Send us a message

Interested in being a part of the team? Get in touch with us today.
Nov 072013

And there you have it folks: Gregg Berhalter has been chosen to lead Columbus to the promised land!

Before we go any further, let’s get something out of the way. Some people are excited and some are not excited. Some people think this is a great hire while others think it is not. Ultimately, hindsight will prove some people right and some people wrong. In a situation like this, fans can only react to what they know. None of us know that three years from now the Crew front office is stacked with trophies and none of us know that three years from now Berhalter is out of the job after a disastrous tenure.

I completely understand some Crew fans wanting everyone to be upbeat and positive, but I can also understand some fans being distraught that other candidates, like Guillermo Barros Schelotto, were not selected. Schelotto was more than qualified for the job given his coaching record at Lanus in Argentina. I’m more upset a guy like Tab Ramos wasn’t chosen. Whatever. If some fans want to be upset, then let them. It doesn’t somehow make them less “loyal” fans just because they aren’t thrilled with the hire. Again, time will tell.

That being said, I’m one of those people who isn’t wild about the hire. I’ve softened my stance a bit now that I’ve had a day or two to reflect and let me emotions calm down, but I still have my reservations. There’s a lot to consider, so I’m going to make a “pros and cons” list, just like I did when Brian Bliss was named interim head coach and was being considered for the full time job. So let’s get to it…

Con: His record at Hammarby (Swedish second division)

Gregg Berhalter went 18-11-16 in 18 months with Swedish second division side Hammarby, who are based in the capital city of Stockholm. But more concerning was the fact that he was let go for a lack for what the team’s owner considered a lack of offense. According to data guru Larry Johnson over at Massive Report, Hammarby’s Goals For (GF) per game was 0.87 under Berhalter and is 1.41 since he left the team in June. Their Goals Against (GA) was 0.96 per game under Berhalter and 1.18 since he left.

For those of us who didn’t enjoy the “Goals Will Come” era, those numbers are hardly reassuring.

Pro: He has experience outside MLS

I was really hoping the team would look outside recycled MLS regulars like Frank Yallop and Jesse Marsch and pick someone with coaching experience outside MLS. Obviously Guillermo met that, but so did Tab Ramos as he has been coaching the US U-20 team over the last couple years.

Not only does Berhalter have coaching experience outside of MLS, but he also spent the majority of his playing career overseas as well. He has been exposed to a number of different teams and philosophies. Since he left Hammarby, he has been touring Europe learning even more about different teams’ systems and philosophies. He was unable to attend the teleconference for the announcement of his hiring because he was in Barcelona getting a tour of their facilities. More on this later.

Con: He has never been a head coach in MLS

This was always going to be a concern for anyone who wanted to see Guillermo or any other outside hires. Berhalter needs to get up to speed on the roster rules quickly and he needs to make sure his new Director of Soccer Operations is well versed in said rules as well. He’s got very little time to do so, so his  first hire will be crucial.

Pro: Data-driven

A lot is being made of Berhalter’s desire to use data and analytics to help shape the team going forward. If he’s committed to it, he’ll be the first to do so in MLS. It is encouraging to see someone who recognizes future trends and wants to study them in depth. I’m not a huge believer in analyics and crunching numbers when it comes to the sport of soccer, but it is still refreshing to see someone take such an unconventional approach to managing a team.

Con: He likes the current crop of players

Berhalter has apparently been watching over a dozen Crew games from this season since he formally interviewed in September and he claims there is a lot of promise on the current roster. I tend to disagree. Outside of guys like Federico Higuain, Wil Trapp, and Bernardo Anor I don’t see a ton of potential in this team. Jairo Arrieta took a huge step back and Dominic Oduro was playing for a new deal this season and could easily take next season off if the team decides to pay him. The young, recent draft picks like Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay, Ryan Finley, and Aaron Schoenfeld simply aren’t that talented. Homegrown guys like Ben Speas and Chad Barson show some promise going forward, but I was really hoping the new coach would say more about evaluating the roster rather than committing to the current group. I think now is the time to blow up the roster and start making serious changes, especially with two new teams joining the league in 2015.

Pro: He has full control

I get the feeling that, regardless of who was hired, Mark McCullers was always destined to quit the soccer side of things altogether after this season, but it’s still good that Berhalter will have full control of soccer operations. I do like that he has been wandering through Europe getting new ideas about not just coaching the first team, but shaping the entire organization down to the Academy and youth levels. This needed to happen regardless of who was chosen.

