“I’d love nothing more than an MLS Cup parade in Boston” | Porter relishing chance to ‘leave a legacy’ with Revs

8_6_22 Caleb Porter

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Newly-appointed head coach Caleb Porter says he is savoring the chance to make history with the New England Revolution, determined to guide the club to its first MLS Cup success.

Having clinched the trophy twice with the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew, the 48-year-old will enter his 10th MLS season as the Revs’ ninth official head coach, looking to secure a hat trick of league titles with what would be New England’s maiden triumph.

One of only two active MLS managers to have achieved the feat more than once, Porter insists he is fueled by the desire to ‘leave a legacy.’ Declaring the ambition of the club perfectly matches his own insatiable drive, the 2013 MLS Coach of the Year is relishing the chance to adorn the Revolution’s iconic badge with its first star.

“It feels great to be here,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of work ahead, but I’m extremely excited to hit the ground running, and I think we can hit the ground running. When we look at the club – the strong foundation that’s in place, the roster, [the fact] it’s only a couple of years after a Supporters’ Shield win – that’s a big allure for me.

“It was a very good fit for me. I’m a coach that likes to win, and I want to win an MLS Cup in New England – the first ever. Through the interview process, I was immediately pleased and connected, meeting the people – [Sporting Director] Curt Onalfo and I were immediately very much aligned from a vision and values standpoint; I had the opportunity to meet with [Club President] Brian Bilello, and the Kraft Family, as well (Robert and Jonathan Kraft). It’s important to me that there’s alignment. This is my third club and it’s important that out of the gates, you’re aligned with the people you’re going to be working with, collaborating with. I really liked the vision, and felt connected to their values.

“Also, it’s the ambition of the club. It’s a true, original MLS club from 1996, and there’s a lot of tradition, there’s a lot of storied history. They’ve come close many times. You can feel the excitement, the enthusiasm. There’s energy towards the future but an awareness of the past, and I think that’s really key – we want to honor the past but we as players and coaches, we know we have a window (and sometimes it’s a small window) to leave a legacy.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to help these players create an era that will hopefully go down arguably as the best era in the club’s history. There have been some pretty good ones in the past with manager [Steve] Nicol and Paul Mariner; then the likes of Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan and Steve Ralston – I know all these guys and I’m friends with these guys. I think I can honor them but also create a new legacy, a new era for the club.

“The facilities are also top-class. I flew in last week, and I had the opportunity to go through the training grounds. Honestly, I think it’s probably the best in the league in my opinion. There are some really good ones – obviously we had a good one in Columbus – but when you look at the setting of it and the facility, it’s the best in the league. It’s peaceful, it’s quiet, it’s cut into the trees and very tranquil – it’s exactly what you want in a training ground: private but it has all the bells and whistles as well to help the players perform, and perform at their best. My job in managing the performance environment is to surround the players with everything they need to perform, and to be at their best, and to maximize the tactical, physical, technical and psychological components of the game.

“I can’t wait to start. I had a year off – time to reflect, and learn and grow – and wanted to hopefully have the opportunity to take on a new project. I didn’t know where I’d end up but as soon as New England was open and available, and I had the opportunity to interview, it was my number one choice. When you look at the openings that were there, it was the best club available in my opinion. I feel lucky and honored to have this job – it’s not something I take lightly. I’m going to work tirelessly to make the fans happy.

“I love Boston, too. I’ve been many times – my sister lives there; my wife grew up in York, Maine. My family is going to come in the summer when school ends, so I’m going to get an apartment close to training. It’s a big sports town with a thirsting fanbase. It’s a great city, so I’m excited to immerse myself in the community, get out and about – maybe see a Patriots game, a Celtics game, have a pint or something in the city when I get a day off.

“For me, it’s about the work but also, I’m a big community guy, and I do it for the fans. You could see what happened in Portland when we won the MLS Cup and in Columbus: there’s no better way to ignite a community, to rally a city than through sports, so I would love nothing more than to have a parade in Boston for the MLS Cup.”

Boasting a glittering résumé of championship victories and a stellar reputation for identifying and developing top talent, Porter brings with him a wealth of experience in building title-winning teams.

Assessing the quality of the Revs’ current roster, as well as potential areas of improvement, the 48-year-old asserts only minor tweaks are needed to ensure New England approach the 2024 campaign as genuine trophy contenders, adding the club also has a bright future ahead with its impressive Academy setup.

“I love the team,” he continued. “I’ve obviously played against New England, I know the players very well. I have a lot of respect for what’s happened in the past, but I also think there’s more to accomplish, and I’m very motivated by that. I can’t wait to hopefully help the club reach new heights.

“I’m working a lot with Curt – I think we need some pieces but not much. It’s a good group. Obviously, we lost a few players. We will add some players for sure, but this is a rebuild – it’s not an overhaul. It just needs a few pieces. As time goes on, working with Curt, we’ll continue to put our stamp on the team and the roster more and more, but I wouldn’t have taken the job if I felt there was a major rebuild or overhaul.

