On November 6th 2013, The Columbus Crew announced that Gregg Berhalter would be taking over as Head Coach. The Crew settled for 8th place in the Eastern Conference and 16th in the overall table, out of 19 teams. Only gaining 41 points, they failed to qualify for the MLS Cup. Not surprisingly, the Crew parted ways with manager Robert Warzycha on September 2nd 2013. Warzycha had been the coach of the Crew since the 2009 MLS season, with the results steadily declining over each season. The Crew made Brian Bliss the interim head coach following Warzychas dismissal, and after the season, named Gregg Berhalter the new head coach and sporting director.
So what can we expect Berhalter to bring to the table and how will his impact reflect future results? The 40 year-old Berhalter was born in New Jersey and had a complete playing career in various countries. His professional experience on the field began when he was 21, in Holland, and carried him to other well-known teams throughout Europe, such as Crystal Palace and 1860 Munich. Berhalter played in Europe for 15 years before returning to the United States to finish out his career with the Los Angeles Galaxy. During the 2011 MLS season, Berhalter was a player coach on the field because of his vast experience, making him an extension of head coach Bruce Arena. Following the 2011 season, Berhalter retired from professional soccer and became an assistant on the Galaxy coaching staff. After Los Angeles, Berhalter accepted the head coaching position in Sweden at a club named, Hammarby IF in December 2011. This was the first time an American accepted a head coaching position in Europe, giving Berhalter an extremely unique opportunity to gain experience. Unfortunately, Berhalter was dismissed during the 2013 season because of the lack of offense produced in their results. While he did improve the defense, Hammarby was far from the promotion zone, leading them to cut their ties with Berhalter. Following his stint in Sweden, Berhalter has now found himself at the helm of the Columbus Crew. In both playing and coaching, Berhalter has had very unique experience, especially from an American born perspective. He had an extensive career playing in Europe, as well as being the first American to coach in Europe.
Moving forward, the Berhalter signing for the Crew is a breath of fresh air. The team’s results have been progressively declining over the past five years, signifying that the Crew needed to make change. Berhalter brings a unique perspective that not many other managers have. A successful playing career does not always translate into a successful coaching career; however, it seems that this does not apply to Berhalter. As a former defender, Berhalter has already been called out for being too defensive in his coaching strategy; however he is on record saying that he wants to be more offensive with the Crew. A style that emphasizes possession, quick attacks and moving the ball quickly as well as working hard to gain possession back once it is lost. This is an aggressive style of playing, similar to that of world-renowned coach Pep Guardiola, who has seen a lot of success in using this style of play. That being said, if Berhalter can implement this style in Columbus, then the team will become competitive again in the MLS. It is exactly what the Crew need, a jolt of aggressive, exciting soccer that will create a buzz around the team again. I think the Berhalter signing is one that will move the Crew in the right direction. He has a great deal of experience, which is reflected in how he wants to play the game. If the system can be implemented it will be interesting to see how the team dynamic of the Crew changes over the offseason and the next few years. There is much to be excited about in Columbus with Gregg Berhalter in town.
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