COLUMBUS CREW PRESIDENT MARK MCCULLERS
Thanks, Alex and thanks to everyone for being here this afternoon. Last week we announced the appointment of Gregg Berhalter as our new Head Coach and Sporting Director. At that time we talked abo the skill set, the vision, the brand - all those things. It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Gregg Berhalter. Gregg, we arranged the cold weather and snow to make your transition from Stockholm a little more familiar. On behalf of the community, it is my sincere pleasure to welcome you to Columbus. It is a young, progressive city and is a great fit for a young, progressive coach and we are pleased to have you here. I’d like to turn it over to Anthony Precourt.
COLUMBUS CREW CHAIRMAN AND INVESTOR-OPERATOR ANTHONY PRECOURT
We ran a thoughtful and thorough search and I think we have a thoughtful and thorough result in Gregg Berhalter. I talked about our process, but, we had a very detailed wish list of over 25 criteria. Broadly labeled under leadership, experience, and personality and across the board Gregg scored the highest. I’m just thrilled to have our guy. What attracted me the most to Gregg was his passion, his hunger, and his intelligence. Soccer fuels Gregg’s engine – it has been a part of his life from an early age starting and playing at the highest level in high school and college – taking his pro career abroad playing in Holland and Germany. He has had a very distinguished career that has prepared him for this day. He has also been preparing to coach [since] his final days as a player and his experience with the LA Galaxy under Bruce Arena and at Hammarby. I just think we got a guy who is really ready to take the Crew to the next level. So it is a new era for the Columbus Crew and being a team of firsts we have our first Sporting Director here in the club’s 18 year history – and I think that is an important statement to make. He is a progressive coach who I think is going to bring a process and a culture to the club that is going to set us up for consistent winning ways and a repeatable process year-in-and-year out so we can be as successful as possible. So I’d like to turn it over to who I think is one of the brightest young minds in soccer and I couldn’t be more proud to have him be a part of the Columbus Crew.
COLUMBUS CREW SPORTING DIRECTOR AND HEAD COACH GREGG BERHALTER
Thank you. Thank you very much. I actually thought I was escaping the cold by coming here - I guess that is not happening. I would say the response from the whole community has been amazing. I think it is more than I deserve actually. I’m just a guy here trying to help the club and to try to do the best possible job I can. The vision I had in Columbus – the idea in my mind was – was the club about community, was the club about togetherness, and I have seen that in my short time here already. That is something special. Moving forward we are obviously going to try and prepare to have a team that is going to be successful. That’s our goal. Looking at the roster now, I am pleased with what I see. I think there is some improvements that can be made, but it is a good group of guys. I spoke to them on the phone and met them yesterday and it is a team that’s hungry, it’s a team that’s driven, it’s a team that wants to be successful and there is no greater satisfaction for a coach than working with a group like that. I am looking forward to my time here and thank you for the response so far.
On what has been on his to-do list already:
GB: A week since the announcement, since then obviously I have been looking at the roster, looking at the salary cap, and we have been preparing for preseason next year. We are looking at potential staff members. It has been a busy week. We are trying to get organized and move forward. The month now is going to come quickly in terms of what [needs to be done], so there is a lot to get done. The first thing, and most importantly, was analyzing the roster and looking at what we need to do for next year.
On if his coaching style will reflect his mentality as a former defender:
GB: I guess you could make that connection. I don’t think you need to make that connection. My ideas about soccer are attacking minded views, that [involve] a dynamic team that can get forward very quickly - that can move the ball quickly. I believe in a possession-based game and I would say that the defensive side of it has to do with organization. I want to organize defensively. I wouldn’t necessarily make that link though to the team being defensive minded. My ideas about soccer are very offensive and I want the team to play nice and attack the football.
On importance of being the club’s Sporting Director and Head Coach:
GB: I don’t know that it was important – I think that it is the role. What I mean by that is that it wasn’t something that I said ‘has to be this or I wouldn’t take the job,’ but I feel like it is a job that helps streamline decisions. It helps efficiency across the staff and I think it’s going to prepare the team in the best possible way to be successful. I am excited about the position. I think it will give me a lot of room to operate and build something good.
