After the Columbus Crew finished off an undefeated preseason with a win in the final of the Disney Soccer Classic Saturday, first-year Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter says the club is showing him signs of moving in the right direction.
“I think we made some progress during that two weeks [in Orlando],” Berhalter told MLSoccer.com Monday. “The emphasis more was on playing games than training, and we wanted to push the minutes with some of the guys and we did that. So overall, I'm pleased with the development of the team, and I think we made some good steps forward.”
Berhalter said that the results weren't as important as continuing to improve as a team, but that there were benefits in multiple areas of the game that he could identify. One of the keys, he said, was improving fitness, an emphasis of Berhalter and his staff throughout the preseason.
“There's obviously the physical standpoint; we can maintain power late in the game,” he said. “Then there's the tactical things. Can we execute what we've been talking about and some of the general shape demands that we have for them?
“Then there's the mental exercise; just believing in ourselves and believing in the group. There's a lot of good players there, and they need to trust each other and believe in each other. We saw that during the trip.”
Berhalter said he wasn't pleased with the team's implementation of his possession-oriented offense early in the preseason, but admitted that his club's abilities on the counterattack have been impressive.
“We have a little bit of a dilemma because we're pretty good in offensive transition, so the tendency is to push it and keep going for the attack every time instead of mixing it up and knowing when to keep the ball instead of attacking,” he said. “It's still a balance, and we're still looking to find that right balance.”
Despite the optimistic start, Berhalter made it clear that the club's Orlando success means nothing if it can't continue this weekend when the Crew begin the MLS season in D.C.
“It's still a preseason tournament, and the real points are Saturday,” he said. “And that's what we want to focus on.”