Columbus Crew promote Issa Tall to General Manager as Tim Bezbatchenko joins Black Knight Football Club

By Mariana Smithfield

 

 

June 6, 2024

 

COLUMBUS – The Columbus Crew announced today the promotion of Issa Tall to General Manager, a role earned during his sixth season with the Club, as previous President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko accepts the position of President of Black Knight Football Club.

“In addition to having strong relationships with Wilfried Nancy, our players and staff, Issa is highly qualified to be our General Manager as one of MLS’ most respected soccer executives based on his time with the Crew, Toronto FC and the league office, as well as FIFA headquarters,” said Dee and Jimmy Haslam. “While some midseason transitions present challenges, we are confident Issa’s vast experience and familiarity with our Club’s personnel and long-term strategy will seamlessly allow us to continue our success in 2024 and the future.

 

“We also thank Tim for his leadership and dedication to the Club and fans since we first joined the Crew family. Tim was integral to our success the past five years and positioning our team to consistently compete for championships moving forward. We wish him, Annie and their family the best as they start this new chapter in their lives,” the Haslams added.

 

“It’s an honor to become the General Manager of the Columbus Crew, especially knowing firsthand the great people, history and fans of our Club. I’m incredibly grateful to the Haslam, Johnson and Edwards families for this new role, as well as their and Tim Bezbatchenko’s significant contributions to the Club’s and my growth since joining Columbus,” said Tall. “While I’m excited about this opportunity for many reasons, the vision, culture and commitment to excellence we share is at the top of the list. Everyone is dedicated to improving and being their best for our team, city and supporters, and I thank Wilfried Nancy, our players and entire technical staff for creating that type of environment as we strive to accomplish our goals.”

“The past five-plus years with the Crew have been nothing short of remarkable. It was truly special to help launch a new era for the Club with an exciting brand of soccer and the ambition to win trophies for our city and supporters who have long stood by this team. Along the way, I have been fortunate to work alongside so many great leaders, coaches, technical and support staff and players across the Crew and HSG,” said Bezbatchenko. “I would like to thank the Haslam, Johnson and Edwards families for their commitment to the Crew, to the fans and to playing championship soccer. They inspired me to return home in 2019, and I had the privilege of working at this historic club for so many incredible moments, including the 2020 and 2023 MLS Cups and the opening of two world-class facilities. While I am excited about pursuing this next endeavor with Black Knight Football, I will always be thankful for the time and memories together with the Crew community. Glory to Columbus!”

 

Tall joined Columbus as Assistant General Manager of Player Personnel & Strategy in 2019 and has significantly impacted Club-wide personnel decisions and long-term planning during the past six campaigns. Bezbatchenko served as Chief Soccer Officer since Haslam Sports Group’s (HSG) acquisition of the Crew in 2019.

Bezbatchenko with Black Knight Football Club will contribute to the organization’s efforts supporting the English Premier League’s A.F.C. Bournemouth, Scottish Premiership’s Hibernian FC and French Ligue 1’s FC Lorient, along with other responsibilities.

 

On January 1, 2019, HSG – led by Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Whitney and JW Johnson – and Dr. Pete Edwards officially acquired operating rights to the Crew. In the past four years, the Club has claimed two MLS Cups (2020 and 2023) to become one of only three teams with three or more league titles and the 2021 Campeones Cup, in addition to reaching its first Concacaf Champions Cup Final this year. The Black & Gold in 2021 also completed construction of world-class facilities Lower.com Field and the OhioHealth Performance Center.

 

Bezbatchenko’s and Tall’s leadership have been pivotal to the Club’s on-pitch success under HSG, as well as the top-notch resources available to coaches, players and staff throughout the player pathway at Columbus’ stadium and training facility.

 

In the past 18 months, Crew soccer leadership, spearheaded by Bezbatchenko and Tall, acquired Nancy from CF Montréal. As 2023 MLS Cup champions, the Club earned a bye into the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16. En route to the continental tournament’s Final, Columbus defeated Houston Dynamo FC, Tigres UANL and CF Monterrey in two-leg series.

