Berhalter Brings Credibility to Columbus

Precourt’s first major hire after taking over the Columbus Crew is a major one
by Al DiFranco   |   Tuesday, November 26, 2013

John Hefti Photography - Columbus Crew, Labor Strike, MLS, SoccerNewsday

When Anthony Precourt took over the reigns as owner-operator of the Columbus Crew in July, he promised to “make the Crew increasingly relevant locally and nationally, stronger financially and more competitive on the field.”

To that end, after an up and down season first led by manager Robert Warzycha, then by interim head man Brian Bliss, Precourt decided to make wholesale changes at the top.

Gregg Berhalter is the seventh head coach of the Columbus Crew. Berhalter was the first American to manage a European professional club, leading Sweden’s Hammarby to an 18-11-16 record in two seasons.

Berhalter also takes over much of the management of the club’s roster, as he was also named “sporting director” to go along with head coach. In past years, the Crew has had Bliss or others in the technical director role to help manage the roster for the head coach.

The new manager brings with him a strong sense of credibility, playing in the Netherlands, England, Germany, MLS and for the U.S. Men’s National Team. Players like to play for guys they respect, so this credibility will help Berhalter not only convince current players on the squad to play hard for him, but hopefully help in recruiting some much needed new talent for the coming season.

Berhalter’s recent hiring of Josh Wolff, his former USMNT and 1860 Munich teammate, was a strong move. Wolff is expected to be Berhalter’s primary offensive assistant, which should be a comfortable role for the man who scored 80 goals during his 14 seasons playing in MLS. Wolff spent last season as an assistant coach for D.C. United.

But the Crew has been one of the least exciting teams in MLS in recent years. Even with a strong playmaker in Federico Higuain, the Crew ranked near the bottom in the league in scoring in 2013 (14th with 42 goals).

Berhalter’s biggest criticism when he was fired from Hammarby was his team’s difficulty scoring goals, and the Crew’s lack of scoring threats on the roster won’t help him much there.

Berhalter also does not possess much experience in roster management, so his added duties as sporting director are concerning. This is a club in desperate need of roster enhancement, especially in the midfield and at outside back positions, so Berhalter will need to learn how to best manage funds and negotiations quickly.

The new manager has the chance to raise the Crew to a new level. Higuain is still among the best in MLS in created scoring chances, Chad Marshall is a top centerback when he is healthy, and Dominic Oduro can be a lethal threat with his speed and creativity. Those are great players to build around.

If Berhalter and his coaching staff can harness these talents and bring in some additional roster improvements, there is no reason the Crew can’t challenge for a spot in the playoffs in 2014.

Al DIFRANCO

Nationality:
USA
College:
Ohio State
Club Domestic:
Columbus Crew
Club Foreign:
AC Milan, Everton
Passionate fan of the USMNT, Al is a member of the Cleveland Chapter of the American Outlaws. He also loves to follow and discuss Premier League and Serie A. Named his daughter Mia after a certain soccer legend.
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