Alex Caulfield: Gregg, congratulations on today’s announcement. This is a big moment for you and your family. Tell us a little bit about the process and what this move means to you.
Gregg Berhalter: It means a lot, because this is a club that I believe in. I believe in the direction it’s going and I’m excited to be a part of it. When you look at potential opportunities, this is one that is exciting. I’m looking forward to the future and I think there are great things to come for the Columbus Crew.
AC: How was the interview process as you got to know the club and Crew Chairman Anthony Precourt and team President Mark McCullers? What’s it been like starting to understand the club as you’ve gone down this path?
GB: I think that’s exactly it, it’s been a good process, and my first step was to find out what they want and what their vision is. I wanted to see what they want from the club, and that’s what really got me excited. Anthony comes with a lot of passion; he’s rejuvenated the club with his energy and that’s great. Mark has tons of experience and that’s good to be around as well. I wanted to know where they thought the club could go and then to see if that fit in line with my vision. Once those things came together, the prospects of developing things further were good.
AC: Your experience is diverse and you are bringing a global approach to Columbus, having played and managed in Europe in addition to your MLS background. Talk about your experience and what you’re going to be bringing to the Crew – your style, your vision, your leadership – as you enter the new role.
GB: First off, I consider myself lucky to have experienced so much in soccer and it’s given me a lot. First and foremost is meeting a lot of great people and learning a lot about the game of soccer in different countries. That part of it has helped me build this base and my beliefs, but then also a network of contacts and people to reach out to for advice or for player advice, personal advice, coaching advice. So that’s been great. What I’m looking to do with the Crew is establish that structure: establish a detail-operating structure that we can build from. That entails hiring good people, accountable people and like you mentioned before, paying attention to detail, being very meticulous and methodical in those ways.
AC: You’re going to be the first Sporting Director in club history. In 18 years, that position has not existed here. What does that added responsibility mean to you and does it help the efficiency of decision-making and streamlining responsibilities?
GB: I would say so. I’m excited about the role. I think it gives me flexibility to operate and that’s important. I think what it will do is integrate the rest of the staff in terms of the lines of communication and I think that’s important. I think we want to be clear and efficient in our decision-making. We want to gather as much information as possible, but when it’s time to make a decision, we want to be able to make a clear decision. I think that’s all that this role is doing.
AC: What do the first few weeks in Columbus look like for you?
GB: The first thing is I want to reach out to the players. I think that’s important. I want to reassure them that I’m excited to work with them and I think that they’ve done a good job over the last year and that while it can improve, it was good. That is the important thing. I want to talk about how they see the future and how they see the club moving forward and how they fit into that. So, that’s my first step: to reach out to the players. But then it’s organizing everything. We’re going to be busy putting a staff together. It’s going to be planning preseason, interacting with the fans and local media – there’s a lot to do. I think these first couple of weeks are going to be pretty hectic but it’s something I’m looking forward to.
AC: One man we know is excited to see you is former teammate and U.S. National Team roommate Frankie Hejduk. After playing together, what are your thoughts about working in the front office alongside one another at Crew Stadium?
GB: I’m excited about that. I think Frankie – first and foremost which most people know – is a competitor. He wants to be successful and he wants things that he’s associated with to be successful. He works extremely hard at getting people interested in the club and it’s paid off for the fans coming to the stadium and the general interest in the club. I’m excited. He’s a close friend of mine and I think that he’ll play a valuable part of this club moving forward.
AC: Any chance you can convince him to come out of retirement and get back out there for you?
GB: We’ll see. I’ll work on it [laughs]. We have to tape-up his ankles a little bit. Hopefully we’ll get him out there.
AC: In terms of relocating to Columbus, what are the next steps for you and your family?
GB: We want to get here as soon as possible. I’m looking forward to integrating, I’m looking forward to being part of the community and Columbus is a fantastic city. The kids are going to finish up this semester of school and then we’re going to come over as soon as possible after that.