Columbus Crew SC today announced that the contract of Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has been extended. Berhalter, who previously had the option year of his original contract picked up through the 2017 campaign, agreed with the club on a multi-year extension beyond his current agreement. Per club and MLS policy, additional terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The announcement comes following Berhalter's successful second year as Crew SC's Sporting Director and Head Coach, where he led the club to its second-ever Eastern Conference Championship and a berth in MLS Cup after a 53-point regular season (15-11-8), the second-highest single-season point total in Black & Gold history. The Crew SC boss' first season in 2014 saw the club register 52 points (14-10-10), an 11-point improvement over 2013 and the team's first postseason berth since 2011. Berhalter was hired on November 6, 2013 and became the club’s first Sporting Director, combining this role with his head coaching duties for the first time in Crew SC history.
Among all current MLS head coaches, only two others have led their clubs to MLS Cup appearances within their first two seasons in the League: Bruce Arena (D.C. United, 1996 and 1997) and Sigi Schmid (LA Galaxy, 1999). Berhalter, 42, is one of just four current MLS head coaches to win at least 29 games within their first two seasons.
Under Berhalter, Crew SC has also seen an extensive reorganization of its soccer operations. In addition to the implementation of a soccer philosophy featuring a proactive style of play, player-first culture and a focus on individual development, Berhalter has built a new technical staff and unveiled an entirely revamped Academy with a similar First Team philosophy and a staff that is one of the most qualified groups of youth soccer professionals in the country.
“Extending Gregg’s contract well into the future was a critical priority for us, and that’s why we proactively approached Gregg prior to the end of the 2015 regular season,” said Crew SC Investor-Operator and Chairman Anthony Precourt. “Our re-building efforts at Crew SC have been focused on building a sustainable culture and a highly professional way of conducting our business on and off the field. We aim for a consistent quality product, where we are in a position to make a playoff run each season. Gregg was our first hire under PSV stewardship, and I expect his leadership and vision to continue to pay attractive dividends for the First Team and the Academy. We are thrilled to have Gregg and the world-class coaching and administrative staff he has assembled lead us forward into 2016 and beyond. Our results over Gregg's first two seasons speak for themselves. Onward and upward.”
Following his first two seasons as Crew SC's Sporting Director and Head Coach, Berhalter stands alone as the most successful Head Coach in Black & Gold history, with a career points-earned percentage of 51.5%. He is the first coach in Crew SC history to lead the team to the postseason in his first full year without previous interim experience at the club, and he is the second coach in club history to win at least 14 matches in each of his first two full seasons.
Berhalter built upon his first campaign, which saw him earn finalist honors for 2014 MLS Coach of the Year, to position Crew SC for its Eastern Conference Championship run in 2015. Keeping the core of the 2014 side together, over his second year, the New Jersey native also oversaw the execution of additional key roster moves such as the signings of Harrison Afful, Cedrick Mabwati, Mohammed Saeid and Gaston Sauro and the extension of Steve Clark.
“I would like to thank Mr. Precourt for his continued support. I am proud to be part of this club and I am grateful to the players for their hard work, bravery and commitment to our style of play,” said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “My family and I are extremely happy in Columbus and are touched by the support of the City and the fans. We look forward to continued improvement in 2016 and I am honored to call this club home.”
Berhalter brought in forward Kei Kamara at the end of 2014 and the Sierra Leone international finished tied for the League goal-scoring lead with 22 tallies in his first year with Crew SC in 2015. Under Berhalter, the striker earned MLS Best XI honors. Midfielder Ethan Finlay built upon his breakout 2014 season with 12 goals and 13 assists in 2015 and also earned MLS Best XI honors of his own under Berhalter’s tutelage. Twelve members of Berhalter's 2015 squad received international call-ups over the duration of the year, with Justin Meram (Iraq) and Wil Trapp (United States) earning senior call-ups and caps for the first time while playing for Berhalter. Three of Berhalter’s players (Kamara, Finlay and defender Waylon Francis) were 2015 AT&T MLS All-Stars, giving the Black & Gold a trio of MLS All-Stars for the first time since 2008 and three active roster All-Stars for the first time since 2004.
Preparation for the 2016 Major League Soccer campaign continues with the 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine from January 7-12 followed by the 2016 MLS SuperDraft on January 14. The Black & Gold begin their preseason on January 22 before heading to Lakewood Ranch, Florida for their first camp from January 23 - February 5. After that camp, Crew SC trains at SuperKick in Powell from February 8-12 before departing to participate in the Desert Diamond Cup from February 15-27. The Black & Gold begin their 21st season on Sunday, March 6 at Portland and return home for the Opening Match at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday, March 12 against Philadelphia. Information on Crew SC Season Ticket Memberships in 2016 can be found at http://bit.ly/2016CrewSCSTM.