The Verdict

In the end, I’ve talked myself off the ledge a bit with regards to Gregg Berhalter being in charge of the Columbus Crew going forward. His record (and more importantly his GF/GA numbers) still terrifies me. To have a decent record overall, take the team from 12th to 4th, and STILL get fired mid-season because you weren’t scoring enough is a MASSIVE red flag. Again, we can only off of what we know and based on what we know about his time in Sweden I fear we are headed towards 2-3 more years of the “Goals Will Come” era.

That being said, I’m trying to be optimistic and get excited and I do find it extremely encouraging that he has spent his time off studying other teams around Europe. I’m also intrigued by his stated desire to approach the game from an analytical perspective. We are constantly being bombarded with quotes about how he has a plan and knows exactly what he wants to do going forward. But we should expect that of anyone who comes in to be Head Coach and Sporting Director.

(Side note: I can’t help but feel like Anthony Precourt has become a bit too enamored with Sporting Kansas City. There seem to be a lot of similarities between Berhalter and Peter Vermes with regards to their titles, responsibilities, style as players and general desired style of play as coaches.)

And so we venture forth into a new era in Columbus and hopefully good times and new trophies await us. I’ll continue to be wary of Berhalter’s previous coaching record, but I also look forward to seeing what he can do with a fresh start.

Here’s to a MASSIVE off-season!

Feb 262013

The 2013 Columbus midfielder remains largely unchanged. Milovan Mirosevic has returned to Chile, but in comes 25 year old Argentine Matias Sanchez. He doesn’t stuff the stat sheet and he doesn’t dazzle with his passing or shooting. No, the value of Matias Sanchez is hardly quantifiable. Sanchez won the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Argentina and participated in the 2009 Copa Libertadores tournament with Argentina’s Estudiantes; his club for the past four years. He’s comfortable playing in big spots and he does the little things well. He’s comfortable on the ball, makes smart decisions, and rarely turns the ball over in bad spots.

In addition to Sanchez, the Crew also brought in Academy product Wil Trapp on a Homegrown deal. Trapp is currently trying to help the US U-20 team qualify for this season’s U-20 World Cup. I wrote about Trapp right after he was signed having watched him play ever since he was a freshman in high school. He’s very similar to Sanchez in that he is very comfortable on the ball and makes few mistakes distributing out of the midfield.

Out wide, Dilly Duka is gone but Justin Meram and Eddie Gaven remain excellent options on the midfield flanks as well as Bernardo Anor and Ethan Finlay. Tony Tchani and Kevan George are great backup holding midfielders for Danny O’Rourke, Matias Sanchez, and possibly Agustin Viana. Ben Speas is back after missing almost the entire 2012 season with an abdominal injury.

Here’s a quick individual breakdown…

Matias Sanchez

Plenty of big game and experience has made Sanchez very comfortable on the ball in midfield. He’s a great option as a holding midfielder to along with O’Rourke and Viana.

Wil Trapp

A younger version of Sanchez, Trapp is hoping to get some big game experience of his own with the US U-20 team in this summer’s U-20 World Cup. He won’t start right away, but I think it would be a good idea to have him on the bench on a regular basis.

Eddie Gaven

The oldest 26 year old ever, Gaven is a timeless wonder at the wide right midfield spot. He’s got a strong shot from distance and makes great runs in from the flank.

Justin Meram

With the departure of Duka, I’d like to see Meram get the start at the wide left midfield spot. He’s a great dribbler with an even better shot, but he hasn’t played well consistently enough to earn that starting spot.

Bernardo Anor

Although he’s always hurt, Anor still has great pace and is a good fit out wide on the left either in the midfield or as a left back.

Tony Tchani

At six feet, four inches Tchani is a man among boys in the midfield. He’s not the best passer, but he’s great at dispossessing opposing playmakers before they can get to the backline.

Kevan George

He may not be on the bench every match, but he’s also a solid holding midfielder.

Ethan Finlay

With an influx of forwards, Finlay will likely be utilized as a wide midfielder on either side. He was very inconsistent in 2012, but he can still provide a great spark for 15-20 minutes off the bench late in games.

Ben Speas

Now that he’s presumably 100% healthy, great things will be expected of the Crew Academy attacking midfielder out of North Carolina. Having seen so little of him last year, he’s a bit of a wild card.


The midfield remains young and largely unchanged, but there’s still plenty of talent here. Central midfielders like Speas, Sanchez, Tchani, and Trapp will be expected to shoulder more defensive responsibility thanks to Federico Higuain pulling the strings from up top. And speaking of forwards, we’ll break them all down next!