On whether his player’s Latin backgrounds will dictate the style he plays:
GB: Not really. I would say that the Latin players that are here understand what the MLS game is. It is a more physical game than maybe they are used to in their leagues. So, right off the bat you have the MLS being a more physical league and you have the Latin players that are more technical and that is the style that I prefer. There are gaps in the physicality of the game, but they have the technical ability and I think that will play perfectly with the vision that I have.
On the role, importance of player scouting and whether he thinks it is a multiple person job:
GB: I’m not up here saying that I’m doing this all alone. I think that the strength of the organization is going to be the structure that we put in and the staffing. I certainly need help and we are going to look for good individuals who can fill those roles appropriately.
On his interpretation of the game of soccer:
GB: My interpretation is possession-based game – a strong, physical team that can move the ball quickly and be fluid. I want the players to feel that they can express themselves. I want the ball to move quickly throughout the positions in the team and I want the players to be able to try things and not be afraid to fail. I think that the game revolves around being able to keep the ball in my eyes. We want the opposition on their back foot by keeping the ball.
On why he chose Columbus:
GB: I think it comes down to I was looking for the right opportunity – and I said this before that it didn’t matter where it was. I think that in this particular case it was a perfect opportunity when I see the direction that Mr. Precourt wants to go, when I see the current roster, and when I see the continuity in the staff so far since they have been around. There is a lot of positive signs and for me I wanted to be a part of it and I thought that I could help in my own way.
On whether he has had an opportunity to look at the Crew Academy:
GB: I haven’t had a chance to look at the academy. I have spoken to [Sr. Vice President of Soccer Business Development and Executive Director of Crew Juniors Andrew Arthurs] and it seems like he is doing an excellent job. We are going to evaluate that a little more closely as we go, but the proof is in the Homegrown Players. Look at how many have made it to the first team from the academy, so that is good and I believe in the player that Ohio can produce. I think it is a good soccer player, it’s an educated soccer player, it’s a strong soccer player, and a technically good soccer player. I’m excited about that and I think we are producing players for our team.
On Assistant Coach Mike Lapper’s role in the coaching staff:
GB: I’m going to speak to Mike [Lapper] and we are going to have a conversation on Thursday and we are going to see if he can have a role moving forward. I think that what we are trying to do is put together a strong staff and we are going to be interviewing a bunch of people, but he is certainly one of the people that I am considering.
On what he learned as a player/coach under Bruce Arena in LA:
GB: A lot. Seriously, there is a lot to learn under Bruce and I learned different things at different stages with him as a player in the World Cups, as a player at the Galaxy, as a player/coach with him. He has a great way of managing the group. He has a great way of getting the most out of his players and I think, most importantly, getting his players to compete. He does that extremely well. You rarely see a Galaxy team go out in the field or a team that he coaches go out on the field and not give a hard effort. Aside from that, he manages personalities very well. He’s dealt with a lot of different personalities in the locker room – with the national team, the Galaxy, the [New York] Red Bulls, and D.C. United – he does a good job of getting everyone to buy into their role. From those things there is a lot to learn. I would say from the technical side of it, he has a way of making the difficult things seem easy. He doesn’t overthink things. As a player he gives clear definition to what he expects and what he wants out of the players.
On who suggested Berhalter’s name to Anthony Precourt:
AP: Well several people did – Dan Flynn and Sunil Gulati, Hank Steinbrecher. I had the opportunity to meet with [Gregg’s] brother Jay. We had a drink together in Chicago and, after I think 90 minutes or close to two hours, I was just so blown away by his knowledge of soccer that I said ‘You know what? I know his younger brother is looking for a potential coaching job…I have to call Gregg. If Gregg is anything like Jay, we got to talk.’ So I would say that it was my interaction with his brother that really was an important moment.
On Berhalter’s relationship with his brother during the interviewing process:
GB: I would say we are obviously similar, but I look to him for advice in a lot of things and I think that he has a good background of the game and more-so the business side of it and intellectual side of it. I think that he can be a big help. When I talk about Bruce [Arena] as a mentor in terms of the soccer side, my brother would certainly be a mentor on the business side of it – looking at things in a different way and approaching things from two angles instead of one. He has been helpful. He has been helpful throughout my whole career.
AP: I would also add that Frankie [Hejduk] was in our coaching search and Frankie has been on our national team with Gregg and was on the LA Galaxy with Gregg when they won the MLS Cup, so Frankie had very good things to say about Gregg as well in terms of all the other candidates.