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Columbus Crew name Gregg Berhalter new head coach, sporting director

Nov 6, 2013, 10:16 AM EDT

Source: Columbus Crew Source: Columbus Crew

Ladies and gents, please welcome the new Head Coach and Sporting Director of the Columbus Crew…. Mr. Gregg Berhalter.

Following the departure of Crew legend Robert Warzycha towards the end of the 2013 season, Columbus have cast their net far and wide to find a suitable replacement.

Former U.S. national team defender Berhalter fits the bill, with bags of experience playing and coaching in Europe, as well as a stint with the LA Galaxy in MLS to end his career.

A conference call, which can be listened to live online at 12pm ET right here, has been arranged to unveil 40-year-old Berhalter.

So, Columbus’ search for a new man to lead them into the future is finally over and it seems as though Crew Chairman and Investor-Operator Anthony Precourt is delighted to have Berhalter on board.

“We are thrilled to conclude this expansive and thorough search for our next leader, a process that spanned three continents. Gregg’s strong vision, passion, work ethic, intelligence, data-driven decision making, broad soccer network and playing credentials separated him throughout this search. His unique skill-set gives us great confidence in boldly changing the structure of our soccer operations, with Gregg leading as our first-ever Sporting Director. I believe this structure will allow us to achieve a consistent winning culture and best practices that will lead to repeatable success, year-in and year-out. Gregg has been a winner and a leader at every level, and will fit in well with the Crew as a team of firsts.”

It’s a bold move from the Crew, but it will be lauded by many across the North American soccer community as a young US coach is handed the reigns of an MLS original. This is a big deal.

And so is Berhalter.

After starting his playing career in Europe as an 18-year-old with FC Zwolle in Holland, he then captained both Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich in the Bundesliga. The towering central defender was also on the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup squads and won an MLS Cup following his three seasons with LA from 2009-11.

(MORE Columbus Crew fire Robert Warzycha, Brian Bliss named interim boss)

However above all of those accolades as a player, it’s his relatively short managerial career so far that’s won Berhalter plenty of plaudits. In 2011 he became the first American coach to manage a pro soccer team in Europe, as he impressively led Swedish side Hammerby IF from 12th place to fourth place during his time in charge.

Can Berhalter turn the Crew’s fortunes around as they aim to make a splash in MLS once again?

Crew Chairman Anthony Precourt certainly has big plans since arriving in Columbus, and the appointment of Berhalter is a big step in the right direction. People like Brad Friedel and many others were connected with the job, but the former Hammerby coach is a solid choice as the Crew need a fresh impetus. Making this decision so soon after their 2013 season ended also helps get the wheels turning early, now the new man can implement his ideas from now up until the 2014 season kicks off.

His experience in the European market and working with modest budgets in the Swedish league will set up Berhalter nicely for dealing with the trials and tribulations of MLS’ salary cap, plus his bountiful connections within the U.S. and the respect he commands from players and managers bodes well. The Crew have got a good one here.

  1. tylerbetts - Nov 6, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    I’m torn on this one. Very torn.

    I’m encouraged by the fact that in no way did Precourt and the rest of the decision makers go with an “easy” choice. There were two easy choices that would have excited the fan base and gotten local buzz for the team, and an easy choice that probably wouldn’t have. Either Schelotto or Friedel would have been an easy choice to make, and either would have ignited local passion and got the fans excited. Schelotto, especially, for having won an MLS Cup with the Crew and bringing with him some managerial experience. Friedel woudn’t have the experience (or the Cup in Columbus), but would bring all kinds of excitement anyways. Not just as a Crew legend, but as a USMNT legend from la guerra fria in Columbus. Bliss, obviously, would have been an easy choice, especially with comments that many players wanted him back.

    So, going against the grain of an easy/popular pick (whether with fans or players) gives me hope that the Crew decision makers did their homework and truly tried to seek out the best possible option. His resume also gives some hope. Previous coaching experience. A been there, done that with what most players Columbus will have will aspire to (USMNT call ups, playing in Europe, winning an MLS Cup).

    Yet, there’s concern. Outside of Higuain – a maestro’s maestro, to be fair – there’s not a lot of offensive creativity in Columbus. And, I don’t see Berhalter bringing that to the table. In fact, you could see the offense take a step backwards (as hard as that is to imagine) under him. Can he balance the defense to get it right? Perhaps. But, can he do so consistently enough that winning soccer can trump less-than-attractive soccer and get fans in the seats and the club back contending?

    That’s where I have my concerns.

    I don’t know that Berhalter is the guy who can bring massive sellouts to Columbus and the Cup back to Columbus.

    And, at the end of the day, that’s what I want. I don’t want to contend for the playoffs, and get it as the #4 seed. Every team should be able to do that, regardless of who manages them, in a parity-driven league. Well, every team except Toronto, that is.

    I guess you chalk me up as “hoping for the best, but cautious, and not overly optimistic”. But that could just be the Cleveland in me talking.

  2. midtec2005 - Nov 6, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    Awesome!!!

    I read on another sight that Hammerby was unhappy with his defensive style of play. Even if that’s true, it can’t be as boring to watch as a Warzycha coached team…. This is exciting. I’m really hoping that Mr. Precourt is the start of a Kansas City-esque turnaround for Columbus.

    If I ever see Gregg (or Precourt) in Columbus I’ll be sure to offer him a beer!

  3. jrocknstuff - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    While I cannot in any way criticize the move, a big part of me was hoping Friedel would get his shot.

  4. drewvt6 - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    I’m interested to see how his replacement of McMullers as soccer gm will play out.

  5. cherry314 - Nov 6, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    Is there any league in the world with so much youth in the coaches’ box?

    There are only four coach above the age of 50 (José Luis Real, Bruce Arena, Marco Schällibaum, Sigi Schmid)

    Meanwhile there are seven coaches (Gregg Berhalter, Ben Olsen, Jay Heaps, Mike Petke, Caleb Porter, Jason Kreis, and Ryan Nelsen) who are 40 and under.

  6. jrocknstuff - Nov 7, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    And Schmid and Schallibaum will probably be looking for new jobs in a few weeks. Schmid definitely

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