Bringing in the right people. Executing the club's vision. Following the carefully laid blueprint from the very first day.
You've heard Gregg Berhalter preach this mantra anytime the subject of the Columbus Crew's future is brought up. The Crew boss, along with Anthony Precourt, Precourt Sports Ventures and new Director of Business Operations Andy Loughnane, has a very calculated plan in place for long-term, sustainable growth and success.
When Giancarlo Gonzalez was sold to Palermo a short time ago, Berhalter said that the financial benefits enabled him and the club to accelerate the process and enact portions of the plan ahead of time.
"In the long-term, this enables us to get to where we want to go faster," said Berhalter at that time. "We had a plan about becoming a high-performance club, having a great scouting network, building the Academy. This enables us to do that at a faster rate."
Today, with the announcement of Steve Tashjian's hire as High Performance Director, the Crew has satisfied the first portion of that plan. Tashjian brings a revolutionary approach of player development to the Black & Gold. Responsible for elements of the strength, wellness and fitness sides of the team, Tashjian will work in tandem with the Crew's medical staff to help players perform at a high level. Tashjian, who comes to Columbus from Everton of the Barclays Premier League, utilizes next-level data and analytics as part of his regimen.
"This is an entirely new area [for our club]," said Berhalter. "Through data and analytics, [Tashjian] is able to get a complete picture of where the athlete is on a daily basis, and that's through everything from their nutrition, hydration, fatigue, from their performance on the training field, from where they are on a rehab standpoint. It's a total picture of the individual athlete every day."
This type of hire is not commonplace within MLS. In fact, the Crew becomes just the second club to have an analogous position dealing with high performance and sports science, joining Seattle Sounders FC. It's also representative of Berhalter's on-field vision, dating back to both what he had in mind from his first day on the job and what the Gonzalez sale was able to do in terms of accelerating that plan. While this type of hire was always part of the blueprint, the Crew was able to move quicker on it thanks to the financial benefits of the transfer.
"The first day, we came in and we made some cosmetic changes to the facilities," said the Crew boss. "Now we're able to move into a new area that we always had planned, and that's the high performance area. We're looking to be on the forefront of fitness, nutrition and all of those things. [Tashjian] is a great person to lead us into that."
For a time, Tashjian was the only American in the Barclays Premier League doing this type of work. It's another representation of the new Crew -- a philosophy of not just bringing in who is available or convenient, but the very best. Berhalter has stressed this with player acquisition as well. The Crew is only interested in bringing in the right person, whether that be a player or staff member.
"We had a number of candidates for that job … people who are leaders in that industry," said Berhalter. "Talking to a lot of people, it started leading us more to him in terms of his resume, being the only American to work in the EPL and work at a very high level for half a decade. We think this is a guy who is extremely qualified and one of the best in the business."
Berhalter added that Tashjian is being transitioned into the role. It won't be a drastic midseason change for the Crew's players in their training and off-field workout plans. However, as Tashjian is observing and working on improvement ideas already, Berhalter expects the payoff to be significant for his squad.
"We want to be a player-first club. We want to be a club that puts the players in a position to perform and optimizes their performances, whether that's off the field with our player liaison with Frankie Hejduk, whether it's the medical staff or the high performance staff, we want to put the players in a position where they can excel."
Few coaches have chosen to invest in an area such as this one. Embracing analytics and data is the next wave of sports performance, and having a staff member such as Tashjian on board serves as an advantage for the Black & Gold, but it wouldn't have been possible without the commitment of Precourt Sports Ventures and the carefully laid plans that shape every decision the organization makes.
"It shows the commitment on ownership's part to make this a first-class organization, and I think that's important moving forward," said Berhalter. "We have a style of play that we stick to that we want to be identifiable for, and we want to have good people and a good staff here to run it. We're pleased with this hire and we think it's a huge step in the right direction."