Since the 2016 regular-season finale in late October, Crew SC has announced goalkeeper Brad Stuver, midfielder Hector Jimenez and forward Adam Jahn have all re-signed with the Club. In regard to each move, Sporting Director and Head Coach Berhalter stressed the importance of returning players that are “a strong fit” for the club and system.
With more announcements of additional roster decisions sure to follow in the near future, Crew SC announced on Monday that Designated Player and midfielder Federico Higuain and midfielders Justin Meram and Wil Trapp had their options exercised for 2017.
Each of these first three exercised options know, believe in and have defined Berhalter’s system.
GALLERY: Federico Higuain
"Since I came to Columbus, the city has always shown me affection and, for me, that is very important,” Higuain says. “I am a person who loves this club and I try to play my best football to make this club bigger. Being part of Columbus Crew SC is my goal."
The trio – combining for 370 appearances since 2013 – already have their sights set on recalibrating the team that’s made the MLS postseason two of the last three years.
"This next year will provide a test of what this group is made of mentally,” Trapp says. “We will come together and garner the cohesion that is vital to how we play. We want to play attacking, proactive soccer that gives us the best chance to dominate and win games."
GALLERY: Wil Trapp
The domination Trapp refers to has been when the trio of midfielders play together. With all three in Berhalter’s starting XI, Crew SC has gone 19-10-12 since 2013.
Throughout a difficult 2016, each of the three players showed a cumulative impact in the MLS Audi Player index. Higuain ranked 26th overall with 523 points (520.60 offensive / 2.70 defensive), Meram ranked 40th overall with 477 points (477.94 off. / -1.00 defensive) and Trapp ranked 197th overall with 255 points (168.02 off. / 86.85 def.) in a field of 563 players in the League.
GALLERY: Justin Meram
"I have been here for six years, going into my seventh year with the club,” Meram, the longest-tenured Crew SC player on the current roster, says. “I'm still going to give it my all for the club whenever I step inside the lines. We can expect change for sure, but also expect changes in the results. We know we are much more talented than we showed this past season.”
Rediscovering Crew SC’s postseason form in 2017 is priority No. 1 for Berhalter and Co. With only a quick winter standing between now and March and a crowded calendar sitting ahead, this trio of returning midfielders are sure to be just the start.