 

With their results against the LIGA MX sides, the Crew are:

1). The first MLS club to advance in Concacaf Champions Cup after not winning the first leg at home with the second leg played in Mexico;

2). The first MLS team to win in penalties against a Liga MX squad in Mexico; and

3). The first to eliminate two Mexican clubs on their path to the Final.

Driven by the organization’s collective “One Club” vision and collaboration of Crew technical leadership, highlighted by the acquisition of Nancy, the Black & Gold hoisted last year’s MLS Cup after tying a franchise record with 57 points (third in the MLS Supporters’ Shield); posting an MLS-best 67 regular season goals, their first time pacing the league in the category; and leading the league and setting Club standards in many major statistical categories for performance at home.

The success in 2023 occurred following one of the Crew soccer leadership team’s most active summer transfer windows, which featured the incoming transfers of 2020 MLS Golden Boot-winner Diego Rossi and Yevhen Cheberko; the outgoing transfer of Lucas Zelarayán; and trades for Julian Gressel and Rudy Camacho. The Crew also received tremendous contributions from talent developed within the Club: Homegrown Midfielder Aidan Morris, a 2023 MLS All-Star and Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR selection; 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Goalkeeper of the Year Patrick Schulte and Homegrown Midfielder/Defender Sean Zawadzki, who received their first U.S. Men’s National Team call-ups; and 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Best XI Defender Mohamed Farsi.

 

In addition to team achievements last year, the Crew technical staff propelled player development that resulted in forward Cucho Hernández earning MLS Cup MVP and 2023 MLS Best XI honors – the first Crew player with the recognition since Jonathan Mensah in 2020 – and Morris receiving 2023 MLS All-Star and Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR accolades. Cucho (Colombia), Morris (USA), Goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen (Guatemala), Defender Steven Moreira (Cape Verde), Forward Jacen Russell-Rowe (Canada), Schulte (USA) and Zawadzki (USA) also received international call-ups to their respective national teams in the past year.

 

In 2024, Homegrown Midfielders Taha Habroune and Cole Mrowka were elevated to the First Team, the 21st and 22nd Homegrown Player signings in Club history, respectively. They are the first Crew players to progress through and play for the Academy, Crew 2 and the First Team. Mrowka (18 years, 39 days) made his MLS debut at CF Montreal on May 15 and Habroune (18 years, 68 days) premiered at Real Salt on April 13. The duo are the second- and third-youngest players, respectively, to play for the Black & Gold.

Complementing First Team success, Crew 2 won the inaugural 2022 MLS NEXT Pro Cup and 2023 Eastern Conference championship while the Crew Academy in 2023 was named the Academy of the Year, as selected by its peers.

 

The Crew return to MLS play against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Friday, June 14 [7:30 p.m. ET MLS Season Pass on Apple TV / Alt 105.7 FM / iHeartRadio app (English); La Grande 102.5 FM / La Grande app (Spanish)]. The Black & Gold’s next home match at Lower.com Field is on Saturday, June 22, when the Club faces Sporting Kansas City (Tickets available via www.columbuscrew.com/tickets).

ABOUT COLUMBUS CREW

Columbus Crew is the first club in Major League Soccer. The Crew is operated by Haslam Sports Group and the Edwards Family. The Club has won three MLS Cup championships in 2008, 2020 and 2023, one Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2002, MLS Supporters’ Shield titles in 2004, 2008 and 2009, and the Campeones Cup in 2021. The 2024 campaign is the Crew’s 29th season in MLS as well as the Club’s third full season at Lower.com Field.

Website: ColumbusCrew.com | Twitter: @ColumbusCrew | Instagram: @ColumbusCrew | Hashtag: #Crew96 | Facebook.com/columbuscrew | App: ColumbusCrew.com/app | Stadium: Lower.com Field | Training Facility: OhioHealth Performance Center

 

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