Just after accepting the role of Sporting Director and Head Coach of the Crew back in November, Gregg Berhalter noted that he was confident he could add a player that would make an "immediate impact" with the fourth pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. After parting ways with veteran centerback Chad Marshall in December, the Black & Gold will likely have their sights set on a center back with next week's selection.
Among the top players that are projected to go within the first five picks of the SuperDraft, three are centerbacks. Christian Dean (California, pictured above) and A.J. Cochran have already signed Generation adidas contracts with Major League Soccer and Dean's partner in the center of the Golden Bears' backline, Steve Birnbaum, could be difference-makers for an MLS club's defense in 2014.
Though the need for a centerback is dire for the Black & Gold, Berhalter admitted it will be hard to fill the shoes of two-time MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall.
"For centerbacks, it's difficult to come in and fill a void that Chad left right way," Berhalter explained. "We're evaluating every position, I wouldn't necessarily say that centerback is the way we're going to go."
Last year, the Black & Gold took Ryan Finley with the ninth overall pick. Berhalter could opt to take another attacking player this year.
"We think there is a good group of attacking players in the draft and it's certainly something we're going to take a hard look at," he said.
But if Columbus were to lean toward taking a centerback, Dean and Birnbaum are expected by League pundits to go back-to-back with the first two picks to D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union, respectively. To secure the services of Dean and Birnbaum in that scenario, the Crew would likely have to trade up from the fourth spot to acquire one of the two Cal products, much like the New England Revolution did in 2013 to select Andrew Farrell first overall in the SuperDraft.
Berhalter is open to discussing either trading up to a higher selection or shopping the coveted fourth pick to other clubs for an already established player.
"You're always open to [trade discussions]," he said. "We have a good position and we're always open to hearing what teams would want for our pick and we would consider [trading] to move forward as well."
Time will tell if the Black & Gold holds onto its pick following this weekend's MLS Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. or if the club is set on sticking with the fourth selection.
For more coverage on the Crew's preparations for the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, stay tuned to TheCrew.com/DraftCentral. The draft takes place Thursday, January 16 in Philadelphia.