COLUMBUS, Ohio – After a year away from Major League Soccer, Caleb Porter is back and in a role he called a dream situation.
The former Akron coach said bringing his family back to Ohio “felt like home,” and emphasized his connection to the Midwest and the Crew.
“Growing up in the Midwest and going to Indiana University, the Columbus Crew was the club I followed,” he said. “It was the club I supported; it was the club I watched. I can remember going to games, I can remember going to national team games at the stadium and I can remember vividly studying the club.
“Being the head coach here is a realization of a dream. Obviously, that’s just the beginning. The real dream is to come here, be successful and win trophies.”
He said Crew SC fit with what he was looking for in his next job: an organization with “talented, passionate people,” a club with a “long-term vision” and team “where there would be resources to create infrastructure and to win.”
Porter said he “couldn’t have found a better fit,” and credited his meeting with ownership and his observations of Crew fans from afar.
“When I met with the Haslam and Edwards families and they shared with me their vision, it really resonated,” he said. “When I saw all of you in this community – in the Nordecke and the supporters and everyone – rallying behind this club, that’s the kind of club I want to manage – a club that’s relevant, a club that people are proud of, a club where people are going to fight, roll up their sleeves and save it.”
But the job isn’t just about fit for Porter. He made it clear that his job, and his goal, is to win trophies for a club that hasn’t won an MLS Cup since 2008.
“That’s always a tricky thing to say. Some folks just don’t talk about those things,” Porter said. “But every single place I’ve gone, it’s the first thing I talk about. You have to create that vision. You have to raise the bar to that level. And to win a trophy, you have to talk about it, you have to think about it and you have to say it.”
On the field, Porter sees a “stable” team and a roster he can work with, and said in many ways that he’ll be picking up where former coach Gregg Berhalter left off.
“The worst thing I can do is come in and throw the baby out with the bathwater and changing things that aren’t broken and reinventing the wheel,” he said. “So we’ll build off of that foundation and slowly start to put our wrinkles in.”
With former Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko hired as president of Crew SC, Porter said he’ll concede much of the roster duties. But he said player acquisition will be “a collaboration” with Bezbatchenko, like it was in Portland with Gavin Wilkinson, and that’s just fine with him.
“That’s not my forte,” he said. “My forte is to coach the team, and that’s what I’m good at. It’s great to have Tim who, I think, is the best guy in terms of understanding the league and the rules and the little nuances in the cap and maximizing what we can do from a roster standpoint.”