Berhalter believes on-field leadership will emerge with time
With the final MLS Cup 2008 holdovers Eddie Gaven, Andy Gruenebaum, Chad Marshall and Danny O'Rourke parting ways with the Crew in the offseason, the question of where the on-field leadership would come from arose entering the 2014 season.
Nearly three weeks into preseason training, Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has been pleased with multiple players stepping up as leaders in his sessions. In the remaining three weeks before the Black & Gold's 2014 season opener at D.C. United on March 8, Berhalter believes the club's core leadership will emerge with time.
"To me, it's not about one individual who's stepping up and saying 'This is me. I'm here,'" Berhalter told media Wednesday. "It happens organically. It happens through games, through training sessions and over time. The guys are getting to know the staff getting to know each other a little bit more.
"[The leadership] will come. That will emerge."
Though they're entering just their second season in Columbus, forward Dominic Oduro and defender Tyson Wahl currently hold the most MLS experience on the roster with eight seasons under each of their belts. The two veterans have made an effort to be more vocal early on in preseason training.
"We lost some leaders of the team and some guys that had been here for a long time," the 29-year-old Wahl explained. "It kind of left some voids to fill. I think as of now it's been kind of leadership by committee. Guys have been stepping up and being a little more vocal. I've been trying to be a little bit more vocal, more of a leader."
"I'm trying hard to transfer what I've learned so far onto [younger players] during practices, scrimmages and five-v-five games," Oduro echoed. "I try as much as possible for my voice to be heard form afar.
"Everybody has to be accountable on the field."
Oduro was given the captain's armband for the second half of the Black & Gold's first preseason match against Malmö FF last week. The forward was honored by the respect shown by Berhalter.
"It shows respect, Oduro said. "It shows how valuable he thinks I am to this team and how he knows that I can impact this team with my leadership. I respect that and I took it in good faith. Given the authority, I think I'll be able to handle it."
Returning as the Crew's leading scorer with 13 goals last season, Berhalter expects Oduro to have a bigger role in the locker room.
"He's a veteran, he's a high-performing guy and I think he's important to the squad," the Sporting Director and Head Coach praised Oduro. "That's something where we would like him to take that role on in terms of being one of the veteran leaders in the team. He's been around MLS for how many years? A long time. He has a good track record in this League.
"I think that's a natural fit for him."
Though he's only been in camp for 10 days, offseason addition Michael Parkhurst has also emerged as a leader from the Crew backline. The U.S. Men's National Team has taken younger players under his wing, sharing his experiences from spending the past five seasons playing in Denmark and Germany.
"[Parkhurst] is a guy that first and foremost leads by example," Berhalter said. "He's been performing every day in training at a high level and that's good to see. He brings guys along with him. The comments during the training session of helping the guys and instructing the guys, he's being doing good at as well."
Berhalter has yet to decide on a Captain for his squad. Playmaker Federico Higuaín wore the armband for most of 2013, but Berhalter says his staff his still evaluating the role.
"I think it's a question of evaluating [the captaincy]," he revealed. "It's not to say one guy has earned it more than the next guy. We're going to evaluate it and take a good look at it and see which is the best fit for the team."