“I’ll take responsibility,” Porter said. “I’m the head coach. This offseason starts today. Let’s see where it’s at. There’s going to be, I’m sure, a lot of discussions. I have a year left on my contract, so I plan on honoring that. I hope I get the chance.”
Porter will not get that chance. Monday, less than 24 hours after the season-ending loss, he was relieved of his duties after four seasons as the Crew’s coach. The high point of Porter’s tenure was winning MLS Cup in 2020, but a second consecutive season in which his team missed the playoffs was the final, decisive low point.
‘Thank you for the Cup in 2020’:Fans react to Columbus Crew firing coach Caleb Porter
“This is not a decision we took lightly, and I need to first and foremost thank Caleb for his tireless efforts for the Crew during his four seasons with the club,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “He joined the club ahead of 2019 and provided steady leadership at a critical moment of historic transition for the Crew. Caleb will forever be a part of Black & Gold history as the second star above our crest from 2020 is a testament to his contributions and what we were able to bring home during a special year.
“We assessed the 2022 season as a whole and it’s clear that we fell short in our collective goals. Namely, our goal is to consistently contend for championships. This starts with making the playoffs and then securing a home match as a top-four team in the conference. We all share in the responsibility of the results and unmet objectives this season, including myself. As part of our evaluation, we believe that we have a talented core of our roster in place and felt we needed to make a change this offseason as we position ourselves for success in 2023 and beyond.”
The club said a search for Porter’s replacement has begun.
Assistant coaches Pablo Moreira, Tim Hanley, Eric Quill and Blair Gavin will also not return. Gavin’s departure to become the coach of USL’s FC Tulsa was announced at the end of August.
The Crew lost the second-fewest games of any team in MLS this season with just eight losses, but they also only won 10 games and had a league-leading 16 draws, finishing in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. Columbus dropped 24 points from winning positions this season, the third-most in the league, and Sunday’s final loss proved to be microcosm of the season as Columbus held a 1-0 lead at halftime before allowing Orlando a second-half comeback.
Most troublingly for Porter, he struggled to solve the root cause of the goals the Crew conceded late in games. After allowing the Portland Timbers, the team Porter coached from 2013-17, to score in the 95th minute to tie a game in mid-September, Porter was candid about his difficulty in fixing the problem.
“I’m not doing the same thing every game,” Porter said Sept. 18. “I’m trying to do different things. Ultimately, it’s on me to find that solution and to get the psychology right and to make sure the guys that go into the game are going to get the job done.”
The Crew hoped that a lengthy team meeting after the Portland game, where both Porter and his players discussed what needed to change, would be the answer they needed down the stretch of the season. A stunning late comeback against the New York Red Bulls on Oct. 1 kept their playoff hopes alive, but it didn’t take long for the season-long problems to return.
In Charlotte on Wednesday, the Crew led 2-0 before conceding goals in the 58th and 94th minutes to end the game with yet another draw. Despite that result, Columbus needed just one point from Sunday’s game in Orlando to make the playoffs and expressed confidence before the game.
But on the final day of the regular season, the ugly trend that Porter couldn’t solve reared its head one more time. Orlando scored the tying goal in the 56th minute, shortly after broadcast cameras captured Porter encouraging his team to slow down the tempo of the game, and they scored the winning goal in the 84th minute — the 17th goal the Crew allowed after the 75th minute this season.
Porter acknowledged after the game that his job was not secure, and in the end, it wasn’t. He finished his tenure with a 45-43-7 record over four seasons, a 2020 MLS Cup win, a 2021 Campeones Cup win and, finally, consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance for the first time in his nine years as an MLS coach.