“Another big allure was the young players coming through. I believe there are seven Homegrowns now with the new signings. I watched the team in nearly every game last year – I’m chipping away at that, as well. I love the young guys. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t know if there’s a team that has a talent of young players coming through right now like this team. That’s a credit to the job that Curt and his staff have done in Revs II and the Academy with Clint [Peay], Rob Becerra, etc. Those guys have done a great job in creating a clear pathway. We’ll continue to create a strong pathway from up and down – a vertically-integrated club where there’s a clear idea at the top and everything feeds into the first team.

“I want to have the vision very clear of how you can make it and what it’s going to take to make it for the young players in the Academy. I think if you’re not tapping into the young players and using that mechanism, you’re wasting that opportunity. Also, the senior players love young players coming through – it brings energy in how we play. We need energy – we need guys that can run, and work, and have hunger – and it’s nice to have healthy competition. It’s good for succession planning, as well, and we’re going to need a robust roster with all the competitions we’re fighting for.

“I believe in setting a vision immediately because you get what you think about – psychology shows that. Teams that win and raise trophies, they don’t just do it – it’s not by accident, you don’t just happen upon it: ‘Here we are, we’ve just won a trophy.’ You’re hungry for it, but you also know the steps it takes. The vision will be set immediately. Our ultimate goal is to win an MLS Cup obviously, and we’ll have other medium-term goals and short-term goals. We want to be top seed in the playoffs to get homefield advantage, so that will be a goal that helps our chances. There are other trophies we’re also playing for – the Concacaf Champions Cup, which is really important. Those things are the key, number one priorities for me.”

Porter’s preparations for the new campaign have already begun. With preseason set to kick off in January, the head coach has already made headway in forging relationships with his new players and staff, eager to ensure the whole club is aligned and ready to ‘hit the ground running’ in the new year.

After spending a year away from soccer following his departure from Columbus (where he led the Crew to the 2020 MLS Cup and 2021 Campeones Cup), the Revs’ new man is excited to embark on a new chapter, equipped with all of his prior knowledge and experience of accomplishment, as well as some new learnings to further enhance his own performance.

“Again, I’m honored and humbled to have the opportunity, and I can’t wait to start,” he continued. “As a manager, it’s really important to always reflect and correct – it’s an important process if you want to stay modern and relevant, and if you want to stay successful.

“I always believe that to succeed, sometimes you have to suffer and there was some suffering in my getting fired [from Columbus], frankly. It was the first time in my career. We missed the playoffs on the last day on an 85th-minute penalty. ‘Would have, should have, could have.’ We all have the reasons why it didn’t happen. We only had eight losses actually on the year, but we didn’t get it done. Bottom line, I had to look in the mirror and say: ‘Okay, what happened?’ There are some things I learned from and that I’ll do better next time.

“I’m a true coach – I love being in the trenches with the players, being on the pitch and being in the locker room. It’s been great because I’ve had the opportunity to start to connect with the players. I’m hoping in the next week to speak to every player on the team. I spoke with Carles Gil on the phone from Spain, so that was great. That was a 30-minute call, and we were able to connect. I’m a people guy – I love creating relationships, strong bonds. I do it for the players and the fans, but what gets me out of bed every day is the chance to work with players like Carles and others. That was a big part in taking the job, and that’s what I’m really looking forward to.

“You could feel the energy and passion from him, and what I heard from him was really good because he knows there’s a good team in place. He’s the captain and he has ownership. He felt like last year was a missed opportunity – he felt there was a group there that could have done something big, similar to a couple of years ago with the Supporters’ Shield – but that for whatever reason, it didn’t turn out that way. There’s a lot of hunger right now to next season. It’s a long journey but you could feel that the hunger and the determination was palpable.

“I coach football, but I coach people, so the number one task is to develop relationships with everyone. I’ve already connected with the Technical Staff, I’m constantly talking with Curt every day in planning; the team admins, as well. We have the preseason completely laid out in terms of fixtures, and how we’re going to build it up. I’m meeting with the Director of Sports Performance James Collins to talk about the periodization.

“There’s a lot of work to do but for me, the good work comes with good relationships. It’s really important that we all connect, we have good lines of communication, that we trust each other. As fluffy as that sounds, it’s very important to have a culture, a true culture where we are genuinely on board with each other, all pulling in the same direction. It’s football – there are going to be ups and downs, and hard times, but we have to be on the same page and stick together. That’s really key.

“We’re ready to turn the page. I’ll be very motivated for the fans and the players of the club to put some more trophies in the trophy case. There’s a very good foundation in place, a good group of guys, and a healthy culture to work from. I’m coming in humble but ambitious, and I do think I can build on the strong foundation and take it further. Watching the games, I was really impressed with the environment at the stadium, so the fans are a big part of what we’re going to be doing. Obviously with the homefield advantage, we need the fans’ help, so come out loud, and be proud, and let’s bring the fight.”