Crew SC announced on Monday that the club is bringing back the core of its 2015 roster for next year. In addition to 10 players already under contract, the Black & Gold exercised options on 11 others.
For a club that has developed a distinct style of play under the leadership of Sporting Director & Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, bringing back the core group in 2016 is an important step, coaches and players say.
“The continuity of the team is important, especially with the style of play that we do. Guys don’t have to learn the system. We can improve on things, tweak things and change things as we feel necessary,” Captain Michael Parkhurst says. “The learning curve is a lot shorter, the more guys you keep. I think that’s important.”
Over just two seasons, Crew SC’s coaching staff has implemented a signature, possession-based attacking style of soccer that has turned the club into an Eastern Conference Champion and MLS Cup contender.
“To start from scratch two years ago with a whole new staff, mostly a new team, and a new style of play, and to implement the things they have asked us to do, and to have the success that we’ve had in just two short years, it’s a credit to everyone for their hard work and their belief in the system,” Parkhurst says.
The Black & Gold have tasted both victory and defeat in their MLS Cup run, and that experience is going to help the team develop further in 2016, the defender says.
“It’s important that this group had that experience. For a lot of them it was the first time in a final. That experience is really valuable,” he says. “It hurts and it’s going to hurt for a long time, but the experience is valuable and we’ll learn from it.”
Midfielder Wil Trapp says the MLS Cup loss to the Portland Timbers has sparked a hunger for more. Bringing back players who know what it takes to get to the final and have felt the disappointment of coming up short will only increase the level of play.
“The coming together of the group across the regular season and into the playoffs, the support and trust that we have in each other, when you talk about a core group returning, it’s huge,” Trapp says. “Now we’ve been there, we’ve played in big games together, and the chemistry and trust is there.”
A bunch of good guys, a lot of laughter and a lot of pranks – that’s how midfielder Justin Meram describes the chemistry inside Crew SC’s locker room. “I love these guys and my happiest times are in that locker room,” Meram says.
Goalkeeper Steve Clark says it’s a “locker room for the future.”
“That’s a big aim of the coaching staff and they see it as building success over the long-term in the MLS. There’s usually a high turnover,” he says. “We’ll be ready to come back stronger next year.”
With a new year come new expectations and the desire to do better. That’s the focus of Berhalter as he is looking at improving the depth of his roster for 2016.
“There’s a core group of players that we rely on and that has been solid and that is largely in tact. But we want to add to it and improve the quality of the roster,” he says.
“We want to make sure that the team we’re bringing back next year is better. It’s difficult, we’ve set a high bar, but we believe we can do it.”