COLUMBUS — Former University of Akron soccer coach Caleb Porter was announced as the new coach of the Columbus Crew on Friday.
The Crew sent out a news release that confirmed Porter, 43, had become the eighth coach in franchise history and that Tim Bezbatchenko, 37, will take over as team president.
The Crew’s new owners — the Edwards family of Columbus and the Haslam family of Cleveland (and Tennessee) — had to wait until they took operational control of the club on Jan. 1 and the details of the contracts were put into written form.
Dr. Pete Edwards — who has been the Crew’s orthopedist since the league began play in 1996, and who spearheaded his family’s effort to get the franchise into the hands of local owners — said the new ownership group was thrilled to draw a couple of big names to lead soccer operations.
“We’re excited,” Edwards said. “Both were very interested in the opportunity here in Columbus, with the new ownership group. There’s a lot of excitement around the team. I think more than anything, they could tell we cared about building something successful here.”
Porter, a former midfielder with MLS playing experience, built his coaching reputation at the University of Akron — where he was hired in 2006 and won an NCAA title in 2010. He also had stints coaching U.S. U-18 and U-23 national teams.
Porter jumped from the college ranks to the Portland Timbers in 2013. He led the Timbers to an MLS Cup title in 2015 — when the championship was captured with a victory over the Crew in MAPFRE Stadium. He stepped down from coaching in 2017 to take a year off and consider his next opportunity.
Porter last month interviewed with the L.A. Galaxy. Porter’s college roommate is a Galaxy executive, and there were reports that Porter would take the coaching job there. Last week, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, a former Crew star, was introduced as the Galaxy coach.
Bezbatchenko is a Westerville native, played college soccer at the University of Richmond and professional soccer for the USL Pittsburgh Riverhounds. He has a law degree from the University of Cincinnati.
Bezbatchenko, despite his relative youth, has experience in the league office and as a team executive. In his last job, as senior vice president and general manager of Toronto FC, he built a powerhouse that won the 2017 MLS Cup.
In a prepared statement, Bezbatchenko said, “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.”