they can sort it out after us,” Porter said in a press conference Friday. “You always get a bump, especially when a team is struggling and it’s not working out with the coach. You get a bump from the players. I thought they got that in the first game. I’m glad we weren’t the first one to play them. They’ll definitely feel better about themselves getting a result after they lost their coach.”
Porter also expects motivation for the Five Stripes to come from what he believes will be Josef Martinez's first start in more than two months. That it will come at Mercedes Benz Stadium will add to that for struggling Atlanta United.
“I think they’re going to fight hard,” Porter said. “It’s their first home game [since Heinze’s departure]. Martinez, I think will start. They’ll roll him out to the fans and he’s the best striker in the league when he’s healthy.”
While Atlanta (2W-4L-8D) are in 10th in the Eastern Conference, six points below the playoff line, Columbus (5-3-6) are in sixth place with 21 points, just three points above the line.
That said, Porter said he’s not necessarily concerned. A combination of injuries and international call-ups have led to a disjointed lineup at times. Still, the defending MLS Cup champions have lost just once in their last nine matches — with four wins and four draws in the other eight.
“I think we left some points on the table in some of those games,” Porter said. “Mostly it’s putting together a complete performance, starting games a little stronger, more aggressive. I think when you look back on the draws, the draws probably came because we didn’t start games as well as we needed to.”
Porter will surely demand a better start Saturday afternoon with Atlanta likely to come flying out of the gate because of all the reasons listed above. As for the reason the Crew have started slow, Porter ruled out complacency.
“It could be at times over-confidence, and then I think part of it is probably new pieces in that think our style is keeping the ball,” Porter said “But our style is progressive possession, which means we’re constantly progressing to goal.”