After two successful seasons with the Black & Gold, Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has extended his contract with the club beyond his previous agreement that ran through the 2017 campaign.
In an exclusive interview with ColumbusCrewSC.com, Berhalter explains what motivated him to extend his contract, what excites him the most about the future of the club, and what his expectations are for the 2016 season.
Gregg, first of all, congratulations. How excited are you to extend your contract with Crew SC?
“First and foremost I am thankful for the support that’s been given to me by Mr. Precourt. This is a fantastic place to work, it’s a great working environment, and Columbus is a great city to live in.”
This is clearly a sign that Mr. Precourt believes in your vision for the club. What does it mean to you to receive this vote of confidence from ownership?
“It’s motivating. It motivates me to want to improve and get better and bring this club even farther. We are proud of our accomplishments so far but by no means are we satisfied. We want to keep getting better and now is a good time to keep going.”
What excites you the most about where this club is headed?
“I think it’s the passion and the people, from ownership, to the front office, to the coaching staff, to the players, to the fans, to the people of this city. I feel very comfortable here, it’s an exciting place to be, it’s an exciting time for this club, and that’s what really motivates me to keep going.”
How would you evaluate your first two seasons with Crew SC?
“I think we’ve made progress. I give all the credit to the players for what they were able to do, both collectively and individually. We’ve had some breakout performances. When you look at Ethan Finlay, he certainly established himself as a League elite player. Kei Kamara, Federico Higuain, Steve Clark, Michael Parkhurst, Justin Meram, and then you look at our midfield, our outside backs and some of the guys on the bench, I think collectively it’s that group of guys that has really defined our style of play and made it much easier for me.”
Based on career points-earned percentage, you’re the most successful coach in club history. What do you attribute your success to?
“We have a good group of guys. Not only are they good players, they are good individuals. They are a tightknit group, and that goes a long way in soccer. The other part of it is the staff. We have guys that work a tremendous amount for the success of this club. The technical staff has been great, a pleasure to work with and a real tightknit group.”
How would you describe the overall philosophy of soccer operations under your leadership?
“We are never satisfied, we want to continue to improve. We want to play an attractive, attacking style of play, and we want to be risk takers. We want the fans to come into the stadium and enjoy what they are seeing and really embrace what they are seeing. We want it to be part of themselves. That’s what Columbus is about, it’s about individuals willing to take risks and putting themselves out there to stand by a product and stand by what they have created.”
What are your expectations for this upcoming season and how do you manage expectations after a successful year with a run all the way to MLS Cup?
“The beauty of MLS is that it’s broken into two parts. The first part is critically important: to set yourself up for the second part. The second part is everything, it’s what will define you. We want to have a strong team, we want to get into the playoffs, and while we’re in the playoffs we want to have good performances. We know soccer is a game of small margins, but we believe that we are prepared. We have said it before, if we are given that opportunity again we want to really embrace it and win something for the city of Columbus.”
What is the most difficult part of your jobs as Sporting Director and Head Coach? What is the best part?
“Potentially, the most challenging part is the ability to keep this group together. In this league it’s very hard to maintain that consistency over extended periods. The second challenging part becomes how do we continue to reinvigorate the team and bring in new talent and bring in guys that have this ability to develop like we have seen in some of our guys thus far.
“The most rewarding part is when I see the guys on the field, when they put their game together. It’s beautiful to me, it’s beautiful to see. It’s a mix of hard work and extreme amount of talent. That is really gratifying to see.”
You have taken that talent and completely transformed this club. The progress over the last two years is evident. How do you continue to build on that?
“I think it’s mindset. I don’t think there’s one player or one individual in our organization that doesn’t have room to improve. As long as we have that mindset and embrace that, we can get more out of ourselves. I talked about soccer being a small-margin game. If we can improve a small amount every day and every year, we’ll be making progress.”
How much does your personal drive to improve yourself factor into continuing to build on your success with this club?
“That’s the challenge. You want to appreciate what has been accomplished so far, but, again, it’s about not being complacent. It’s about always looking for new ways to innovate, innovate how we play and what the processes are for how we deal with the team and how we deal with the players. We are a players-first club and we always want to put the players first. Part of that is continuing to look at our process and how we are doing that.”