Berhalter looking forward to Opening Match atmoshpere
In the past two weeks, Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has had multiple chances to mingle and hear the thoughts of fans at the club's 2014 primary kit unveiling and Supporters' Summit events. The new boss of the Black & Gold is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to showcase his side for the first time when the Crew hosts the Philadelphia Union at Crew Stadium on March 22 (6:00 p.m. ET / TICKETS).
"[Crew fans] are passionate," Berhalter said of his club's supporters. "They're loyal and excited. We've gotten a great feeling from the fans in terms of support and getting behind the team this year."
Having played at various clubs in organizations in Europe and for the LA Galaxy, Berhalter believes the Crew brings a different perspective to the club-fan relationship.
"In different countries, it's done differently -- [clubs] operate differently," he explained. "In Germany and Sweden, the fans actually own the club so there was a lot of fan access. But I think the Crew does a great job of tying itself together with the fans because in the end, we all want the same thing. We need cooperation to achieve that."
When he arrived at the Galaxy in 2009, the U.S. Men's National Team veteran brought the European tradition of the club making its way around the stadium to thank its supporters after each and every match. Expect nothing less in Columbus with Berhalter now operating as a coach.
"We had a specific way we did it at the Galaxy and it became a tradition," he said. "I think it's important either way that the players signify that they're grateful for the effort that the fans put into the game. It's the fans that push the game and bring excitement to the match. I think it's our obligation to go over and acknowledge them.
"It's not just the Nordecke. To me, it's the whole stadium."
Since 2008, Crew Stadium has been one of the toughest places to play in MLS for opposing teams with the Black & Gold compiling a 57-20-33 record at home in that span. Berhalter expects to carry on that tradition with help from the fans in 2014.
"The message has been, 'Let's make this place fortress. Let's make it a place where teams don't want to come and play,'" he said. "We do that in two ways. On the field, we're competitive and we want to win games playing good soccer. The second way is through the fans.
"They play an integral part of making our stadium a difficult place to play."