With yesterday's year-end news that Gregg Berhalter was one of three finalists for MLS Coach of the Year, today comes an opportunity to revisit his incredible success in his first season at the helm.
You already know that he guided Crew SC to its first MLS Cup Playoff appearance since 2011. You already know that he did so in stellar fashion: leaping to the third seed in the Eastern Conference, earning a bye from the Knockout Round and bringing Playoff soccer back to Columbus for the first time since 2010. You also already know that his vision -- steadily implemented over the previous year -- has seen the club's style of play revamped and its technical staff bolstered to League-elite levels.
The leaps that Crew SC made in Berhalter's first year were immense. The statistical improvements were second to none in many important instances:
- Crew SC's possession rate increased 5.01% from 2013 to 2014, the largest growth in the League.
- Crew SC's total number of touches increased by 2,217 from 2013 to 2014, the largest growth in the League.
- Crew SC's passing accuracy increased 6.85% from 2013 to 2014, the largest growth in the League.
- Crew SC's passing accuracy in the final third increased 9.65% from 2013 to 2014 ... which was, yes, the largest growth in the League.
Notice a trend? To successfuly revamp the club's style, stylistically, in just one short year, with many of the same personnel as the year prior, is an incredible achievement. It is the backbone of Berhalter's candidacy for the award.
Consider some other notable off-field feathers in the Crew boss' cap.
Managerially, Berhalter completed the Giancarlo Gonzalez transfer after bringing him in prior to the season. The sale was the highest ever for a defender in MLS history, and it directly led to an acceleration of his plans, such as the hire of Steve Tashjian as High Performance Director.
He brought former German Bundesliga/Barclays Premier League player Emanuel Pogatetz over midseason, and after an adjustment period, the Austrian figures to play a huge role in the team next season.
He has already made heralded signings for the 2014 season, helping to bolster the central midfield (Mohammed Saeid), the forward group (Kei Kamara) and the club's future (Homegrown Player Ben Swanson).
In short, Berhalter's success this season wasn't defined by one singular metric of success. On the field, he got the club to buy into his system and play it admirably in such a short period of time. Off the field, he established a new culture of soccer operations that's reshaped the entire organization.
Sounds like a Coach of the Year to me.