In the middle of his first day in charge of the Black & Gold's soccer operations, Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter sat down with TheCrew.com to discuss his adjustment to Columbus and his immediate plans for the club.
Cody Sharrett: First of all, welcome to Columbus. Obviously, you had a long travel day coming from Stockholm yesterday. How's it been getting acquainted with the city of the last 24 hours?
Gregg Berhalter: It's been great. It's basically just been sleeping, waking-up and coming to the office. Very simple so far.
CS: It's not often you move your family across the Atlantic Ocean. How is the process of moving from Sweden to Columbus coming along?
GB: The first stage is me coming over, primarily. I came over with my wife and our newborn. The rest of the kids are in Stockholm. They're going to finish in December and then they'll come over. I'm here permanently, my wife is just here looking at the city for the week.
CS: Having played for a number of clubs around the world, what is it that drew you to the Crew, and more specifically Columbus, during the interview process?
GB: I've always liked the sense of community that Columbus Crew has had. There are very nice people around the organization, but playing in the stadium you feel there's a community behind the team. I always liked that.
Obviously with a new owner coming in, there was an excitement. There's a new energy that was something I felt I wanted to be a part of.
CS: Aside from you and your wife getting adjusted to your new home, what are some of the main priorities during the first week to 10 days you have here in Columbus?
GB: Getting organized. There's a lot of stuff to do looking at the League. There's a lot of stuff to do looking at the roster, organizing some of the scouting that's been going on so far. And then, finally getting ready for the Re-Entry Draft.
CS: On the scouting front, the Big Ten Tournament is in Columbus at Ohio State this week and you'll be attending that. I also hear you'll be meeting with civic officials and heading to a Blue Jackets game, right?
GB: Those are all the fun things, but the Big Ten Tournament will be good. I'll get to see a lot of these players live. It's a good conference in college soccer. That will be fun.
I've never been to a Blue Jackets game, so that will be good. Getting to meet [civic officials] around the city will be special as well.
CS: It's obviously not a political office, but Crewville has its own Mayor in Frankie Hejduk. You guys go way back with the U.S. National Team and retiring together with the LA Galaxy in 2011. When you go around town Frankie is the go-to guy for the Crew. How important has he been to the adjustment so far?
GB: He's played a big role. Obviously, I'm going to lean on him heavily in terms of getting to know the city and the people. I realized the last time I was hear what an important piece of the landscape he is. He does a great job of spreading the Crew name in a positive way and he really connects with the fans. I think that is very important.
CS: You list [LA Galaxy and former USMNT Head Coach] Bruce Arena as a major influence on your management style. What have you taken from him, both on the sideline and in the front office, as you transition into this role with the Crew?
GB: He's able to see a couple steps ahead of time. I'm not there yet, I'll tell you right now. That's something you develop with experience, but I like to look at it that way. I like to look at both the short term and the long term. He's very good at that. In terms of man management, he's excellent at that as well. He gets his players to fight for a common cause. He brings the best out in a team. I really enjoyed learning from him.
CS: You'll be meeting with players both collectively and individually over the next couple of days. What is the main goal of those meetings with roster decisions looming in the next couple of weeks?
GB: I'm not going to make any decisions based on any of the conversations I have with the guys in the next couple of days. I just want to meet them. I think that when you're on a team, you're on this journey together, you're close with each other. I want to start that process. A simple message to them is to enjoy the offseason, but use it as a platform for next season. Use it to work on something so you can come back ready to perform in preseason.
CS: What's the biggest challenge in taking over the team at this point in the offseason? The roster decisions haven't been made, but obviously you have to get scouting to sign some new pieces ahead of next season.
GB: There are some challenges. You want to be sure, but you're not always going to be sure 100-percent on things in terms of roster decisions, but you do what you think is best for the team. You do what you think is going to give you the best chance to win in the future. You take as much information as you can to make those decisions.
It's a little bit challenging, but it could be worse. I could be joining the team in January. I still have a month and a half to go [before the MLS SuperDraft in January]. This is a big time in terms of shaping the team for next year.
CS: Speaking of shaping the team for next year, you obviously have to fill out a staff. Where are you at in that process right now?
GB: I'm working on it. What's been positive to me is that there have been a lot of candidates that have come forward and requested to be interviewed for the position[s]. That says a lot about the Crew.