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It is official: Porter, Bezbatchenko hired by Columbus Crew

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The Columbus Crew has named Caleb Porter as head coach and Tim Bezbatchenko as its new president.

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The moves come with a new ownership group led by Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam expected to take over and plans in the works for a new downtown stadium. The MLS team was at risk of being moved to Austin, Texas, by its present owners before the local group stepped in.

The 43-year-old Porter was head coach of the Portland Timbers from 2013-17, finishing there with a 68-50-52 record. Previously, he was head soccer coach at the University of Akron from 2006-12.

The 37-year-old Bezbatchenko was Toronto FC’s vice president of soccer operations and general manager from 2013-18.

The Crew opens the season March 2.

More AP Sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Columbus Crew hires former Portland boss Caleb Porter

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Caleb Porter has been hired as the 8th head coach in Columbus Crew history, the club announced on Friday, while also unveiling Tim Bezbatchenko as team president.

Porter has been out of a job since he departed the Portland Timbers in late 2017 after a disappointing playoff exit in the semifinals followed a season that saw Portland earn the top spot in the West. The 43-year-old has an MLS Cup victory to his name, coming in 2015 with the Timbers in which he defeated the Crew in the finals.

Porter replaces Gregg Berhalter who left Columbus after five seasons to become head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

“I am honored to join Columbus Crew SC, a club with a rich history in Major League Soccer and a city with great appreciation for its beloved club dating back to 1996,” Porter said. The statement is a poignant one that alludes to the club remaining in Columbus after a tumultuous period that featured speculation the team would move to Austin, TX before the Haslam family swooped in to purchase the club and keep it in Ohio. There were reports that Porter had conversations with the LA Galaxy before ultimately deciding to take over at Columbus.

“Caleb has been a proven winner every place he has coached and like Tim won an MLS Cup in 2015,” the Crew SC Investor-Operator group said in the club release. “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.”

Porter’s Ohio connection stems from his six years in charge of the Akron Zips program, which he led from 2006-2012 before joining the USMNT youth coaching ranks.

New president Tim Bezbatchenko comes over from Toronto FC where he built a squad that challenged for the top spot in the East before winning the MLS Cup in 2017. He signed Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore at Toronto, the players who provided the backbone of the title contending squads.

Porter: I should be “in the mix” for USMNT job after Vermes

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Caleb Porter is feeling recharged after a season away from soccer, and would be interested in the United States men’s national team job if the federation is interested in hiring him.

The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio spoke with Porter about leaving Portland, his decision to decline the Orlando City job, and the vacant USMNT.

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As for his level of interest, the canny operator only put the thinnest veneer on it. Look no further than his endorsing Peter Vermes, who has signed a new Sporting KC deal since the American job opened up. From The Athletic:

“If you’re going American, Peter Vermes, for me, he is the guy that deserves the shot,” Porter says. “I believe that. That guy deserves to carry the torch of our national team. Peter Vermes, in my opinion, based on what he’s done in our league, he’s proven it as an American coach. If you don’t go with Peter Vermes, I think, based on what I’ve proven, I’m in the mix with another two or three guys who deserve consideration and I’d be open to talking.”

Porter says he doesn’t know what his next job is, though he’s assumed it will be in club soccer, and used some salty language to say there’s only job he wouldn’t take: Portland’s Cascadian rival, the Seattle Sounders.

The club that lands the MLS Cup and NCAA College Cup winner will have a fantastic and inspired coach, but let’s hope that USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart goes in a different direction. Porter may ultimately succeed in such a role, but already carries USSF baggage after failing to lead the U.S. U-23s into the Olympics before he took the Portland job.

Timbers make it official: Savarese is the new boss

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The Portland Timbers have made it official, announcing the hiring of New York Cosmos architect Giovanni Savarese as the successor to Caleb Porter.

Savarese, 46, led the Cosmos to three NASL Championship Games in his first run as a manager, following a playing career that included stops at Millwall, NY/NJ MetroStars, and Swansea City. He attended Long Island University, and was capped 30 times with 10 goals for Venezuela.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

He’s an intriguing hire for Portland, who won an MLS Cup but suffered from inconsistency under the highly-regarded Porter (twice missing the playoffs but twice earning the West’s No. 1 seed). While the Cosmos regularly spent well, Savarese navigated the uncertain waters of a nascent league with regular success.

From Timbers.com:

“I am both excited and proud to become the head coach of the Portland Timbers, and this is an ideal fit and outstanding opportunity for me as I take the next step in my coaching career,” Savarese said. “The passion, ambition and support surrounding this club is truly inspiring, and I am sincerely honored and grateful for this opportunity to lead it on the pitch and to build on the club’s history of success for the community and the incredible supporters of the Portland Timbers.”

