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Columbus Crew SC: Caleb Porter feels at home coaching again

Jan 28, 2019; Irvine, CA, USA; Columbus Crew head coach Caleb Porter looks on from the bench during the first half against the Vissel Kobe at Orange County Soccer Club. Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)

When Crew SC opens the 2019 season at home on March 2, it will mark 481 days since Caleb Porter last coached a Major League Soccer game.

After taking a year off from coaching, just being back in preseason training is filling a void for the championship coach.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Porter said. “It’s been awesome.”

Porter, 42 at the time, unexpectedly stepped down as coach of the Portland Timbers in November 2017 after the team lost in the Western Conference semifinals. In his five years with the Timbers, Porter won an MLS Cup (against the Crew in Columbus) and departed with a 68-50-52 record.

Porter has not spoken in detail about his decision to leave Portland, but there have been no reports of his leaving on bad terms.

In a team statement announcing his departure, Porter said, “I’m emotional thinking about leaving but also look forward to what’s ahead in the next chapter of my career and our lives.” In an interview with an Akron reporter in October, Porter described his time away as a “midlife sabbatical.”

Whatever led to that decision, it sounds like it’s well behind Porter. When asked how he felt to be preparing for another season, this time with the Crew, he said the entire situation has energized him.

“I love the process of kind of building and then executing, then reflecting and correcting and then building again. For me that’s just so enjoyable,” Porter said. “And being around the guys … (and) around my staff, the camaraderie. The daily purpose has been just so stimulating and invigorating. I’m loving every minute of it.”

Porter transformed two teams into champions as a coach. He won 119 games at the University of Akron, including an NCAA title in 2010. He joined Portland in 2013 when he took the Timbers to a first-place finish in the Western Conference in his first season.

This new challenge is a bit different. Porter is inheriting a team that is very familiar with each other and had success under former coach Gregg Berhalter. Porter said such familiarity is an added benefit to building relationships.

“I’ve come into teams and clubs where everybody’s new,” Porter said. “Not only are you trying to know them and them get to know you, but they’re trying to get to know each other. (Having the players know each other) makes it a little bit easier, the transition.”

After a brief hiatus, he’s happy to immerse himself in even the most mundane aspects of coaching before his job’s chief responsibility begins: earning points and leading Crew SC into the postseason.

“It doesn’t feel like a job to me,” Porter said. “This is what I love to do.”

A brief return home

Preseason training in Chula Vista, California, concluded Saturday with a 4-2 win in a friendly against Los Angeles FC. Crew SC has three more preseason friendlies on its schedule before the season opener against the New York Red Bulls at Mapfre Stadium.

The Crew will train in Columbus for six days beginning Thursday before heading to Charleston, South Carolina, for the last leg of preseason training.

While in Charleston, the Crew will play the Chicago Fire on Feb. 16, the Charleston Battery of the USL on Feb. 20 and FC Cincinnati on Feb. 23.
(c)2019 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) first published this article Feb. 5
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