Ohio-born and Ohio-bred, the thought to take his career elsewhere did happen to cross defender Josh Williams' mind after his contract expired following the end of the 2013 MLS Regular Season. But after a 15-minute meeting with new Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, the decision to return to the Black & Gold in 2014 was an easy one for the Copley native.
"I've always tried to stay close to home," Williams explained. "I went to Cleveland State, that was a big decision for my parents to be able to watch me play and my family to be around. I really thought long and hard about this because I really wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone just to see where I could take my level of play. Gregg said all the right things and his positive comments and the positive vibe he puts out made me want to stay here."
Upon his hiring on November 6, Berhalter made it a priority to reach out to each player before roster decisions were made. Williams was easily sold on the new boss' vision and the chance to develop his game under a former U.S. Men's National Team defender in Berhalter.
"I sat down with Gregg during the negotiation process and I really liked what he had to say," Williams said. "I liked what he had to say about improving my game and his vision for the team. That was definitely a big part of my decision: how we play and how the coach sees me and my growth. [The negotiations] didn't really take that long. Once I found out he was coming, I had one meeting with him and I was basically sold."
He continued: "At our level, it doesn't get much higher than the U.S. National Team. From our first meeting, we met for about 15 minutes, he had already sold me on his vision and the way he sees me defending. He wants our outside backs to attack and even the centerbacks get more freedom. I was pretty impressed with everything he had to say. I'm really looking forward to preseason."
Williams returns to Columbus following a career-high three goals scored last season after a breakout campaign in 2012 when he made 27 starts all along the Crew backline. As he looks ahead to his fifth season with the Black & Gold, it was a trip down Memory Lane that reinvigorated Williams' ultimate goal with the Crew: bringing MLS Cup back to Columbus.
"A couple days before I re-signed, I watched the 2008 MLS Cup, when [the Crew] won it. I had chills watching it. That's my vision. I want that. I want to see this city win a championship and obviously that's the goal of everyone on the team to win a trophy.
"I hope that's everybody else's vision, and after meeting with Gregg, I know that is his vision. Hopefully we can all get together and push each other to bring back a championship."