The hiring has been rumored for some time. Though Savarese was loyal to the Cosmos, the NASL’s future has been hung in the hands of the legal system for some time due to a bold lawsuit against U.S. Soccer Federation. The NASL contends that the relationships between the USSF, Soccer United Marketing, United Soccer League, and Major League Soccer have conspired to stop the NASL from competing with MLS as a D-1 league.

Why Caleb Porter isn’t the man for the USMNT

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The Portland Timbers are a cherry club in Major League Soccer.

Owner Merritt Paulson is as dedicated as any in the game and the supporters make 21,000-seat Providence Park one of the most intoxicating venues in the league.

So it’s a safe bet, much like the United States men’s national team, that the Timbers will be in fine shape when they find the replacement for their current departed combustible coach.

[ PST SURVEY: Who should be next USMNT coach? ]

In Portland’s case, it’s Caleb Porter. The former University of Akron mastermind left the club on Friday, fueling speculation that he must be in talks to be the next USMNT coach.

Please, no.

Porter’s name has been raised for some time as a successor to Jurgen Klinsmann or Bruce Arena and, at the risk of becoming a Cold Takes Exposed case, there are myriad reasons to dismiss him from consideration for the gig (which isn’t to say he shouldn’t be a risk-reward hire for another MLS side).

Porter has an MLS Cup Final win as Portland boss, though it should be noted it came in a season the Timbers had to rally to make the playoffs. He’s led the Timbers to two No. 1 seeds in the West, and won a national championship at Akron.

Those are all incredibly positive, but the reasons he’s a risk for a program in disarray are many.

  1. His previous experience with the U.S., leading the Olympic qualifying team, saw a fairly-loaded U-23 fail to escape the group stage of qualifying.
  2. For all their successes, the Timbers twice missed the MLS Cup Playoffs during his five seasons in charge.
  3. Despite it’s low profile prior to its national championship, Akron, was very good before he arrived under Ken Lolla, now with Louisville, and has been quite good since he left under Jared Embick.

This isn’t to say the 42-year-old Porter is not a good coach. That would be foolish, and it would be interesting to see how he’d fare leading an overseas club or other national team.

But his record simply isn’t strong enough to take the reins of the USMNT. As silly as this sounds, perhaps he could’ve been a name to consider should the Yanks have squeaked into the World Cup with Arena. But they didn’t, and risk is not the name of the game right now.

Let’s start with his Portland tenure.

Timbers under Porter
2013* – 1st place, West; 3rd overall; 6 clear of 6th
2014 – 6th place, West; 11th overall;
2015* – 3rd place, West; 5th overall; 6 clear of 7th, MLS Cup champions
2016 – 7th place, West; 12th overall
2017* – 1st place, West; 6th overall; 7 pts clear of 7th

The Timbers may still be alive this season had Diego Chara not been injured in this season’s playoffs, and that should be noted. It should also be mentioned that Portland did not fire Porter, according to all accounts.

Yet it’s difficult to look past that, and it’s not the only argument against the Porter risk.

Let’s not overlook the failure to qualify for the Olympics in 2012, when Porter led a massively talented U.S. roster to third place in Group A behind El Salvador and Canada.

After beating Cuba 6-0, the U.S. lost 2-0 to Canada before drawing El Salvador 3-3. For those wanting to argue it was a weak American cycle of players, the U.S. had the following in the squad: Bill Hamid, Juan Agudelo, Mix Diskerud, Brek Shea, Joe Corona, Perry Kitchen, Ike Opara, Joe Gyau, Terrence Boyd, Amobi Okugo, Teal Bunbury, and Jorge Villafana.

Then there’s Akron, where Porter barely lost and recruited a treasure trove of MLS SuperDraft picks en route to his national title. It’s the least point of the bunch, but to hang a hat on that acumen is to ignore that Akron’s been a relative national contender, given its size, for decades, and that Lolla has Louisville humming while Embick has not booting possession since taking over.

There’s a further point to be made regarding personality and Porter’s penchant for touchline drama. Goodness knows half the duty of a national team coach is massaging big egos, and Porter’s self-impression is significant in stature.

Now the U.S. may well hire Porter, and he may right the ship and lead them to a Confederations Cup-clinching Gold Cup win, a Copa America semifinal, and a 2022 World Cup quarterfinal under a potentially Golden Generation.

That’s great. I’ll be very happy to be wrong. But let’s hope the Yanks call upon any number of safer options with international experience or a safer and more tested domestic resume.