Most know Crew Sporting Director and Gregg Berhalter's affiliation with the LA Galaxy through his playing days. Berhalter played for LA from 2009-2011 under coach Bruce Arena, making 52 appearances over the three-year span.
What fewer people might realize is that Berhalter's time in LA also gave him inclusion into a small, but distinguished group in sports history that also includes individuals such as Ryan Giggs, Kenny Dalglish, Bill Russell, Lenny Wilkens, Frank Robinson and Joe Torre: the player-coach.
Arena not only brought the Crew boss back to the United States to play for the Galaxy after a successful playing tenure in the Netherlands, England and Germany, but he also appointed him as player-coach during his final season in 2011. That appointment, Berhalter said, had a tremendous impact on shaping his coaching career.
"What [being a player-coach] did is it gave me an eye into what it's all about. I thank Bruce Arena for that because he put me in that situation," said the Crew boss. "It gave me a look into the back of the room, [a side] that you don't see as a player. You don't realize how much work goes into it.
"It was eye-opening to me. It was a great entry into coaching to be working under [Arena] with his leadership experience."
Berhalter said that the constant mental attention is the biggest difference between the coaching and playing roles.
"The preparation. The constant thought about it. As a player, you train, you go home. As a coach, you train, you work and then when you go home, you're still thinking about it. It doesn't end. It was really interesting."
Following his time in LA, Berhalter's coaching career took him to Sweden before finally arriving here in Columbus. Now, on Saturday, the Crew boss will meet his mentor of sorts for the first time when Arena lines up in the opposite technical area.
"[Being a player-coach] was overall a great experience," said Berhalter. "I don't think I'd be here today if it weren't for that."