Todd Yeagley was a Crew original who spent his entire seven-year career with Columbus. He was part of the Indiana University pipeline in the inaugural season that included the likes of Brian Maisonneuve, Mike Clark, Brandon Ward, and the club’s first GM, Jamey Rootes. Following in the footsteps of his legendary father, Yeagley is now the head coach at IU and employs fellow IU/Crew alum Danny O’Rourke as an assistant coach.
Yeagley recently spoke from Bloomington about the saving of the Crew, the continuation of that IU/Crew pipeline with Caleb Porter, and so much more.
On his emotions during the 15-month relocation saga when the fate of the Crew hung in the balance:
It was tough. There’s no doubt that for many of us who were maybe a one-club player, you felt like part of your identity was being taken away. You always envision being able to come back for a game to watch the team play and to visit with guys who are still in town and talk with fans who, even though I’m much bigger and grayer, might still recognize me from those years. It’s really fun, so the thought of that was really, really difficult. Obviously, there’s a new generation of Crew fans that have become attached to the his in the last five, eight, ten years and you want them to be able to continue to have that opportunity, so it was tough to handle. What’s transpired in a relatively short time is that we’ve gone from looking at the worst-case scenario to utopia.
On his emotions now that the Crew are officially saved:
I was so excited on so many levels. A bit selfishly, it was being able to go there and be a part of the Crew for many more years to come, whether I take my kids, or way down the line, my grandkids. It’s crazy to think that such an important part of my life had the potential to not be there, so to have that and to know that Pete Edwards played an integral part of that and was so connected to all of us, and I spent too much time in the training room and got to know Dr. Pete a little bit too well, but it gives it even more of a special feeling. We know that Pete knows how important this is to everyone who’s ever worn the jersey for Columbus. He’s a Columbus guy. He’ll do everything that was maybe missing to reconnect and make this club stronger than ever before.
And then obviously with some of the staff having a personal connection with Indiana is pretty cool. With Caleb and Tim there, I’m over the moon with excitement to see what’s going to happen moving forward.
On what Crew fans need to know about Caleb Porter:
Caleb was my college roommate for two years. He’s a winner. Flat out. Everywhere he’s gone, he knows how to put a winning team together. I am very confident that he will bring a trophy to Columbus. He’s passionate and the love that he has to compete is pretty special. I got to see that as a young freshman who came to college and even before college. He came to camp and that’s when I first saw him. I was already in school and I was like, “This feisty kid from Michigan that we are recruiting, he’s going to be a winner.” And he’s turned out to be really good. He’ll look under every stone and do everything he can. There won’t be a guy who will work any harder. What Gregg and his staff did was phenomenal and I think there will be a seamless transition because Caleb is wired very similarly to Gregg. I think that’s why the Crew has continued to have success on the field, while off the field there were questions marks due to all the turmoil.
On the plans for a new downtown stadium:
I had a chance to catch up with Dwight Burgess on the recruiting trail and he filled me in. I’ve also seen a little bit online and spoke to Caleb, and he spoke about the commitment that the ownership group has put forward. For the Crew to be saved and to not just only be there, but to put all of these resources into the Crew, that’s why it’s utopia. It’s not just going to be there. It’s a serious commitment to enhance everything around the Crew.
On Tim Bezbatchenko being one of many local connections in Crew leadership:
He came to our (IU summer) camp. We laugh about that because he was a kid from Ohio who, like so many, was part of the Indiana Soccer Camp. He was a camper. We talked and he remembered those experiences. We first talked when he was part of the MLS office. We would talk about some of those connections.
His roots in Columbus and Ohio only speak to what’s being done there. Caleb is a Midwest guy, no matter how you shake it. Then to have the stability of the Edwards and Haslam families, it’s all about what’s best for Columbus. That’s really nice to see, because you can have a great coach and good owners and management, but if they’re invested more because of the ties that they have…I mean, Tim remembers going to Kroger to sign up for season tickets with his family. I remember those promotions. As players, we would sit at Kroger for hours and try to meet as many fans as we could.
For Tim to remember that as a teenager, that’s pretty cool that he can talk about those stories. So Tim’s experiences, plus Caleb’s connection with the Crew, largely because so many of us were going there to play. We had an IU pipeline for years. He knew us and we were teammates. I would guess that his first favorite MLS team was the Crew. So you take those two pieces in Tim and Caleb and I don’t think you have that at any other club in the league, where you connect the pieces like that, where your team leadership positions were fans.
And I don’t think there’s any owner that has the relationships that Pete Edwards has had with players. You can’t just create that from an ownership perspective. With a team doctor, and you’re a player and you need to get back on the field and rely so heavily on him, it’s a connection that is deep because you know how much he cares about you. Pete has a connection to the club that is much deeper than being an owner.
On Dr. Pete’s emphasis on the Crew family:
It’s great. We live in that space in the collegiate world, where it’s a big part of our success as a program. I think Pete and Caleb and Tim know, while it’s a little bit different, you can still have that connectivity from the players that have moved on but still live the community. You know that, Steve. There are so many guys that still live in Columbus. Those should be your best ambassadors for the Crew. The connection between the current players and the past players, it just doesn’t happen. You have to work at it. It’s pretty simple, but it takes a little extra effort and awareness that the most important people besides the fans are the people who wore the jersey, and Doc I think is going to be an unbelievable asset for the Crew with all of the great guys still in Columbus. And maybe that’s a reason more guys will want to stay there when they are done playing. They’ll see the impact and connection that guys my age are still having, so it could mean keeping even more good people in the community, which is a positive.
On what he would say to the fans after the success of the #SaveTheCrew movement:
We love ‘em. There’s been such a consistency of support and a deep level of support for the Crew. I know for every player that’s played there, and every fan that’s been associated, the people that took the lead and went out of their way to spend the time and energy to move this forward, they can take as much part of the success as they always do. The fans are always a big part of your success. All the players that wear the jersey should absolutely be thanking those fans. Maybe there will be a little bit back to the first few years where I know the players’ appreciation for the fans was tangible in terms of the time we spent with them. I would love to see that, because without them, the guys wouldn’t be playing in Columbus.
If you wish to support my writing, please consider becoming a patron at my Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/SteveSirk
A MASSIVE SEASON is now available as an ebook.