COLUMBUS – The Columbus Crew today announced that it has named Gregg Berhalter as its seventh Head Coach in club history. The former United States international, U.S. Men’s National Team veteran and Major League Soccer player joins the Black & Gold and also assumes the title of Sporting Director, overseeing all player personnel decisions following a club restructuring of its soccer operations. Berhalter becomes the club’s first Sporting Director, combining this role with his head coaching duties for the first time in Crew history. Per club and MLS policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Due to his transition from Europe, Berhalter will address the media today in a conference call alongside Columbus Crew Chairman and Investor-Operator Anthony Precourt and club President Mark McCullers at 12:00 p.m. ET. The call will be streamed live on TheCrew.com
The Englewood, New Jersey native made international soccer history in 2011, becoming the first American club manager within a top-ranked European federation, when he was hired as the Head Coach of Swedish side Hammarby IF ahead of the 2012-2013 season. Berhalter was introduced to the sport’s technical side at 1860 Munich, where he scouted opponents for the German club from 2007-2009. From his time in Europe, Berhalter holds both UEFA A and B Coaching Licenses. Berhalter began his coaching career in earnest as a player-coach in his final season under Bruce Arena at Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy in 2011. There, he prepared training sessions, video analysis and scouted opponents en route to the club’s MLS Cup championship. In the previous season, Berhalter helped the Galaxy secure the first of its two consecutive Supporters’ Shield titles.
In two years with Swedish side Hammarby IF, Berhalter posted a record of 18-11-16, securing points for his club in 34 of his 45 matches as boss. After inheriting a side that finished in 12th place in 2011, Berhalter improved the team to fourth position and during his tenure the club had the lowest goals against average in all levels of Swedish professional soccer during that timeframe.
“We are thrilled to conclude this expansive and thorough search for our next leader, a process that spanned three continents. Gregg's strong vision, passion, work ethic, intelligence, data-driven decision making, broad soccer network and playing credentials separated him throughout this search,” said Crew Chairman and Investor-Operator Anthony Precourt. “His unique skill-set gives us great confidence in boldly changing the structure of our soccer operations, with Gregg leading as our first-ever Sporting Director. I believe this structure will allow us to achieve a consistent winning culture and best practices that will lead to repeatable success, year-in and year-out. Gregg has been a winner and a leader at every level, and will fit in well with the Crew as a team of firsts. Gregg was a pioneer as an American captain of two Bundesliga teams, and as the first American to manage a European soccer club. I expect great success for the Columbus Crew under Gregg's leadership in the years to come.”
Berhalter’s 18-year run as a professional soccer player saw impressive stays in Holland, England and Germany. In 1994, Berhalter departed the University of North Carolina and signed with Dutch Second Division side FC Zwolle. From 1996-2000 he split time in Holland between two First Division clubs, suiting-up for Sparta Rotterdam (1996-1998) before playing for SC Cambuur where he was a two-time Player of the Year and was voted second-best defender in club history. In 2000, he had the opportunity to play for England’s Crystal Palace FC in the Football League Championship. After reaching the Quarterfinal of the 2002 FIFA World Cup with the United States, Berhalter signed with Energie Cottbus of the German Bundesliga, serving as team captain. While with the side from 2002-2006, the club was relegated and then promoted back into the Bundesliga and the American captain was later named to the club’s All-Time Best XI. He then signed with fellow German side 1860 Munich, playing at the club from 2006-2009 where once more he served as team captain. In his time in Germany, he made nearly 200 appearances as captain over the course of seven seasons. Berhalter returned to American soil in 2009, when he signed with Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy from 2009-2011, serving as vice-captain.
"At the completion of a very thorough, far-reaching and diverse candidate search, Gregg Berhalter emerged as the clear choice for the Columbus Crew,” said Crew President Mark McCullers. “Gregg has been a leader in every aspect of his professional career. His vision for the Crew resonated with everyone and we are confident in the methodology that he meticulously presented to us in how he would execute his vision. He has a tremendous resume of experience that includes European, domestic and specific Major League Soccer elements that we believe will combine to provide a formula for success and a team our community will be very proud to support. Gregg is a bright, thoughtful, innovative and driven young coach which makes him a perfect brand fit for our organization going forward."
Complementing his domestic and international club career, Berhalter also earned 44 caps with the United States Men’s National Team and made his senior roster debut at the age of 21. Previously, he served as the team captain of the U-20 National Team from 1992-1993 and helped lead the Stars and Stripes to the Round of 16 in the 1993 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Although he would miss the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta due to injury, Berhalter captained the U-23 side prior to the Olympic Games. From 1994-2006 he would see action in the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup, the 1999 and 2003 Confederation Cups – which included the third-place finish in 1999 – and a 1995 third-place finish in Copa America.
"I am excited about the opportunity to join one of Major League Soccer’s original clubs. The Crew has a strong history of winning and a dedicated fan base, and I aim to bring a style of play that resonates with our supporters and results that will make the city proud,” said Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “I look forward to working with Chairman Anthony Precourt, whose passion resonates throughout the entire club. I am also excited to work closely with Mark McCullers, as his experience in the League is a valuable resource. I am eager to get started, and my immediate priority is to reach out to the players and share our new vision for the club as we move forward."
With Berhalter assuming control of the Crew’s soccer operations, Technical Director and Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss departs the club after six seasons with the Black & Gold. In his final campaign, he served as Interim Head Coach for the remaining eight matches of 2013 after assuming the position on September 2, 2013, securing his first victory just two days later on September 4. Bliss went 4-4-0 in his tenure on the sidelines with the Black & Gold after serving as the club’s first Technical Director. A Crew player from 1996-1997, Bliss scored two goals in 31 games. Bliss has enjoyed a 22-year career in professional soccer as a player, coach and administrator, re-joining the Crew in 2008 during the Black & Gold’s Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup-winning campaign. In his tenure as Technical Director, he oversaw all player personnel matters, player assessment and domestic and international scouting.
“This type of change is never easy, and Brian has been a loyal and invaluable executive within our club over the past six years,” said Precourt of Bliss. “We feel that now is the appropriate time for full-scale changes to our soccer operations, and unfortunately Brian’s departure is a part of that process. We thank Brian for all of his hard work and dedication, and we wish him the best moving forward.”
In a related restructuring move, Crew President Mark McCullers is relinquishing his duties as General Manager to focus primarily on the club’s business operations and to provide Berhalter the opportunity to implement his vision for the Crew’s soccer operations.
"As we conveyed at the beginning of this process, now is the time for us to consider the overall structure of the technical side of our organization,” said McCullers. “For some time now, we have agreed that the General Manager responsibilities should live with someone specifically housed in the competition division of our club. This is a natural evolution in the growth and development of our organization. Now is the ideal time to make this move and I embrace it whole-heartedly. This serves the best interest of the club and I will continue to support the Head Coach & Sporting Director in any fashion necessary to guarantee our collective success."