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New coach Caleb Porter believes the Revolution are ‘ripe for success’

Caleb Porter, the Revolution's ninth head coach since 1996, has one of the winningest records in MLS history.Stew Milne/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH — For most of the Revolution’s existence, the team has hired coaches with limited résumés, hoping they would grow into the job. Sometimes, the strategy paid off. Often, the lack of a proven track record contributed to their demise.

In Caleb Porter, their ninth full-time head coach since 1996, the Revolution will have a battle-tested coach who has packed plenty of experience into a career that started when he was a 23-year-old assistant at Indiana University.

Porter, 48, succeeds Bruce Arena, who resigned late last season after being placed on administrative leave by MLS. Like Arena, Porter established a reputation at the collegiate level, then made a successful transition to the pros.

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Porter compiled a 119-18-17 record with one NCAA title at the University of Akron, then won MLS Cups with the Portland Timbers (2015) and Columbus Crew (2020). He is among the league’s winningest coaches, 110-93-89 in nine seasons, and even in his last season with the Crew — he was fired in October 2022 after failing to make the playoffs for the second successive season — he guided the team to a winning record.

Another part of his record that sets Porter apart is his proficiency in the postseason; he has a 9-3-4 mark, and his teams have lost only once in the playoffs (7-1-4) since 2013.

Porter is hoping to become the first coach to win MLS Cups with three teams, which also would leave him two championships short of Arena’s record of five. The Revolution have displayed the potential to challenge for a title, thanks to a roster built by Jay Heaps and Brad Friedel — both first-time head coaches at the club level — plus Arena.

Porter won an MLS Cup with Columbus in 2020.Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

Porter plans to adjust the Revolution tactically. Under Arena, the Revolution set the tone offensively, most of the payroll invested in attackers such as captain Carles Gil. It was a style that fit the image the league is trying to promote, but one that also left the team vulnerable defensively. Arena was able to find a balance, guiding the Revolution to a 60-31-42 record in four-plus seasons, but without him the team floundered.

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“I think the club needs to be better in certain ways to achieve the goals we want,” Porter said. “They played a lot out of a 4-4-2 diamond, which worked really well, obviously, when they won the Supporters’ Shield [2021] but didn’t work quite as well in the years after.

“I have my ideas on the structure and the philosophy that I’ll implement. I won’t go into those details, but I think the players by and large fit the vision that I have.

“It’s really important to have a clear identity. . . . You’ll see a DNA and some similarities [to Porter’s MLS Cup-winning squads], and an aggressive, proactive way of playing.

“Football’s a cruel sport, so I believe in reducing the element of luck by playing in a proactive way, by deciding the game with the ball, and deciding the game without the ball by playing in an aggressive way. But also be pragmatic game to game, regarding the opponent, the conditions, the tight [scheduling] windows we’re going to be in.

“We’ll have a clear way of playing. It’ll be exciting. We’ll decide the game with the ball, we’ll create a lot of chances, and score goals. We’ll play aggressively defensively. We’ll adapt to win, that’s the key. We will respect the opponent, so it won’t be predictable.”

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The Revolution open play in 2024 with a CONCACAF Champions Cup visit to CAI de La Chorrera in Panama Feb. 21, then begin the league season with four home dates in the first six weeks, giving them a chance to get off to a strong start.

Porter has reinforced the roster with Ghanaian central defender Jonathan Mensah, 33, a World Cup veteran who played for him in Columbus. Slovakian goalkeeper Henrich Rayas, 26, also is expected to be signed.

The Revolution have advanced to five MLS Cup finals — four times under Steve Nicol, once under Heaps. They lost them all — three in extra time, and a fourth in penalties.

“I wouldn’t have taken the job unless I felt we could win an MLS Cup here,” Porter said. “That’s the vision. But there’s a long process to get there.

“Over my nine years in the league, I’ve developed a blueprint, and a process, to get there. And so I have the experience of doing it, but I also know how hard it is to do.

“It’s going to take every single day. I believe the daily details determine the difference. That’s the edge. I hope to create that edge, those margins of 5-10 percent, which is the difference in winning an MLS Cup.

“The team is ripe for success and I look forward to getting to work with the players and helping them continue to leave a legacy and hopefully put more trophies in the trophy case.”

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Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at frankdellapa@gmail.com.